AFC North Offseason Needs: Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, Browns
Our preview of the NFL offseason continues today with the teams of the AFC North, a division where all four teams are disappointed at how they did in 2013, and are hoping to rebound quickly next year. Let’s take a look at the needs that the four teams of the AFC North will hope to address this offseason.
Baltimore Ravens – The biggest surprise in Baltimore during the 2013 season was how poorly they ran the ball, and fixing that is going to require changes on the offensive line. The Ravens will definitely look to upgrade at center, while both starting tackles are free agents, so that will have to be addressed, and could lead to Baltimore drafting an offensive tackle within the first few rounds. The Baltimore offense could also use another receiver, preferably a big target with reliable hands, as well as a tight end if the team doesn’t re-sign Dennis Pitta. On defense, the Ravens have some young players that they hope will improve, while their biggest priority will be to either re-sign Arthur Jones or find someone to replace him on the defensive line if he ends up signing with another team.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are in an interesting position, as their two biggest losses this offseason were their two coordinators, which could hurt them. Cincinnati’s roster remains one of the strongest in the league, at least outside of the quarterback position, but don’t expect a change to be made there. The Bengals will look for the most help at cornerback, where they could try to sign a big-time free agent entering the prime of his career. Meanwhile, they should look to add depth to their defensive line so that they can continue to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks next year. Offensively, the Bengals should have all the skill players they need, but giving the offensive line a boost is something to consider.
Cleveland Browns – Quarterback is obviously at the top of Cleveland’s to-do list this offseason, and the Browns will likely address that with their first round pick. Of course, the rest of the offense needs help as well. The Browns need to find a running back and at least one wide receiver, maybe two, so that their new quarterback has some support. On top of that, center Alex Mack has to be re-signed because there are a slew of teams that will want to sign him if the Browns let him go. Once the offense is improved, new head coach Mike Pettine can turn his attention to the defense, which is his specialty. Cleveland will need to bring in a lot of help at linebacker, as Pettine wants to pressure the quarterback as much as possible, which is something the Browns didn’t do well enough last year. If they have a chance, the Browns could also improve their secondary, but that’s not as big of a priority as the offense or the linebacker position.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers came painfully close to the postseason this year, but they’re going to have to make some changes this offseason if they want to be in a similar position next season. Pittsburgh has been known for its defense for many years, but now is the time to replenish that defense with youth and talent. The secondary is their biggest concern, as they’ll need to acquire a number one cornerback, while also addressing the depth in their secondary, especially at the safety position. Pittsburgh could also use a fresh face along the defensive line and possibly some help at linebacker. The Steelers may also need to look into improving the offensive line, especially with an aging Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, while perhaps giving Roethlisberger another receiver or two to throw to, specifically someone with high-end speed, as the Steelers lacked a deep threat in 2013 after Mike Wallace left last offseason.