Craig Ver Steeg

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Bengals

Pending free agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has told his representation he wants to stay with the Browns, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Browns management is reportedly “redoubling efforts” to re-sign Pryor, and the club is set to meet with Pryor’s agent this week. Cleveland, of course, holds the franchise tag as an option, but is loathe to go down that avenue unless a long-term deal cannot be reached. Pryor has spoken highly of the Browns and head coach Hue Jackson in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s willing to take a hometown discount to remain Cleveland.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston says he’s “hopeful” about a return to the Bengals, and noted a new deal “looks promising,” per SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Thought to be buried on Cincinnati’s depth chart, Winston ended up rotating right tackle snaps with former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, and ultimately played on roughly a quarter of the Bengals’ offensive snaps. Winston, 33, signed a minimum salary benefit contract with Cincinnati in 2016, and would likely be forced to accept a similar deal this year.
  • If the Viking release running back Adrian Peterson (or ask him to take a paycut), the Steelers could confidently argue that Peterson’s $14MM annual salary was an anomaly, and pressure pending free agent Le’Veon Bell to accept something closer to LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM per year, opines Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pittsburgh is likely to franchise Bell at a cost north of $12MM for 2017, and would probably be willing to go near $10MM annually on a long-term extension, per Fowler. Approaching, or exceeding, Peterson’s $14MM figure would represent a problem, however.
  • The Ravens will not hire a formal quarterbacks coach for the 2017 season, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will lead the QBs room, while Craig Ver Steeg — whom previous reports had indicated would become Baltimore’s new quarterbacks coach — will remain an offensive assistant.
  • In his latest chat at ESPN.com, Tony Grossi covers which quarterbacks the Browns may target if they strike out on Jimmy Garoppolo, the likelihood of Tyrod Taylor — who is said to be on Cleveland’s radar — heading to northern Ohio, and other position groups the Browns may target in free agency.

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.