Now that the offseason is in full swing, front offices of all 32 NFL teams have begun to assess priorities for the coming months. What areas should each team address? This sounds like a job for Maurice Jones-Drew. The NFL.com analyst and former All-Pro running back tries his hand at general manager and identifies three areas each team should tackle this offseason. Today, MJD examines the AFC North:
The Ravens' focus should be on Lamar Jackson's development and keeping the league's No. 1 defense intact as much as possible. Jackson took the NFL by storm during the second half of his rookie campaign, but there's plenty of room for improvement. That's why I would bring in his former college coach, Bobby Petrino, to work with offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterbacks coach James Urban to further Jackson's development. On defense, the Ravens have several big-name players set to hit free agency in C.J. Mosley, Za'Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs. They might be able to re-sign multiple guys, but Mosley is a must.
1) Get the ground game up to speed. Baltimore had the league's No. 2 rushing offense in 2018, thanks to a great O-line performance and a large committee of running backs. Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery are set to be unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens could decide to hang on to Gus Edwards (exclusive rights free agent) and Alex Collins (restricted free agent). Kenneth Dixon has a year left on his contract. While this was an effective group last season, an explosive three-down back could bring this Lamar Jackson-tailored offense to new heights. Watching Le'Veon Bell line up behind Jackson would be about as exciting as it could get, but there are other viable free agents or draft prospects who could fit the bill. (UPDATE: The Ravens announced Friday that they waived Collins after he was arrested earlier that morning.)
2) Find a big receiving threat. The Ravens' receiving corps is shallow, with Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead as the top guys under contract. Baltimore has to find a big-bodied receiver to bring some attention to the pass game. Dez Bryant could be a late free-agent pickup. Better yet, Baltimore could draft the highly touted D.K. Metcalf if he's still available when the Ravens pick at No. 22. (UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Ravens will release Crabtree.)
3) Find the next Terrell Suggs. As I pointed out in my mock draft, the Ravens need some young juice off the edge, with Suggs set to hit the open market at age 36. There are plenty of options in free agency and/or the draft. One player who would fit in well and apply pressure is Florida product Jachai Polite.
Now that the Bengals hired a defensive coordinator in former Giants DBs coach Lou Anarumo, they can turn the page. Up next, they need to ...
1) Bulk up at LB. Linebacker was a weak link in the Bengals' defense last season, and it would serve them well to address this position in multiple ways. Obviously, potential additions will depend on the unknown DC's scheme, but there are players in free agency and the draft who can play in any system.
2) Bring in a competitive QB. New head coach Zac Taylor, who will call the offensive plays in 2019, has a quarterback that suits his system. But signing a free agent or drafting a quarterback to push (and get the most out of) Andy Dalton could greatly benefit this unit. The 2018 campaign started out hot for the Bengals' offense, but Cincinnati sputtered after the injury bug hit at the midway point. I still believe Dalton has the potential to produce at a high level in the right environment, and a competitive room would only help.
3) Find a durable tight end. The Bengals seemed to have a dominant tight end in 2015, when Tyler Eifert notched 13 touchdown receptions in his third NFL season. Unfortunately, he played in just 14 games in the subsequent three years, battling injury after injury. This draft is the perfect opportunity to nab a durable tight end.
We saw what Baker Mayfield did in his first NFL season. Now, the Browns need to do everything in their power to make him comfortable and give him the tools for a big Year 2. Promoting Freddie Kitchens to head coach was a good start.
1) Improve at offensive tackle.Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard played well at times in 2018, but A) Robinson is a free agent and B) this is an area that needs depth. Although extending plays is one of Mayfield's greatest attributes, he was too often forced out of the pocket as a rookie. I wouldn't mind the Browns re-signing Robinson, but competition along the O-line will improve the unit's overall protection. (UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Browns and Robinson have aggreed to a one-year deal.)
2) Put more weapons around Mayfield.IFKareem Huntmakes it onto the field, this Browns offense will improve immensely. The pass game was respectable in 2018 with Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Antonio Callaway, but a Josh Gordon-like, big-bodied receiver could really boost this unit.
3) Steve Wilks' D needs better linebackers. Wilks' Cover 2 system requires speed across the board. He needs linebackers with superb sideline-to-sideline speed for this unit to really make a lasting impression on opposing offenses.
Even with Tuesday's meeting between Steelers owner Art Rooney II and Antonio Brown -- in which "both agreed that it is time to move on ..." -- there's still a small chance the Steelers still may not trade him if the price isn't right. If Brown gets traded, the Steelers will then likely lose Brown andLe'Veon Bell in the same offseason. If that happens, they should brace themselves for their first losing season under Mike Tomlin.
1) Fill Ryan Shazier's on-field void. Shazier was one of the best linebackers in the NFL at the time of his spinal injury in December of 2017, and the Steelers have yet to find a replacement who comes close. In this defense-heavy draft class, Pittsburgh can find its guy.
2) Get cornerback talent. The Steelers' cornerback group has been one of the weaker parts of the defense for a few years. Spending a first-round pick on the position in 2016 (Artie Burns) didn't solve the problem. This draft class offers another opportunity to snag a CB who can make this group more competitive.
3) Sign more RB/WR talent. With Le'Veon Bell on his way out of the Steel City, Pittsburgh must build a run game that can consistently wear out defenses. James Conner was brilliant for most of 2018, but he was injured down the stretch, and the run game suffered. Bringing in another capable back to push and split carries with Conner would be ideal for this team. In fact, I'd like to see the Steelers go get Jordan Howard in a trade with Chicago or sign free agent Mark Ingram. With the possibility of Brown getting traded away, Pittsburgh should look to add a receiver or two in the draft, since this year's free agency crop isn't great.