AFC North News Watch: Day 17


Thursday marked the first day back to business as usual around the NFL as all of the league’s teams were returned their owners, president, head coaches, and general managers, who were in attendance at the annual Owners Meetings during the first half of the past week.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that we did see in uptick in personnel movement around the league, which included movement around the AFC North, which, outside of the somewhat significant signing of James Harrison by the Pittsburgh Steelers, had been relatively quiet while their higher ups were all away.

And of course, it started yesterday with the Steelers, who brought back yet another one of their own free agents when they agreed to terms on a one-year, veteran minimum qualifying contract with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who spent his first season in Pittsburgh last year on a similar one-year deal.

Heyward-Bey makes five players that the Steelers have re-signed thus far, with perhaps one or two more that could potentially re-sign before all is said and done. They lost two free agents as well, one to another team, and one to a surprising retirement announcement, though the team later confirmed that they were not planning on having him this season anyway.

While the Steelers said that they were likely done with any significant moves in free agency, this signing showed that they are not averse to picking up a value signing on a qualifying contract, so I would not be surprised if we see another similar signing leading up to the draft. But more on that later in the day.

The Cincinnati Bengals also continued to address their biggest weakness during this free agency period, which has been their ability to generate pressure. Early on, they released longtime defensive end Robert Geathers, who had been underperforming, and replaced him with former Bengal Michael Bennett, who spent last season with the Buccaneers before being released.

Yesterday, the team added another former Bengal to bolster the line, signing defensive tackle Pat Sims, who spent his first five years in Cincinnati before playing in Oakland for the past two years. Whether or not these moves appreciably assist in generating more pressure remains to be seen, of course.

The Minnesota Vikings had been in talks for some time now with Bengals free agent cornerback Terence Newman. The talks had lasted so long, in fact, that the Vikings signed another Bengal in the interim.

But yesterday the two sides did finally agree to terms on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. The Bengals showed no interest in re-signing him, since they already have a stockpile of former first-round cornerbacks on the roster.

Elsewhere in the division, the Baltimore Ravens may reportedly be in the veteran backup quarterback market after losing Tyrod Taylor in free agency. Taylor had beaten out veteran backups in the previous two seasons. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, await on word of league discipline for their ‘Textgate’ incident, which could involve the loss of draft picks.

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