Chris Hewitt

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

Should the Browns‘ newly assembled power structure consult the team’s franchise player about a plan for the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Thomas would not use it on a quarterback. Going into his 11th year, the perennial All-Pro left tackle would rather see his team use the selection to bolster the pass rush.

I think you need to get a pass-rusher,” Thomas said on the Dan Patrick Show today (via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com). “… You gotta be careful reaching for a quarterback at No. 1 because if they fail, they don’t help your team at all. Whereas if you pick a defensive lineman and maybe they don’t live up to the hype, you can still find a place to get him on the field and to have an impact. We need guys that can come in and start and that can contribute.”

Thomas, who has two years left on his Browns deal and will turn 33 during the 2017 season, said in the past the Browns need to identify a franchise quarterback. There isn’t a better spot to do that than the No. 1 pick. But this quarterback class — fronted by Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Cleveland-area product Mitch Trubisky — has divided scouts. The Browns have been reportedly coveting Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett at No. 1 and considering a Watson pick at No. 12. But obviously, the versatile Clemson talent is no lock to be there when Cleveland’s second first-round window opens, given quarterback prospects’ rises as drafts near.

Here’s more from northeast Ohio and some other regions housing AFC North franchises.

  • Jamie Collinsfour-year, $50MM extension will pay $37.5MM in its first three years before containing no guaranteed money during the 2020 season, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweets. Collins will also receive a $5MM signing bonus as part of the deal (per Howe, on Twitter) which includes $26.5MM guaranteed.
  • Negotiations between the Ravens and UFA nose tackle Brandon Williams have not yet begun but are expected to commence before he hits the market, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun notes. Even before Zach Orr‘s retirement, Williams was set to be the top priority, per Preston, for a Ravens team that’s lost numerous talents in free agency in recent years. It’s a big year for free agent defensive tackles, with Dontari Poe and Kawann Short residing as impending UFAs.
  • The Ravens tied up some loose ends on their coaching staff today, per the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zreibec (on Twitter). Chris Hewitt will take over new Bills DC Leslie Frazier‘s position as secondary coach, and Mike MacDonald will assist him, Zreibec tweets. Craig Ver Steeg, a nine-year Ravens offensive assistant, will coach quarterbacks, will slide over from skill-position assistance to helping QBs coach/OC Marty Mornhinweg with the signal-callers, Zreibec notes (on Twitter). Drew Wilkins will serve as the assistant defensive line coach. Each of these staffers’ assignment changes represents an internal promotion.
  • The Steelers could determine another year with Ladarius Green is too risky, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Green will enter his sixth season after experiencing a disastrous fifth, playing in just six games. However, he averaged 50.7 yards per game and made several big plays when healthy. But concussion issues dogged Green to the point Mike Tomlin said a decision needs to be made about the tight end. “I don’t have an assessment, long-term, of where he is,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s one of the chief medical decisions and questions that we have to have moving forward, in terms of guys getting an assessment of their overall health and what it means for 2017.” A Green cut will cost the Steelers $3.56MM in dead money while saving the team barely $2MM. Green said earlier this week he does not intend to retire.
  • Antonio Brown‘s constant desire for targets has rubbed many teammates the wrong way, but his occasionally selfish ways aren’t viewed as detrimental to the team, Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette writes. Ben Roethlisberger has told the All-Pro wideout to “shut up” multiple times on the field, and since-retired tight end Heath Miller told Brown to “stop complaining about not getting the ball” at a 2015 practice. However, Dulac notes Brown not a problem in the locker room. This could be a key point as Brown’s payday looms.

Ravens Rumors: Frazier, Cullen, Front Office

Leslie Frazier will join the Ravens’ coaching staff as the team’s secondary coach, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter links).

The former Vikings head coach was dismissed recently, when the Buccaneers opted to not pick up his option to remain on staff as their defensive coordinator.

Frazier and the Ravens do not have a contract in place yet, but a verbal agreement’s been established, per Zreibec (on Twitter).

Although Frazier, the Vikings’ head coach from 2011-13, coached the Colts’ defensive backs during their Super Bowl campaign in 2006, his title was assistant head coach. A defensive coordinator or head coach since the Bengals hired him in 2003 to run their defense, the 56-year-old Frazier hasn’t been purely a position coach since presiding over the Eagles’ secondary from 1999-2002.

The Bucs’ defense ranked 25th and 23rd the past two seasons, respectively.

Here are some more items regarding the Ravens’ coaching staff and front office.

  • Joe Cullen will move alongside Frazier from the Bucs to the Ravens, joining John Harbaugh‘s staff as defensive line coach, per Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk. Cullen coached the Bucs’ defensive line last season and guided the Jaguars’ defensive line from 2010-12. He was arrested in 2006 as a member of the Lions’ coaching staff for driving through a Wendy’s drive-thru naked. The Ravens’ previous defensive line coach, Clarence Brooks, will serve as a senior defensive assistant, per Zreibec (on Twitter). Brooks will undergo surgery in January or February for esophageal cancer but is expected to be ready for the 2016 season.
  • Chris Hewitt will assist Frazier in coaching the Ravens’ secondary after being in charge of the group this season, Zreibec tweets. The 41-year-old Hewitt also served in this capacity in 2014.
  • Matt Weiss will transition from cornerback coach to a job working with the linebackers under Don Martindale, who’s been the Ravens’ inside linebacker coach since 2012, Zreibec tweets. Outside linebacker coach Ted Monachino recently signed on as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.
  • Lastly, the Ravens retained and promoted Scott Cohen, who the Browns sought for a front office position, according to Zreibec (via Twtter). He’ll remain in Baltimore and work with opponent analysis.