"Episode" 2 of every need for NFL teams heading into the 2022 season. Last time we discussed every need for all the AFC East teams. In this edition, we will take a look at the needs for each team in what should be a very competitive AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens – Wide Receivers
With the trade of Marquise Brown, the Ravens receiver depth chart looks a bit thin. As of writing this, second year receiver Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay are at the top of the receiver pecking order. While the Ravens are a very run heavy team and they do have tight end Mark Andrews as the number one pass osption, they still need to address the receiver position to open the middle of the field for Andrews. Last year, the top three remaining receivers on the Ravens (Bateman, Duvernay, and James Proche) combined for just 989 yards and three touchdowns, while Andrews had 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns on his own. If the Ravens want an immediate impact through free agency, Julio Jones and Will Fuller are two of the best options left. Both free agent veterans do have injury concerns that accompany them. If Baltimore wants to take a risk down the line, they could try to pick up Odell Beckham Jr.
There have been some strong rumors going back to March for Beckham to sign with Baltimore. As it stands though, the Ravens need to add a true number one receiver to help Lamar Jackson be the passer that some believe he is.
Cincinnati Bengals – Tight End
It was extremely difficult to find a true need for the Bengals. Heading into the off-season the obvious need was offensive line after allowing franchise QB Joe Burrow to be sacked a league high 55 times last year. However, owner and de facto GM Mike Brown and the rest of the front office went to work adding three new pieces to the offensive line in center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa and tackle La’el Collins. The next need for Cincinnati was a young corner to potentially replace Eli Apple down the road, and the Bengals filled that need when they drafted Dax Hill from Michigan in the first round in this past draft. Then there was the tight end positon, after C.J. Uzomah signed with the Jets, the Bengals picked up former division rival in Hayden Hurst on a one-year 3.5 million dollar deal. Hurst only started in five of the 13 games he played in 2021 and caught 26 balls for 221 yards.
There isn’t a quick fix in free agency (best available are Blake Jarwin and Jared Cook). Look for the Bengals to address this position next off-season after another contending year for this young core.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Quarterback
It was an end of an era for the Pittsburg Steelers last season, as franchise icon Ben Roethlisberger retired after 17 years in black and gold. The former 11th overall pick of the 2004 draft finished his career with 64,088 yards, 418 touchdowns and claimed two Lombardi Trophies in his career. Even though “Big Ben” had an amazing career, by the time the 2021 season came, he was a shell of his former self. He did pass for 3,700 yards and 22 touchdowns, he only averaged 6.2 yards per completion, the lowest of his career outside of 2019 when he only played two games. With him gone, the Steelers will need a new quarterback to lead them into the future. The Steelers went out and brought in a bridge quarterback in former #2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky in free agency. As the draft rolled around in April, the Steelers drafted what they hope to be their next franchise QB in former Pitt QB Kenny Pickett at #20 overall.
The battle between Trubisky and Pickett should be an interesting situation to monitor as training camp gets under way in July and August. While the need was addressed, it is still an area of weakness for some years until either Trubisky finally goes back to his 2018 form or Pickett develops into the next great Steelers quarterback.
Cleveland Browns - Front Office
In the process of thinking what exactly the Browns need, I couldn’t think of a more important need for the Browns than smart, mature people running the franchise. If you look at the roster, on paper this is a Super Bowl caliber roster. The skill positions on offense are incredible for Cleveland, trading for wide out Amari Cooper, sending just a sixth-round pick to Dallas, adding gadget player Jakeem Grant from Chicago to add on to the talent already on the team with running back Kareem Hunt, tight end David Njoku and All-Pro running back Nick Chubb. The Browns offensive line maybe a top five unit in the NFL with Jack Conklin, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Willis, and Joel Bitonio. The defense finished top five in pass yards with a deadly pair of edge rushers in Myles Garrett and Jadevon Clowney to go along with a strong secondary in corners Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and safety John Johnson III. All they needed in their eyes was a quarterback who could be an “adult,” compared to former number one overall pick Baker Mayfield. So of course, in the Browns infinite wisdom invested three first round picks and over 230 million dollars for a guy who already had 20 sexual assault allegations in Deshaun Watson (a true adult). Watson would add on 4 more lawsuits to his total after being traded to Cleveland. I am calling out the Browns front office mainly because in the time before they traded for Watson they knew the allegations against him and did not waiver on their pursuit. Cleveland even listened to advisement that absurdly suggested NOT to speak to any of the plaintiffs against Watson.
I am disappointed in the Browns for doing all of this but I can’t say I’m surprised. In the 23 years since the Browns have returned to Cleveland, they have made horribly stupid decisions after horribly stupid decisions, and this is no different. They invested three first round picks into a guy who may never even play for them and pissed off Baker Mayfield by not granting his trade request, and have held him hostage essentially because the front office knows that Watson will be suspended for an extended period of time. The Browns did, however, did Baker a favor by excusing Mayfield from mini-camp three weeks ago. Andrew Berry and Jimmy Haslem need to act like adults and should have been from the get-go. As a wise-man once said about the Browns…