Free agency got off to an exciting start as usual as reports came in on familiar players heading to new places. Some teams filled crucial needs, while some still have openings heading closer to the NFL Draft.
Philadelphia will be the scene for the 2017 NFL Draft and all AFC North teams will be looking to make moves.
The goal will be simple: First, win the AFC North. Second, dominate the playoffs and win a championship.
Let’s take a look at what each team is still looking for between now and April, when hundreds of young men will get drafted into the NFL and begin their dream job.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (2016 Results: 8-8 / 2nd in AFC North)
Selecting 16th overall in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens will look to improve upon their already successful 2017 offseason.
The former Charger will help the team endure the four-game suspension of upcoming sophomore Kenneth Dixon.
Their biggest add to this point has to be safety Tony Jefferson who was hands down the best free agent deep defender on the market.
Left now for a team which competed for a Super Bowl just a short time ago is to add edge talent and a wide receiver to team with Joe Flacco.
Baltimore parted ways with Elvis Dumervil, and simply hasn’t had the defense they were once known for in some time.
Look for last year’s second-place finisher to make some more moves and target early talent in the receiver and edge groups when the draft goes live.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (2016 Results: 6-9-1 / 3rd in AFC North)
Bringing back cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick didn’t get massive headlines, but it allowed Cincinnati to stay away from defensive backs early in the draft.
Instead, this teams should be looking to repair some of the damage done when they lost two pieces of Andy Dalton’s offensive line.
Picking ninth overall is a little high to select an offensive lineman, so this team could be in the market for a trade back.
However, if they do stick at nine, wide receiver is a low-key target for them which may pay big dividends.
Now, LaFell isn’t a scrub, but he’s not going to incite a whole lot of fear in the opposing defense.
If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster falls to them after his controversial exit from the NFL Scouting Combine this year, then it’d be hard for them to pass him up.
Linebacker was a strength in recent years for the team at times, but isn’t looking so hot moving into 2017.
Of course, the offensive line will need help, and this may be the biggest need for a team who is not likely to find early contributors past the first or second round.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (2016 Results: 1-15 / 4th in AFC North)
Ah, yes. The Cleveland Browns. The team who just can’t seem to draft or sign a franchise worthy quarterback the fanbase deserves.
I was a supporter of the Robert Griffin III, but after news the team is moving on, it’s time we all do as well.
So the question is who will be the starting quarterback in 2017? The majority of people – experts or not – seem to believe the team needs a rookie behind center.
I however, must disagree.
This franchise is one which cannot afford to flop on the picks they have, especially after gaining the Houston Texans’ second-round pick.
While quarterback is certainly not a position of confidence for the franchise, there are no sure things in this class at the position.
The Browns simply cannot afford to miss here, and there are too many names considered “sure things” in the top 50 to gamble on an unknown.
This team needs a lot, but the biggest thing they need is to not reach for a quarterback because it’s the sexy thing to do.
Stay patient, draft the best talents, and set up a roster a quarterback would be happy to come in and lead in 2018.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2016 Results: 11-5 / AFC North Division Champs)
At one point, Pittsburgh looked like they might actually lose Le’Veon Bell and possibly Antonio Brown to go with him.
I don’t know if this would have incited riots, but it wouldn’t have been good, let’s say that.
Both men are back for 2017 though, and assuming Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t retire suddenly, the team is poised for another division run.
This doesn’t mean they are without needs however.
Selecting 30th overall as the AFC’s Championship Game losers, the team will be fortunate to have either of these young men fall to them on day one.
If they’re both there, I give the early edge to the linebacker as this team certainly needs defensive help more than they need offensive.
Honestly, this team could go all defense and they’d be in good position for another playoff push.
Adding some offense never hurts though, and the team also can’t ignore the backup running back position as they seem to be content to let DeAngelo Williams walk away.
There’s plenty more time left before the NFL Draft in April, and any of these four teams could certainly make more moves to secure the back end of their rosters.
Many free agents remain on the market and the negotiating isn’t done yet.
Who do you want to see your favorite team bring in, or who do you want to see get drafted to your franchise?
Find me on Twitter and continue the discussion as we get closer and closer to the NFL Draft!