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AFC North: Looking at the Steelers, Bengals and Browns' offseason needs

AFC North: Looking at the Steelers, Bengals and Browns' offseason needs

For many NFL teams, the offseason is when the rebuilding begins.

WIth the Feb. 20 opening of the franchise tag period earlier this week and with the NFL Combine begining next week, the rebuilding starts fast and happens faster. 

Before you know it September will be here.

The next few months are critical for teams to address team needs, adjust their salary cap situations and plan for the future.

For the Steelers, Bengals and Browns, their needs vary as each team has had very different levels of success.

In 2017, the Steelers were serious contenders to win Super Bowl LII and then you have the Browns who couldn't win a single game.

We've taken a look at the Ravens' biggest offseason needs, but how about their AFC North rivals? 


Pittsburgh Steelers: 

There were some questionable coaching decisions in the Steelers' 45-42 AFC Championship loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Down by seven with two timeouts and the two minute warning, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with an onside kick instead of punting with 2:18 left.  As you guessed it, the onside kicked didn't go in their favor and ultimately ended their playoff run. Many called for the firing of Tomlin after the questionable call.

That didn't happen but the team was still left with concerns about their future heading into the offseason.

Running back Le'veon Bell played 2017 on the team's exclusive franchise tag after the two couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal. Bell said they're closer in negotiations this year than last, and it would be difficult to see the organization let one of the best backs in the league just walk away.

Another big question mark is addressing the inside linebacker position with Ryan Shazier's future questionable after suffering a scary spinal injury. 

Ben Standig's most recent mock draft has the Steelers taking ILB, Rashaan Evans out of Alabama in the first-round.

Cincinnati Bengals:

During the end of the 2017 regular season, there was narrative from head coach Marvin Lewis that he would be exploring other opportunities after 15 seasons with the team.

In those 15 seasons, the organization made seven playoff runs but did not win a single playoff game, leaving many to question why Lewis was still a part of the organization. 

Well, the Bengals proved their loyalty to Lewis and gave him an extension through the 2019 season, making the head coach question obsolete.

Now the biggest question is can they rebuild their offense? They lost Pro Bowler's Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth during 2017 free agency. They've already fired O-line coach Paul Alexander to kick the rebuilding process off. 

In Ben Standig's latest mock draft, he has the Bengals taking offensive tackle Mike McGlinchy out of Notre Dame at No. 12.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns, man. Where to start?

Luckily, the have the No.1 and No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, almost guaranteeing them two successful players.

Their most glaring need, like seasons past, has been finding their man under center. So far they haven't had any luck, but maybe that could change this season with a veteran like Kirk Cousins. Even drafting someone like Sam Darnold out of USC and developing him under Cousins has the potential for success. Standing's mock draft then has the team taking running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State at No.4.

The future looks as promising as ever for the Browns.


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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.