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NKySteeler
02-25-2009, 07:00 PM
http://www.sportingnews.com/exclusives/ ... 330-p.html (http://www.sportingnews.com/exclusives/20090225/1088330-p.html)

Free-agency preview: AFC North's top targets
February 25, 2009
Sporting News Today

When the NFL's free-agency period begins Feb. 27, teams will start combing the market for players essential to their 2009 season. Sporting News' NFL correspondents provide names you must know for every team. Today we present the AFC North (below) and the four teams of the NFC North.

For more information on NFL free agency and more than 300 profiles on players headed for the NFL draft, visit Sporting News' Pro Football War Room.

Baltimore Ravens

1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals.

The Ravens think Houshmandzadeh is in his prime and would be a good fit. He has played well against Baltimore, especially with big third-down catches over the middle. He isn't exceptionally fast but is fearless and blocks well. The Ravens could also take a shot at Saints speedster Devery Henderson.

2. Marvel Smith, OT, Steelers.

Smith is athletic and has good feet. After an injury-plagued 2008, he could come at a bargain price. If not, coach John Harbaugh has ties with Eagles RT Jon Runyan and might be able to lure him to Baltimore. Runyan is a fierce competitor and still a strong run blocker.

3. Matt Birk, C, Vikings.

Birk is the ideal center. He is strong, smart and athletic. He'll command a big salary, but he is a quality performer. He has great feet and can pull. He'll make the extra block needed in the secondary. The Colts' Jeff Saturday had injury problems last season, but he is a strong pass blocker and knows the game well.

4. Bryant Johnson, WR, 49ers.

Johnson doesn't have a big name, but he has good size and speed. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome liked Johnson when he came out of Penn State in 2003.

5. Jabari Greer, CB, Bills.

The Ravens like his ability to run stride for stride with receivers. He is not a No. 1 cornerback, but he could be a solid No. 2. The Ravens like his experience for a secondary that could be very young.


Cincinnati Bengals

1. Jonathan Vilma, LB, Saints.

This explosive playmaker would make an instant impact at the heart of an improving defense. Incumbent Dhani Jones is a solid player and leader, but Vilma is the kind of difference-maker the club needs.

2. Matt Birk, C, Vikings.

Protecting QB Carson Palmer is a major priority. The experienced, battletested Birk would fill a gaping hole on a line that must do a better job of keeping Palmer upright. The team also holds veterans Jeff Saturday and Jake Grove in high esteem.

3. Mike Brown, S, Bears.

He's the ideal playmaker needed to lead a young secondary. Brown hits and covers and has outstanding ball skills. He's the kind of rangy ballhawk who would instantly improve the defense. But can you rely on him? He has had all kinds of injury issues.

4. Mike Goff, G, Chargers.

The Bengals drafted Goff in 1998 and would welcome his return. With his toughness, smarts and agility, he would help a line that's going to undergo plenty of changes before the 2009 kickoff.

5. Byron Leftwich, QB, Steelers.

Considering the elbow problems that Palmer endured in '08, obtaining a high-quality, experienced backup is key. Leftwich played well for Pittsburgh in a few games last season.


Cleveland Browns

1. Bart Scott, LB, Ravens.

The Browns need juice at linebacker, and no one has a thicker book on Scott than new G.M. George Kokinis, who was formerly Baltimore's pro personnel director. Coach Eric Mangini likes Scott's versatility for his 3-4 scheme. Jonathan Vilma (Saints) and Keith Brooking (Falcons) are other options.

2. Sean Jones, S, Browns.

When healthy, Jones has been one of the most productive players on a defense that has needed more like him. Even with Jones, the Browns were thin at safety last year. Jermaine Phillips (Buccaneers) is a big hitter who would be a strong Plan B.

3. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Redskins.

There might be concerns about Hall's effect on team chemistry, but the Browns need more talent at corner. Other options: prying Bryant McFadden from Pittsburgh or bringing back Leigh Bodden, who was traded to Detroit a year ago.

4. Bryant Johnson, WR, 49ers.

The team's wideout production was poor in 2008, and Johnson would provide a reliable No. 3 target who could take pressure off Braylon Edwards. The Browns also need a speed threat, and Devery Henderson (Saints) or Nate Washington (Steelers) could provide that.

5. Chris Kemoeatu, G, Steelers.

It's more likely the Browns will try to bolster offensive line depth in the draft, but starting RG Rex Hadnot was a mild disappointment in 2008. Kemoeatu is a big, physical run blocker.


Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Bryant McFadden, CB, Steelers.

Of all the Steelers' free agents, he is the one most likely to get a big offer from another team. The Steelers would like to keep McFadden because he is tough and physical against the run and rarely gets beat downfield.

2. Elton Brown, G/T, Cardinals.

The Steelers will be searching only for backups in free agency. Because they have so many free agents in the offensive line, they will consider a second-tier player like Brown who can play two positions.

3. Nate Washington, WR, Steelers.

Re-signing the team's No. 3 receiver is something of a priority because the Steelers don't think Limas Sweed is ready to assume that role. Washington is the team's fastest and most athletic receiver and gives them another deep threat to pair with Santonio Holmes.

4. Dante Hall, WR/KR, Rams.

Hall is a possibility primarily because the Steelers have ranked near the bottom of the league in kick returns the past two seasons. He is coming off a season-ending knee injury, but his 12 career TD returns and ability to be the fifth receiver could make him attractive.

5. Trai Essex, G/T, Steelers.

The Steelers aren't likely to resign LT Marvel Smith because of his back problems, and there's a good chance they will lose G Chris Kemoeatu as a free agent. Retaining Essex, a capable backup who can play left tackle, would be a plus because of his versatility.

MeetJoeGreene
02-25-2009, 07:14 PM
Isn't it funny that we are the only ones appearing to target resigning a bunch of our own.


Why the EFF would Lefty go be a backup in Cincy? The writer is crazy if he thinks he would. Lefty wants to start or if he was going to be a backup, why not stay and get another ring

Ozey74
02-25-2009, 07:38 PM
Although it wasn't mentioned in this article, the article out today about Jeff Saturday wanting to be a Steeler has put a spring in my step today. I think a 3 year deal would be awesome. He can finish out his career here (just like Jeff Hartings).



:tt2

NKySteeler
02-25-2009, 07:57 PM
Isn't it funny that we are the only ones appearing to target resigning a bunch of our own.


Why the EFF would Lefty go be a backup in Cincy? The writer is crazy if he thinks he would. Lefty wants to start or if he was going to be a backup, why not stay and get another ring

...That writer would be Dulac, so "consider the source".... :lol:

As for Leftwich going to Cincy, I think it's more of a "desire" for the Bengals to have a decent backup... Fitzpatrick didn't get the job done, and Carson can be injury-prone at times, IMO.... Basically, I think they are grasping at straws, but that's just my opinion...

MaxAMillion
02-25-2009, 07:57 PM
I would rather sign Goff to a short term deal than sign Kemo. Goff could be a bridge to a younger player taken in the draft.

NKySteeler
02-25-2009, 07:59 PM
Although it wasn't mentioned in this article, the article out today about Jeff Saturday wanting to be a Steeler has put a spring in my step today. I think a 3 year deal would be awesome. He can finish out his career here (just like Jeff Hartings).



:tt2

It would be nice, but he missed what?... 4 games last season due to injury?.... If he were to come our way, it would require a serious "slim-down" of his salary, and I'm not sure that he would go that far to wear these colors.... I could (and probably am) wrong, though.... :wink: