AFC North Free Agency Watch: Day 4

Perhaps it makes sense that the rare day that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the most active team within the division in free agency just so happened to fall on a Friday the 13th. That that was indeed the case, as they signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a five-year contract, while adding veteran depth at running back with free agent DeAngelo Williams.

But the AFC North’s activity on Friday was certainly not limited to the Pittsburgh area, as there was movement from the division’s other teams. To that end, let’s take a quick spin around the division to catch up with what is going on in enemy territory.

There was only one signing within the division outside of Pittsburgh yesterday, and that came in the form of the Cleveland Browns working out a four-year extension with defensive tackle John Hughes, who figures to be a key feature in the team’s defense going forward, especially given that two of their interior linemen are free agents.

With one year left on his contract, the Browns added four years and up to $15 million in new money to Hughes’ deal. That is a fairly large commitment for the young player, especially considering he was limited to three starts in five games due to injury in 2014.

In other Browns news, it was reported last night that quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was the second of Cleveland’s two first-round draft picks in 2014, remains in rehab, and has not yet been discharged. The Browns signed free agent Josh McCown, who will likely start the season under center.

The Baltimore Ravens lost yet another free agent yesterday when the Denver Broncos reached an agreement with safety Darian Stewart, after Denver lost their own starting safety in free agency.

Stewart spent his first four seasons in St. Louis, joining the Ravens in 2014 and starting 14 of 16 games played. He recorded 53 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. The Ravens do still have former first-round draft pick Matt Elam, as well as Will Hill on a restricted free agent tender, but it’s likely that they would like to keep Jeromy Miles as well after losing Stewart.

While the Steelers lost out on a couple of free agent pass rushers that they may have been interested in, the Cincinnati Bengals also saw a couple of free agents on their wishlist come off the board.

Earlier in the week, the Bengals met with Lions free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley, with the potential to pair him with Geno Atkins in the middle of their defensive line. Yesterday, he joined forces with Aaron Donald and others with the Rams.

The Bengals were also connected with free agent tight end Anthony Fasano as they seek a replacement for Jermaine Gresham, but the Titans agreed to terms with him yesterday instead, and thus the search continues.

The Bengals have previously expressed interest in a reunion with defensive end Michael Johnson should he be released. He was released earlier in the week, but there as of yet no scheduled meetings between the two parties.

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