Brandon LaFell turned in a strong 2016 for the Bengals after signing a modest one-year, $2.5MM deal with the club last offseason. As a result, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer says that LaFell is one of Cincinnati’s top free agent priorities, as the Bengals believe his strong route-running skills and his red zone presence would be even more effective if they can get fully healthy seasons from A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. LaFell indicated that he would like to return, though he should attract plenty of attention on the open market if he does not re-up with Cincinnati before free agency opens.
Now for more from the league’s North divisions:
- The Lions may approach linebacker DeAndre Levy about a restructure that allows him to make the same amount of money that he would earn under his current deal if he stays healthy, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says that, from Levy’s perspective, it may be best to rebuff any such efforts. After all, if Levy were to be released, plenty of teams would be happy to pay him and gamble on his health (Twitter links).
- The Lions need to address their pass defense in a big way, having yielded the highest completion percentage in modern NFL history (72.7%) in 2016. Nate Atkins of MLive.com says that Detroit is more likely to focus on pass rushers and cornerbacks, but he adds that the team should not ignore the safety position either, especially since Glover Quin is in his 30s and Tavon Wilson is entering the final year of his contract. To that end, Atkins names a few safeties the team could select in this year’s draft.
- Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that if the bidding for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets high enough, the Browns should be willing to send their No. 1 overall pick to New England to acquire him. After all, if they’re willing to spend that pick on UNC signal-caller Mitch Trubisky, whose collegiate experience is limited, they should be willing to use that selection on a QB who has a little professional experience and who has a lot of upside in his own right.
- Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the biggest objective for the Steelers this offseason is to find an outside linebacker that can generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bud Dupree showed some promise down the stretch in 2016, but Jarvis Jones is unlikely to return, and if the club re-signs the ageless James Harrison, Dulac believes it would not make much sense to acquire another veteran free agent OLB. As such, he writes that Pittsburgh could once again address the position in the first round of the draft.
- We learned earlier today that former Ravens first-rounder Matt Elam was arrested on serious drug charges in Miami.