Speaking of which…

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    All hail the NFL!

    The advent of COVID-19 across the world has enabled the NFL to effectively steal most of the current sports headlines.  For house-locked fans around the country, news of free agency and the draft proceeding as scheduled was a welcome tonic amid widespread financial and social upheaval.  Fortunately for fans of the AFC North, the news was even more exacting, as all four of the division’s teams have made moves, some significant.  The new league year commences at 4:00 pm today, so there will be plenty more to analyze and dissect as our shuttered lives continue.  Speaking of which…

    The Ravens clearly analyzed their most-recent playoff loss and wisely recognized their inability to stop the run played a substantial role in the outcome.  To that end, the team traded a fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft to Jacksonville for DE Calais Campbell and signed free agent DT Michael Brockers to fatten up the defensive line, which now totals roughly 950 pounds.  Campbell, despite his age (33), remains a pass-rushing threat, managing 6.5 sacks in 2019 while playing DE almost exclusively, but also contributing 56 tackles.  Credit to the Ravens for acknowledging one of their weaknesses and actually trying to address it.  Speaking of which…

    After stockpiling loads of cap space for several years, the Browns appear to be in “spend now” mode after signing free agent RT Jack Conklin (three years, $50 million, including $30 million guaranteed) and TE Austin Hooper (four years, $44 million, all guaranteed).  To be sure, the team had needs at both positions and these moves should allow them to concentrate on improving their interior defense in the draft, but the dollar amounts of these contracts is startling, especially the guarantees.  Given the skyrocketing economics of the NFL – top quarterback salaries have increased over 400% since the 2000 season – the only sure way to secure free agents is to drastically overpay them.  Sign o’ the times for free agency, it appears, which will by extension increase average salaries annually.  Speaking of which…

    The Bengals uncharacteristically waded into the free agent market themselves after surprisingly applying the franchise tag to longtime wideout A.J. Green, showing a seeming desperation to keep him from entering the free agency fray.  The team picked up CB Trae Waynes and NT D.J. Reader in an effort to maximize holdover DT Geno Atkins and CB William Jackson III’s remaining potential, but the real surprise is the notoriously cheap/frugal Bengals making Reader the highest-paid NT in the NFL.  The contract for Waynes (three years, $42 million) is equally shocking, but the Bengals seem determined, perhaps for the first time in owner Mike Brown’s tenure, to spend money to close the talent gap revealed by last season’s paper-thin roster.  We’re basically in unchartered waters with the 2020 Bengals, because we have no idea how free agents will respond to the locker room, coaching staff or general culture Cincinnati offers.  We’ll hopefully find out how it’s working soon enough.  Speaking of which…

    Chemistry and culture is the least of the Steelers’ worries after signing free agent fullback Derek Watt (brother of Steelers OLB T.J. Watt) to an offer sheet.  This most likely signals the departure of oft-injured multi-purpose back Roosevelt Nix, who’s provided little return on the team’s continued patience.  Watt hasn’t missed a game in his career, and he provides some versatility at TE in obvious passing situations.  Given the Steelers’ need to restructure their offense, picking up Watt was a nice start, even in the midst of long-time G Ramon Foster announcing his retirement.  Look for the Steelers to retool the offensive line as a result – a priority in what’s most likely QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final years.

     

    Be safe, be charitable, be yourselves.  Enjoy the week!

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    Ravenous128

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