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AFC North News Watch: Day 25

AFC NORTH TEAMS

One of the bigger stories of the division yesterday was one perhaps that came outside of the division. FSU cornerback P.J. Williams, with whom multiple teams within the division have spoken recently at his university’s Pro Day, was arrested with a DUI.

Williams was seen as a potential first-round pick, even as an option for the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 22nd overall selection, but after this news, he is surely off their board, and likely many other boards. It could be interesting to see how far he falls. Could he last all the way to day three, and if he does, does that put him back on some teams’ radar?

Speaking of the Steelers and cornerbacks, though, the big news out of the South Side is that restricted free agent Antwon Blake announced himself that he has signed his tender, which will pay him just north of $1.5 million for this season, assuming that he makes the roster…which seems awfully unlikely, given the team’s depth at the position.

The reality is that Blake could well be competing for a starting spot this season with Cortez Allen, who very much needs to rebound from a dismal 2014 season that saw him demoted, then benched, then mercifully placed on injured reserve.

Either way, Blake should see significant time in his third season with the team, as he figures, at least for now, to be at worst the sub-package outside cornerback. That would presumably move William Gay inside when the Steelers play in their nickel, which is around a 50-50 proposition these days.

Blake finally began to see significant playing time as the season progressed, and he forced two big turnovers during his snaps. One came midway through the season with an interception in the end zone in a game that was becoming much closer than it should be. He stripped a receiver and forced a fumble down the field in the season finale that helped clinch the division.

Blake is already a special teams ace, and he’s shown himself to be a fearless, confident, hard-hitting cornerback on defense, even if he does have his limitations. But the Steelers shouldn’t fret much about paying him his $1.5 million, which was already reflected in the cap, in case  you were wondering.

The Baltimore Ravens finalized a trade yesterday that sent Gino Gradkowski to the Broncos, where he’s said to have the heads up on winning the starting job at center. He was the Ravens’ starting center in 2013 and played abysmally. The Broncos sent the Ravens a 2016 fourth-round pick in exchange for the player and a 2016 fifth-round pick.

The Cincinnati Bengals added quarterback Josh Johnson to their roster yesterday. Johnson has been in the league for some time now, and was the backup for the Bengals in 2013. But that doesn’t mean he’s any more than a camp body.

A bit more on yesterday’s news about the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel. With the new offensive coordinator putting together his new scheme, Manziel’s name hardly came up. The young man has a deep hole to climb out of…when he gets out of rehab.

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