Free Agency Recap — AFC North: Bengals Protect Burrow; Ravens Idle
Over the next week, we’re going to discuss the early returns for each NFL team in the free agency period. But first, a couple of notes about the structure and theme of these NFL free agency recaps:
- We’ll do this four teams at a time, grouped by division
- These are early returns on the action that we saw between the start of the free agency period on March 13 and today.
- There will be no arbitrary “grades” assigned.
- If your favorite team didn’t get the love you expected, just know that I’m not sorry.
- Let’s have some fun and talk some football.
The Bengals made a second straight trip to the AFC Championship game in 2022. Now they have to figure out how to sustain their two-year pocket of success that has seen them make it to the Super Bowl once and the AFC Championship twice.
- OT Orlando Brown Jr. (4 years, $64 million)
- LB Germaine Pratt (3 years, $21 million)
- RB Trayveon Williams (1 year, $1.2 million)
- S Michael Williams (1 year, $1.1 million)
- WR Trent Taylor (1 year, $1.1 million)
- S Nick Scott (3 years, $12 million)
Cincinnati has become a bona fide Super Bowl contender. They have their franchise QB, elite weapons, and one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. Now they have to figure out how to keep it.
Joe Burrow’s mega extension is on the horizon, and the Bengals have done an excellent job of prepping for it. Still, losses like Von Bell and Jessie Bates highlight the type of roster turnover that comes with that.
Cincinnati signed Orlando Brown Jr., giving their top (impending) investment some more protection in free agency. Plenty of work to be done still. The NFL Draft next month will be huge for the Bengals’ immediate and intermediate success.
2022 was a lost season for the Browns in what is supposed to be a contention window with Deshaun Watson suspended for 11 games.
- S Juan Thornhill (3 years, $21 million)
- DE Obo Okoronkwo (3 years, $19 million)
- C Ethan Pocic (3 years, $18 million)
- DT Dalvin Tomlinson (4 years, $57 million)
- LB Sione Takitaki (1 year, $2.5 million)
- DT Maurice Hurst (1 year, $1 million)
- QB Josh Dobbs (1 year, $2 million)
- LB Anthony Walker (1 year, $3 million)
- WR Elijah Moore (trade)
- WR Marquise Goodwin (1 year, $1.2 million)
The Browns went out and addressed some needs this offseason. They traded for Elijah Moore, giving Deshaun Watson another weapon. They also re-signed Ethan Pocic, and added reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball.
In free agency, Cleveland added safety Juan Thornhill, defensive end Obo Okoronkwo, and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. The Browns should be much better in 2023 after massaging some of their needs on both sides of the ball.
Whew. The Baltimore Ravens are a mess right now. Lamar Jackson’s contract has been the only thing of note this offseason. Meaning they haven’t done much of anything else to improve.
- S Geno Stone (1 year, $1.76 million)
- CB Trayvon Mullen (1 year, $1.2 million)
- LS Nick Moore (2 years, $2.5 million)
- RB Justice Hill (2 years, $5 million)
- WR Nelson Agholor (1 year, $3.25 million)
Baltimore has yet to do much this offseason except anger their franchise QB. Whatever your thoughts on the Lamar situation, the Ravens are not in an enviable position. The uncertainty with Jackson and the lack of additions to the roster could have the Ravens destined for a last-place finish in a steadily improving AFC North.
The Steelers believe they have their answer under center. Whether right or not, they’re building around Kenny Pickett and have chosen a direction.
- DT Larry Ogunjobi (3 years, $21.75 million)
- CB Patrick Peterson (2 years, $14 million)
- G Nate Herbig (2 years, $8 million)
- LB Cole Holcomb (3 years, $18 million)
- LB Elandon Roberts (2 years, $7 million)
- OG Isaac Seumalo (3 years, $24 million)
- CB James Pierre (1 year, $1.3 million)
Pittsburgh added Patrick Peterson to their secondary and re-signed Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year deal after he impressed the Steelers on his prove-it deal from last spring.
It hasn’t been a splashy offseason for Pittsburgh, but they’re trending up in the AFC North’s power hierarchy. Even if it’s purely because the Ravens are in the situation that they find themselves in.