AFC North Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Browns

Earlier today, we rounded up some key quotes from AFC East coaches at this morning’s coaches’ breakfast in Phoenix. Now, we’ll shift our focus to the AFC North, where every head coach except perhaps Mike Tomlin of the Steelers offered up a handful of interesting nuggets to reporters. Here are some highlights:

Marvin Lewis, Bengals (Twitter links via Geoff Hobson of

  • The Bengals’ top priority this offseason was securing a pass rusher, or at least an impact player on the defensive line. Defensive end Michael Johnson isn’t exactly an elite pass rusher, but he’s a good fit for Cincinnati, in Lewis’ view.
  • Lewis views 2015 as a crucial year for the franchise since a number of key young players are heading into contract years. The head coach hopes to see some of those players, including wideout A.J. Green, locked up to extensions this offseason.
  • With the No. 21 overall pick in the draft, the Bengals will prioritize players who can have a long-term impact over players who could step in and contribute immediately. Of course, I’m sure the ideal draftee would fit both criteria.
  • Jermaine Gresham, who underwent back surgery last week, remains an option for the Bengals — Lewis just talked to the free agent tight end yesterday.

John Harbaugh, Ravens (Twitter links via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun):

  • It doesn’t sound like the Ravens are done adding free agents. Harbaugh indicated it would be very helpful to make a few more moves before the draft, since it takes some pressure off when the team doesn’t necessarily have to draft for need.
  • The Ravens are particularly eyeing the free agent market on the offensive side of the ball. Harbaugh believes Keith Wenning has a bright future, but would like to upgrade at the backup quarterback spot. He also wants to add another running back and wide receiver, if the fit is right, and didn’t rule out free agency at either spot.
  • Wide receiver is also an option in the draft, and Harbaugh believes the Ravens will have good options at the position in rounds one through seven.
  • There are no new updates on Dennis Pitta‘s status. Harbaugh expects news to come in the summer, and reiterated today that it will be Pitta’s decision. The veteran tight end is recovering from a season-ending – and career-threatening – hip injury.
  • Referring to recently-signed safety Kendrick Lewis, Harbaugh said “his best football is ahead of him.”

Mike Pettine, Browns (Twitter links via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal and’s Pat McManamon):

  • Pettine has received good feedback about Johnny Manziel‘s progress in rehab, and while no date has been finalized for his discharge, the Browns expect him to be at next month’s workouts.
  • Pettine downplayed the idea that the Browns’ quarterback situation is “uncertain,” pointing to Josh McCown as a solid veteran and suggesting that the club could also address the spot on the draft. Asked about the possibility of trading up for Marcus Mariota, Pettine acknowledged that quarterback is one position worth trading up for, and pointed out that having two first-round picks creates flexibility. However, he added that talk of trading up for Mariota makes him rolls his eyes.
  • The Browns still need an edge rusher, and while Pettine likes Barkevious Mingo and Scott Solomon, he also noted that there’s good depth at that spot in the draft.
  • Finding a developmental center is on the team’s radar, since Alex Mack‘s contract includes a potential out after the 2015 season.
  • The Browns may draft a kicker this year, according to Pettine. The club currently has Garrett Hartley, Travis Coons, and Carey Spear on its roster after cutting Billy Cundiff toward the end of the 2014 season.
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