Preseason is over! Yay!
For those of us that enjoy American professional football, the end of the preseason is pretty groovy. Fantasy teams can be safely drafted and finalized. Real, honest assessments of players, rosters and betting odds can begin in earnest.
For those of us with rooting interests in the AFC North, which has been occasionally termed “the best division in the NFL in 2023” during the offseason, these concerns loom large, as each team finally has realistic playoff expectations, and any roster change, no matter how miniscule, can affect the topside balance each team strives to achieve between success and failure.
No real shockers here. The Ravens have begun to sign some of their castoffs to their practice squad, including QB Anthony Brown, FB Ben Mason and veteran RB Melvin Gordon, who didn’t embarrass himself, but couldn’t beat out any of Baltimore’s established backs. He should expect a call-up should injuries befall the current group. To date, only one of the Ravens’ cut players – rookie CB Kyu Kelly – has been signed by another organization (Seahawks). A notable farewell to WR James Proche, who showed outstanding speed and little else during his tenure in Baltimore; he’ll likely be on a roster somewhere for his special teams prowess, but after repeated chances, Proche simply couldn’t channel his skills on the field. Best of luck to him.
Again, no surprises overall, unless you count the release of WR Austin Watkins, whose breakout preseason surely made things difficult for his GM. Watkins has since landed on the Browns’ practice squad, where he’ll remain vulnerable to being poached by another organization. G Michael Dunn also landed on the practice squad after a solid preseason, where he’ll likely be a quick call-up. The release of RB Demetric Felton Jr. after two seasons was interesting, considering his familiarity with the Browns’ offense and his prowess as a returner. Felton has sinced landed on the Bengals’ practice squad, and his Browns roster spot was amply filled by RB Pierre Strong, acquired in a trade with the Patriots for OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
The Bengals cut a few recognizable names, including well-traveled CB Sidney Jones IV and longtime Bengal WR Stanley Morgan (both have since been signed to the practice squad). In a curious move, the Bengals opted to cut veteran QB Trevor Siemian and trade for career backup QB Will Grier for the practice squad instead, leaving QB Jake Browning – who has never attempted a regular season pass – as the sole backup to oft-injured QB Joe Burrow. There’s been some rumors the Browns will attempt to sign Siemian prior to their Week 1 game against the Bengals solely to pick his brain regarding Cincinnati’s game plan.
The biggest Steelers concerns appear to have been addressed prior to Cutdown Day with the trades of OT Kevin Dotson and C/G Kendrick Green for draft compensation. While still young. both were considered disappointments as starters, and with the Steelers expecting to be in playoff contention this season, adequate protection for young QB Kenny Pickett is the team’s foremost concern. TE Zach Gentry’s ouster wasn’t expected, as he’s proved a reliable presence and solid blocker, and veteran LB Nick Kwiatkoski, a Pittsburgh native, was also released, although he remains a strong candidate for a return to the team given their relatively thin depth at interior LB.
The real thing happens in a calendar week, folks.