Hello my fellow football fans, my Chief Executive of this establishment has called upon me to return and offer my opinions of the 2015 NFL offseason. With training camps underway, we have the preseason looming upon us. So how did every team do this offseason? Well, just like last year I will break down each team’s moves via free agency and draft(complete with letter grades) and provide a final overall analysis of what the future appears to hold for them. I am not making predictions as to how I think they will be doing this year. I will be as fully objective as I can be, and I also look forward to any feedback you have for me. So, with all of that said, let’s get started by having a look at the AFC North Division.
Are the Ravens primed for another Super Bowl run?
Will Marvin Lewis ever win a playoff game for the Bengals?
How many QB changes will the Browns have this year?
Is the Steelers strength of the team now the offense?
Free Agency: Salary cap restrictions prevented the Ravens from adding more to their team this year as a lot of familiar faces left, giving more of an opportunity for younger talent. RB Justin Forsett was retained and will continue to be the starter; DE Chris Canty was also kept, and he is now the “old man” on a very young D-Line. Safety Kendrick Lewis(Texans) will add more strength to a good, solid secondary. The loss of talented LB Pernell McPhee should not hurt as much, as the Ravens continue to find quality LB’s. Offensively, the Ravens had a tougher time. WR’s Jacoby Jones & Torrey Smith & TE Owen Daniels are gone, as is back-up QB Tyrod Taylor. The only real addition to the offense was veteran QB Matt Schaub.
Draft: Offense was the priority need for the Ravens and they came away with two very talented players. Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman has a great blend of height and speed. Now, can he learn fast enough to become an immediate impact player? Minnesota TE Maxx Williams was the best Tight End in the draft who possesses great size with good speed, and could be another Owen Daniels. Iowa DT Carl Davis is a solid addition to a young D-Line, and the Ravens may have tapped yet another good linebacker in the form of Kentucky’s Za’darius Smith. Keep an eye out for 5th rounder TE Nick Boyle from Delaware.
Overview: The Ravens face a challenge on offense, with a lot of new & younger players (sans Steve Smith) to be the ones in charge of scoring touchdowns. Joe Flacco has his work cut out for him. Trading away DT Haloti Ngata was big, but the Ravens are confident in their very young D-Line which is backed up by a top rate LB corps and solid secondary. While the Ravens may not have a lot of flashy players, you can never count them out. Head coach John Harbaugh quietly keeps this team in Super Bowl contention, and it would be wise to not forget about the Ravens in the long run.
Free Agency: The big signing was reuniting with DE Michael Johnson (Buccaneers) after being gone away for a year, and returning to a defense where he had much better success. After that, the Bengals mostly used free agency for depth. Safety Brandon Ghee (Titans), LB A.J. Hawk (Packers) QB Josh Johnson (49’ers) & DT Pat Sims (Raiders) are all positive signings, even if they are mostly situational players.
Draft: The Bengals know that their current OT’s are not getting any younger, thus the drafting of two Offensive Tackles with their first two picks: Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M & Jake Fisher of Oregon. Not the most exciting picks, but they are logical choices. Rutgers TE Tyler Kroft is a nice addition, especially if Tyler Eifert gets injured again. Texas Christian LB Paul Dawson should fit into this defense nicely & versatile DB Josh Shaw of USC is very good depth. Arizona State DT Marcus Hardison might be better suited as a pass rusher.
Overview: Once again, the Bengals are an enigma. Talent is on both sides of the field, yet the Bengals continue to not dominate their division and in Head Coah Marvin Lewis’ time, they have yet to win a playoff game. Andy Dalton is still the QB, and RB Jeremy Hill was a monster during the second half of the season. Can Hill continue that success? A.J. Green is a beast at WR, and the return of WR Marvin Jones & TE Tyler Eifert from injury will help a lot. On defense DE Michael Johnson re-team with DE Carlos Dunlap & DT Geno Atkins along with their strong LB and secondary units. If the Bengals cannot get over the hump and win their first playoff game in years, then changes will more likely be on the horizon.
Free Agency: The Browns need touchdowns, so they got people who can produce them. QB Josh McCown will be the starter, and WR’s Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs) Brian Hartline (Dolphins) & TE Rob Housler (Cardinals) will be the targets. Not a stellar cast, but they can get the job done. Adding veterans DT Randy Starks (Dolphins) & CB Tramon Williams (Packers) will bring good depth to the defense.
Draft: The Browns had two first round picks and they used them wisely. Washington DT Danny Shelton is a mountain of a player who can dominate the trenches. Florida State OL Cameron Erving is a versatile player, who can play Center & Guard. Utah LB Nate Orchard will be used as a pass rusher for now, as he learns the game. RB Duke Johnson (Miami, FL) can be a nightmare, if he can hold onto the ball. Northwestern Safety Ibraheim Campbell is a solid 4th round pick as is Washington State WR Vince Mayle.
Overview: Where does Johnny Manziel fit on this team? Well, with the addition of QB Josh McCown, it certainly will not be at quarterback. The fans and staff and Manziel are just going to have to be patient about that. Head Coach Mike Pettine survived his first year with a decent 7-9 record. With new offensive weapons and a strong draft, fans expectations will be high. It’s up to the Browns to deliver a winning record in a tough division. Stranger things have happened.
Free Agency: It was a rocky free agency period for the Steelers. Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, Lance Moore & Jason Worilds are out of the picture. Veteran RB DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) will fill in as a starter, while Le’Veon Bell serves his suspension. That was it for the Steelers, as salary cap restrictions put them in this situation.
Draft: The draft was a different story for the Steelers. Kentucky LB Bud Dupree has big play ability. Mississippi CB Senquez Golson is undersized but has good instincts. Auburn WR Sammie Coates will have all eyes on him. He needs time to develop, in order to become something special. Ohio State DB Doran Grant will add good depth and Penn State TE Jesse James could be a 5th round steal.
Overview: All of those long-time fan favorite defensive players are gone. DE Cameron Erving, LB’s Jarvis Jones, Lawrence Timmons & rookie sensation Ryan Shazier are the new faces of the defense. QB Ben Roethlisberger still has plenty of football in him and when RB Le’Veon Bell returns from suspension, and with a solid young O-Line, the Steelers should still be contending for the NFL’s biggest prize. Now, if they can just get another WR.