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2020 AFC North Preview

Jared Block
by in NFL on
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens gestures after a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

After the first week of the NFL’s Free Agency period, let’s breakdown the moves that were made and how the AFC North shapes up pre-draft for the 2020-21 season.

  –  Baltimore Ravens (2019-20 Record: 14-2 / 1st in Division)  –  

Gained: DE- Calais Campbell
Lost: WR- Seth Roberts, TE- Hayden Hurst, OG- Marshal Yanda, OL- James Hurst, DT- Chris Wormley, DT- Michael Pierce, DT- Domata Peko, LB- Patrick Onwuasor, LB- Pernell McPhee, CB- Brandon Carr, S- Tony Jefferson

In what seemed destined to be a 2019 Super Bowl run for the Baltimore Ravens ended with a shocking loss to Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. The bad news is that there is one less year on trying to win a title while MVP QB Lamar Jackson is still on his rookie contract. The good news is that Baltimore will continue to be a free agent destination as long as this window is open.

While many pieces of the Baltimore Ravens of last season have parted ways during the free agency period, most of the core of last year’s team will be returning this season. Key losses include Marshal Yanda (retired), corner Brandon Carr, and tight end Hayden Hurst. The biggest signing this offseason has been edge rusher Calais Campbell, who came over from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Everything points to another run for the Baltimore Ravens behind Lamar Jackson, an explosive offense, and equally potent defense.

*Baltimore Ravens -200 to win the AFC North*

–  Cincinnati Bengals (2019-20 Record: 2-14 / 4th in Division)  –  

Gained: CB- Mackensie Alexander, S- Vonn Bell, DT- D.J. Reader, CB- Trae Waynes
Lost: TE- Tyler Eifert, OT- Cordy Glenn, OG- John Miller, DT- Andrew Billings, CB- Darqueze Dennard, CB- B.W. Webb, S- Clayton Fejedelem

When talking about the Bengals, there really isn’t much conversation other than the obvious fact that they are interested in drafting No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow of LSU. Cincy is not a free agent destination, they will not be good this season, and it may even be the case that they won’t have a winning record for the next five seasons easy. Nevertheless, here are some of the key moves they made this offseason.

Positives- Vikings corners Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are strong pieces that will now be added to an atrocious secondary. The Bengals also came to terms with safety Vonn Bell and defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who will both make impacts to start strengthening their defensive core.

Negatives- AJ Green’s trade value is all but wasted away, Andy Dalton doesn’t have any trade value either and is now free to sign with any team, and there are several solid, yet expensive veterans on the team that can be flipped for younger, cheaper assets. It’s no surprise that Cincy is poorly run, but you’d think that bringing in a No.1 overall franchise quarterback would make the wheels start to turn on a complete rebuild.

I don’t see Cincinnati winning more than 4 games this season, especially in this division. It’ll be a tough two years moving forward, but if they can gain some traction under Zac Taylor’s system, there could be promise.

*Cincinnati Bengals +2500 to win the AFC North*

–  Cleveland Browns (2019-20 Record: 6-10 / 3rd in Division)  –  

Gained: DT- Andrew Billings, OT- Jack Conklin, LB- B.J. Goodson, TE- Austin Hooper, FB- Andy Janovich, CB- Kevin Johnson, S- Karl Joseph, QB- Case Keenum, S- Andrew Sendejo
Lost: QB- Drew Stanton, WR- Rashard Higgins, TE- Demetrius Harris, LB- Christian Kirksey, LB- Joe Schobert, CB- T.J. Carrie, S- Eric Murray, S- Damarious Randall

Cleveland has been seen as a nightmare for the last few decades, but the free agency moves they’ve been making the last two seasons now since acquiring Baker Mayfield have shown that they are really trying to turn things around. The Browns have once again landed some studs during the first week of March, including tight end Austin Hooper from the Falcons. They now have an offense that has weapons including Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper, and David Njoku. You’d think this would be a recipe for success, but somehow, the Browns always figure out how to Brown.

Solid defensive acquisitions Kevin Johnson, Karl Joseph, and Andrew Sendejo will strengthen the teams secondary, while B.J. Goodson and Andrew Billings will tighten up the box near the line of scrimmage. I’m optimistic that Cleveland can turn a corner, but it’ll be interesting to see if winning or media drama come first.

*Cleveland Browns +450 to win the AFC North*

–  Pittsburgh Steelers (2019-20 Record: 8-8 / 2nd in Division)  –  

Gained: TE- Eric Ebron, FB- Derek Watt, DT- Chris Wormley, OL- Stefen Wisniewski
Lost: TE- Nick Vannett, OL- B.J. Finney, DT- Javon Hargrave, OLB- Anthony Chickillo, CB- Artie Burns, S- Mark Barron

With the Baltimore Ravens resurgence into one of the top teams in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns’ load up in the Free Agency period, and the Cincinnati Bengals seemingly all but locked up No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a really tough spot in the AFC North. Pittsburgh has a ton of cap issues with contracts that aren’t going away anytime soon. They have an aging offensive line with some troubling spots on defense. Most importantly, outside of Big Ben returning to football for the time being, there’s no future QB in sight backing him up. The post Bell / Brown era in Pittsburgh has not been kind to Steeler nation, so we’ll have to see what bringing back Roethlisberger does for the team this year.

Key acquisitions for the offense include athletic tight end Eric Ebron and fullback Derek Watt, while Chris Wormley was brought in to replace Javon Hargrave on the defensive line. It looks like Pittsburgh will once again be fighting for a Wild Card spot this season, teetering on the edge of missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

*Pittsburgh Steelers +350 to win the AFC North*

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