NFL offseason team Draft needs: AFC North Division



Baltimore Ravens


The Ravens will push hard to re-sign Ray Lewis before the end of the month. If they can’t keep him off the free-agent market, he’ll likely sign elsewhere.

The team probably will use the franchise tag on Terrell Suggs for a second straight season. The priority next year will be to sign him to a long-term deal.

The Ravens will also look to keep center Jason Brown and kicker Matt Stover, both of whom will likely test the free-agent market.


1. Wide receiver: The Ravens have one consistent receiver in Derrick Mason. But he is in his mid-30s and is more of a possession receiver. The team needs to find a deep threat who can complement Joe Flacco‘s big arm.

2. Cornerback: Chris McAlister was cut, which frees up $8 million in salary cap space. The team has another aging cornerback in Samari Rolle. The Ravens did improve their depth by trading for Fabian Washington, but they don’t have any young talent here.

3. Tight end. Todd Heap will return even though he didn’t click in Cam Cameron’s offense. After Heap, there is no one left. Daniel Wilcox is expected to be released after another injury-filled season. Quinn Sypniewski is coming back from knee surgery, but he is more of a blocking tight end. The Ravens need someone who can replace Heap in the next coming seasons.

  • Ravens team page

    Cincinnati Bengals

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYWith an estimated $28 million in cap space, coach Marvin Lewis has said the Bengals will be proactive in free agency. Their biggest decision is whether or not they will tag WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who figures to be one of the top free agents on the market. But with a franchise tag of close to $10 million, the team has not indicated which direction they will go.

    Other players who the Bengals are looking to either franchise tag or re-sign are kicker Shayne Graham, offensive tackle Stacy Andrews and running back Cedric Benson.


    1. Offensive line: After giving up 51 sacks last season, the Bengals are lacking depth with linemen and don’t have a lot of experience. With the sixth pick in the draft, they could be looking at left tackle.

    2. Running back: Cedric Benson came on during the last three games of the season, but he was the only back to do anything. Even if they re-sign Benson, they need a consistent second back.

    3. Pass rush: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes aggressive, blitzing units, but the Bengals‘ leading sackers had only four. Look for Zimmer to make upgrades with pass rushers on the line and at linebacker.

  • Bengals team page

    Cleveland Browns

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe Browns have a dozen players about to become unrestricted free agents. The player the Browns should have the most sense of urgency to re-sign is strong safety Sean Jones. Simply, if the Browns do not re-sign him they will have to either sign another safety in free agency or take one high in the draft. And with all their other pressing needs, using a second-round pick on a safety doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Jones missed four games recovering from knee surgery and was still second on the team with four interceptions. He finished third in tackles behind inside linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Andra Davis.

    Depth in the secondary is an issue, so consideration will be given to re-signing Mike Adams, who can play cornerback or safety, and cornerback Daven Holly. Holly had a chance to compete for a starting job last year, but blew his knee out on the first day of OTAs in May.

    The Browns are not likely to pursue seven-year linebacker Andra Davis or 15-year veteran Willie McGinest.


    1. Outside linebacker: The Browns had 17 sacks in 2008, a drop-off of 11 from the year before. They have to find a way to generate a pass rush from the left side. They do not have a starting left outside linebacker. They have the fifth pick in the draft and could use it on Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.

    2. Cornerback: Even though touchdown passes against the Browns dropped from 29 in 2007 to 19 in 2008, the Browns still need to upgrade the secondary. If they draft a starting cornerback or sign one in free agency they could move Eric Wright or Brandon McDonald to nickel back.

    3. Running back: Jamal Lewis‘ production dropped by more than 300 yards in 2008 and he played in one more game than in 2007. The Browns do not have to spend a high pick on a running back, nor do they have to break the bank in free agency, but they better start grooming a replacement for Lewis soon.

  • Browns team page

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe Steelers are negotiating with linebacker James Harrison, the NFL defensive player of the year, to extend his contract that has one season to go. They have not started negotiating with their free agents yet, but will do so shortly.

    Among those UFAs they would like to keep are CB Bryant McFadden, WR Nate Washington, OT Max Starks, G Chris Kemoeatu, T Marvel Smith and T Trai Essex.


    1. Offensive linemen: They have five free agents in their line, four UFAs and one RFA, including their top four tackles. And the line was not good to begin with.

    2. Defensive linemen: Their starting three are strong, but they’re all over 30, as are five of their top six defensive linemen. They need some youth.

    3. Defensive backs: Depth at safety and cornerback are an issue, and they could use someone to push for a starting job at corner, especially if they lose Bryant McFadden to free agency.

  • FOX Sports on MSN – NFL Draft – NFL offseason team needs: AFC North.