When you look at the global picture of the Pittsburgh Steelers among the ranks of the AFC North, you can’t help but feel a sense of ease. Looking at the Cleveland Browns dealing with the Deshaun Watson contract, the Lamar Jackson saga with the Baltimore Ravens, and now the Cincinnati Bengals having to pay Joe Burrow a hefty contract, having Kenny Pickett on a rookie deal sounds pretty great.
There has been a lot of news surrounding the AFC North, and it’s time to dive into those rumors and news to see what’s going on with these division rivals.
Let’s get to it...
Of course this is a big story right now, and ESPN Insider Jeremy Fowler has the latest on the Ravens and Lamar Jackson:
By now, it’s becoming clear that no NFL team is aggressively pursuing Lamar Jackson or preparing an offer sheet at the moment. That can change at any point, but so far, there’s simply not much momentum. Jackson is clearly frustrated. Baltimore isn’t pressing the issue. The Ravens don’t need to do much until another team makes an offer, and I don’t get the sense that the Ravens are aggressively negotiating on a deal for Jackson right now. Collusion will remain a trending topic as more QB-needy teams rule themselves out of the Jackson sweepstakes.
After asking some executives why they think the market is dry, the first reason usually given is that Baltimore would simply match any offer sheet, and thus the prospective team would do the legwork for the Ravens. Now, a sign-and-trade scenario would circumvent that process, especially if Baltimore feels like the QB-team relationship has reached a boiling point. But Baltimore’s desire to keep Jackson is a common refrain among teams. Then there’s the guaranteed money, the multiple first-round picks required to secure a deal and his durability concerns.
One thing to remember when reading these news and rumors is Jackson hasn’t signed his tag yet. And Fowler says this isn’t expected to happen anytime soon. Could he hold out, a la Le’Veon Bell? It’s possible...
Don’t expect Jackson to sign the tag any time soon. From everything I’ve heard, Jackson is principled on this — it’s not just a matter of securing as many millions as possible, but setting the proper market commensurate with his skill set, thus helping future players in his situation. That might not be possible right now due to the circumstances, and Baltimore seems to know it.
Wide Receivers to B’more?
After the league meetings in Phoenix, there has been a lot of talk about the Ravens signing a wide receiver. The Ravens are looking at some big-name players, but there is that whole issue with someone throwing passes to consider too...
- The Ravens have been fairly active in the wide receiver market. As Dan [Graziano] mentioned above, they’ve looked into Beckham. I’ve heard the same for DeAndre Hopkins and Courtland Sutton. They seem open to potentially adding a quality outside receiver, whether Jackson is in the lineup or not.
While the Bengals’ roster is one of the best in the division/NFL, there is one big contract which is about to potentially change all that. That would be the contract of quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow is currently on his rookie deal, and while that has given the Bengals flexibility in roster construction to spend money elsewhere. However, that is likely to change once the Brinks truck is rolled up to Paycor Stadium to give Burrow his next deal.
- The Cincinnati Bengals have begun discussions with Joe Burrow on a contract extension. Coach Zac Taylor acknowledged to the media that talks have started, and as one team source classified it, “The process is underway.” It could take some time because of the complicated nature of these megadeals, but Cincinnati appears committed to securing Burrow’s future.
Outside of Burrow’s deal, the Bengals also have to consider what to do at the running back position. There is a possibility the team adds a back in free agency, but it isn’t a guarantee.
- In other Bengals news, Taylor said signing a running back in free agency is a “possibility” but added he really likes the progress of Trayveon Williams, who re-signed this month. “We have high hopes for him. He understands what it takes to compete in this league.” And Chris Evans is entering his third year. So, while Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt are among the free agent options, the Bengals like who they have as well.
Let us know in the comment section your thoughts on this news around the AFC North. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.