The AFC North saw both the Ravens and Bengals making the playoffs last year. The Steelers were also in the playoff hunt after struggling early. With a few key additions could all three teams make the push towards the Super Bowl next year? What can the Browns do to catch up? I look at some of the free agency need for each team.
The Bengals had one of the stronger teams in the NFL last year. But they may look significantly different on defence in 2023. That’s because safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell are free agents as is cornerback Eli Apple. Change is not always bad though and the Bengals have Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt and Dax Hill already in place. They would be wise to bring in a veteran like Adrian Amos to help solidify what will otherwise be a very young unit.
Staying with the defence, the team will likely need and inside linebacker. Especially given the expected departure of Germaine Pratt. If they want to add an instant impact player then Bobby Wagner would be the best option. Although he is likely to garner a lot of attention. Wagner is an All Pro player and still one of the best in the league. While Drue Tranquill may only offer some of Wagner’s impact his cost is likely a lot less.
Heavy investment last year saw the Bengals protect quarterback Joe Burrow much better. But,given injuries to both La’el Collins coming and Jonah Williams, an investment here would make sense. The Bengals may look to the draft to add a tackle. They should try to sign former first round pick Andre Dillard. Dillard is a player with upside who has shown progression the last couple of years. Plus he has also seen time at guard.
After a disastrous start to the season the Steelers rebounded in the second half to finish 9-9 and narrowly missed the playoffs. A large part of this was due to the Steelers lack of real solutions at offensive tackle and I believe this is an area they must prioritise. The Steelers will have limited cap space this year but should take a long look at both Taylor Lewan and Mike McGlinchey. If they want to make a big splash, landing Orlando Brown Jr. would take some cap maneuvering but would pay immediate dividends.
At defensive tackle the Steelers will likely look to resign Larry Ogunjobi but may instead target Seattle’s Poona Ford. Ford is only 27-year-old, comes from a scheme that is similar to Pittsburgh’s and has tallied 128 tackles over the last 3 seasons.
It’s worth noting here that the Steelers picked up the Bears 32nd overall pick when they traded away Chase Claypool and that will be a huge help to restock the defence. With four picks in the first two days of the draft and limited cap space the Steelers may make little impact on free agency.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has been given the non-exclusive franchise tag. This means the Steelers can match any offer for Jackson or receive two first round picks in return. If I’m the Ravens the I want to sign or trade my quarterback as soon as possible in order to address the rest of my team needs. The problem here is that the Ravens’ offense is so tailored to Jackson that it will be harder for most quarterbacks to run effectively. To add to the team’s headache, Tyler Huntley, who filled in for the Ravens when Jackson was injured, is a restricted free agent.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, the Ravens need help at wide receiver. Names such as Juju Smith-Schuster and Jakobi Meyers make a lot of sense and trading for DeAndre Hopkins would be a huge upgrade. It’s also possible they look to add the XFL’s leading receiver, Jahcour Pearson.
At corner the Ravens could look to add in a big name like James Bradberry should they allow Marcus Peters of Kyle Fuller to leave. The team may also look at RockYa-Sin, the former Colt was one of the team’s bright spots in 2022.
Finally, lets talk about Cleveland. For better or worse, the Browns hitched their wagon to DeShaun Watson for the foreseeable future. Bearing this in mind they’ll likely look to add pass catchers to help spread the field. The Browns could aggressively pursue Jakobi Meyers as a good number two option behind Amari Cooper. With the majority of the offense returning the Browns are in good shape here.
On the other side the of the ball the Browns have significant work to do. After firing their defensive coordinator and hiring former Eagle Jim Schwartz to replace him the defence will likely see a change style this off season. With only All Pro Myles Garrett standing out along the defensive line there is significant work to do. Someone like Dre’Mont Jones would make a lot of sense inside and they may look at Marcus Davenport if Schwartz feels he fits. I’d look for their do be significant resources spent trying to upgrade here. One interesting g name to watch here is Fletcher Cox, who has had success in Schwartz’s system
However, linebacker is also in need of work and the Browns will look to add help alongside Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who returns from injury after an disappointing second year. Finally, safety too could see an addition of a veteran starter to replace departing John Johnson III.
So where does your team need to improve? Have we got it right or are there other more pressing team needs? Let us know at @ninetynineyards or hit me up @Cumbleton on Twitter! Look out for the rest of the team needs series coming soon.