North Notes: Browns, A. Brown, Vikings

The Browns have drafted a quarterback in the first round in two of the past three seasons, and by the time their first pick in this week’s draft rolls around–they hold the N0. 12 overall selection–the top two quarterbacks in the class, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, will be long gone. After those two signal-callers, the general consensus is that the drop-off to the next tier of QBs is pretty steep.

But Cleveland needs a quarterback. They’ve needed one since they rejoined the league in 1999. Which is why, despite their recent investments at the quarterback position, investments that can only be classified as abject failures at this point, they may consider moving up in the draft to nab Mariota. Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Browns’ interest in Mariota is “very real,” but whether they decide to pull the trigger and trade up would of course depend on the price. Trading up to the No. 2 overall pick–which they may have to do, since the Titans, who currently hold that selection, are reportedly more interested in Mariota than many originally believed–would probably be too cost-prohibitive.

But if Mariota slides past Tennessee, than the Browns may be tempted. In addition to the No. 12 overall pick, they also hold the No. 19 selection, so they have the ammunition to move up. Given the team’s series of missteps at quarterback, such a move would certainly make Browns fans nervous, but until Cleveland gets a franchise player under center, they will continue to stare up at the other three teams in their division. Despite his shortcomings, Mariota has the chance to be that player if the system, and the price, is right.

Now for some more notes from the league’s north divisions:

  • Antonio Brown, who is coming off a magnificent 2014 campaign, is reportedly trying to renegotiate his current contract with the Steelers. But as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, Pittsburgh holds all the cards at the moment. Brown would suffer significant fines, signing bonus give-backs, and lost wages if he were to hold out beyond voluntary workouts and OTAs this spring, and the Steelers simply do not renegotiate this early in a player’s contract (Brown still has three years left on his current deal).
  • Matt Vensel of The Star Tribune looks at a few key positions the Vikings might target in the first round of the 2015 draft and makes an argument for each. Ultimately, he concludes that trading back might represent the team’s best option.
  • Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says all signs point to the Vikings selecting Michigan State corner Trae Waynes in Thursday’s first round.
  • Although Matt Forte‘s decision to skip the opening phase of the Bears‘ offseason program was reported, Martellus Bennett‘s decision to do the same thing went unannounced. Bennett is coming off a career year, but the average annual salary of his current deal ($5.1MM) puts him fairly low on the list of the league’s highest-paid tight ends. As ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson writes, the team has a three-day voluntary minicamp scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday of the coming week, and the Bears will have a better idea of Forte’s and Bennett’s offseason intentions at that time.
  • Kyle Meinke of ranks the Lions‘ pre-draft needs, with the guard position topping the list.
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