For the past few weeks, there have been loads of speculation and rumors on what is going to happen once the league year starts March 18. The media has discussed how will the Ravens build upon last season, what the Bengals will do to stay way from the first overall pick again next year, how the Browns will bounce back from a surprisingly disappointing year and is it time for the Steelers to start looking towards the future. But no one has talked about what teams shouldn’t do this offseason. It is important to note what teams shouldn’t do this offseason if they want to fulfill their mission of either becoming a playoff team/Super Bowl contender or start their rebuild correctly. This is a list of what the AFC North teams shouldn’t do this offseason.
Baltimore Ravens: Staying put and being comfortable with their current roster
The Baltimore Ravens were one of the more pleasant surprises of the league last season. After starting the year 2-2 the Ravens ripped a 12 game win streak to end the regular season. Lamar Jackson won the MVP in Greg Roman’s offense that was tailored fit to his playing style. John Harbaugh won Coach of the Year as Baltimore won the first seed in the AFC and owned the best record in football. All went well for the Ravens except they fell short of their goal of a Super Bowl Championship. They fell way short by falling to the 9-7 Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. This also marks the second year in a row Lamar Jackson failed to show up for the big game. With expectations through the roof the Ravens in 2020, they cannot sit tight this offseason and hope it is going to happen again next year.
The league has another year of Lamar Jackson film to analyze and figure out how to keep him contained. The Ravens are set to lose some big-name players this offseason. Former All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda announced his retirement, the Ravens cut veteran safety Tony Jefferson and defensive starters Michael Pierce and Patrick Onwuasor, are on the market. After officially hitting Matthew Judon with the franchise tag there is still speculation the Ravens might trade Judon to unload that cap number off their books. Unfortunately it would make the second straight year where the Ravens lose multiple defensive veterans in free agency including their sack leader for the year.
The Ravens have $37 million in cap space to fill some of the voids that will be on the roster at the start of the league year. The Ravens should try to add at inside linebacker and edge rusher. The defensive line was addressed early by adding Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers. On the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens need to fill the void left by Marshal Yanda, but should explore adding a veteran running back and receiver to help Lamar Jackson out. Mark Ingram also turned 30 years old and will likely regress from how he played last year. He will likely not be able to handle the heavy workload this run-heavy offense demands. Also Lamar Jackson lacked a true number one receiver last year. Mark Andrews looked like Jackson’s favorite target and the Ravens selected Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin early last year. They need to bring in a veteran receiver like Emmanuel Sanders who can go a long way for the development of Lamar Jackson and could give the Ravens a boost to the AFC Championship or their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati Bengals: Not be active until the draft
After firing Marvin Lewis the Cincinnati Bengals finally got out of below-average team mediocracy. Unfortunately, the Bengals had the worst record in football this past year going 2-14. The upside to this is they finally have the opportunity to upgrade their quarterback by drafting Joe Burrow first overall. But that is not going to fix all of their problems. Their offensive line is atrocious, their defense has many holes and AJ Green will likely be off the team within the next two years and they are going to need more weapons for Burrow.
The Bengals had $47.5 Million in salary cap space at the beginning of the offseason, a lot of needs and not a lot of core free agents to re-sign. Besides retaining AJ Green, keeping Nick Vigil in the building should be a priority. Other than retaining those free agents the Bengals should try to sign outside free agents. The Bengals already locked up DJ Reader and Trae Waynes to long term deals. The Bengals should continue to look to sign younger lower-level free agents. They could possibly overpay them to sign with the team because the Bengals are not an attractive team to be a part of at the moment. They can sell the idea of being a part of the “Joe Burrow Era”. Unless the Bengals bring in more talent they are going to finish at the bottom of the league again and Zac Taylor can be out of Cincinnati very quickly.
Cleveland Browns: Overreacting to Baker Mayfield’s and Odell Beckham Jr.’s chemistry in their first year
After bringing in Odell Beckham Jr. Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt the Cleveland Browns were predicted Super Bowl 54 Champions. Too bad they actually went 6-10 and the Kansas City Chiefs actually won the Super Bowl. As electric as the Browns’ offense could have potentially been it was held back by head coach Freddie Kitchens being extremely over his head as a first-year head coach and offensive play-caller. Their offensive line really needs to be rebuilt as well.
The Browns have a new head coach and will focus on their offensive line this offseason in free agency and the draft. The Browns still need a left tackle after signing Jack Conklin to sure up the right side. Also after adding Austin Hooper, it looks like the Browns should be in better shape than they were last season, as long as they don’t get in their own way. In typical Browns fashion there is already speculation of the Browns moving Odell Beckham this offseason after only one season with the team. Even though Beckham and Mayfield did not hit it off like fans assumed, this is definitely not the right move for the Browns to make.
New general manager Andrew Berry’s comments about Beckham should give Browns fans hope about retaining their superstar wide receiver. He has said he would listen to trade offers and would only do it if he was blown away by the offer because he feels Beckham is “a part of the Browns future”. The Browns should not overreact to Mayfield and Beckham’s first year together. Under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, they should develop chemistry and become the tandem NFL fans thought they would be a year ago.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Not think about life after Ben Roethlisberger
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the center of drama and controversy for seemingly the past two years. The crazy part about it is, they managed to have success with players like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown’s dysfunction in the locker room. Steeler fans will even remember the Martavis Bryant saga. This year was the first year two of the ‘Killer B’s’ were off the roster, and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t even get to show the world what he could do without him because of an elbow injury that took him out for the entire season.
Pittsburgh’s elite defensive play this past season carried them to an 8-8 record, one game shy of a playoff spot. But the combination of Devlin “Duck” Hodges and Mason Rudolph showed that the Steelers really do not have a reliable back up or have a plan for post-Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers have the lowest amount of salary space in the league, especially after franchise tagging Bud Dupree. It was expected that Javon Hargrave was going to leave in free agency, and now the Steelers do not have the cap to sign a replacement for him. Their needs include nose tackle, guard and back up quarterback. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin should really start thinking about life after Big Ben. The two other quarterbacks from his draft class have been moved on from by their respective teams. Eli Manning retired a New York Giant and the Los Angeles Chargers are moving on from Philip Rivers. It is only a matter of time until the Steelers should move on from their franchise quarterback. Expect the Steelers to look at Jalen Hurts or Jacob Eason with their first draft pick in the second round. Even though they might be a back up next year, if Big Ben misses time they are a huge upgrade over Hodges and Rudolph.