2019 AFC North Outlook

The 2019 AFC North Outlook

img_7471By Jimmy Herring

Guess who’s back….back again…. No seriously, I haven’t been on the videos as much due to work beating me down as well as home life taking a little turn to the left. Just don’t think for one second I’m going to up and leave one of the best things I’ve had an opportunity to do in a long time. I’ll be making my on screen return very soon. Until then, it’s time for my annual, unfiltered, wild majestic  AFC North Outlook in which I dive into each teams transactions, who I see them potentially targeting in the first round of the NFL Draft, mixed with some banter to either get you laughing or piss you off. Pretty sure I’m going to piss a few people off on what I have to type….(cawwww cawwww)….. So let us get this party started!

 

Let us start with probably the least active team and as of right now, the last place team in the AFC north…The Baltimo…. The Cincinnati Bengals! Yayyyy…. Or for the sake of our AFC North followers, who gives a damn about them? They finally canned Marvin Lewis after several lackluster seasons with either brief playoff visits or the 7-9 to 8-8 records they would usually have. Is it right to say the Marvin Lewis is a bootleg Jeff Fisher? He most likely is. They have problems to me across the board. Whether it’s the health of player, the production of player, the suspensions of players, the respect the players have for the coaches and ownership, there’s everywhere. Let us start with the good. They went and got a new head coach in Zac Taylor who I honestly know nothing about except he’s one of Sean McVay’s road dogs. A young coach with higher energy is something that can put the good stamp on the culture. There are plenty of coaches you want to play for and some I wouldn’t pay to play for. Marvin Lewis looks like the quiet uncle with no swag that sits in the living room of the family reunion and doesn’t know how to fit in. No one wanted to lay it all on the line for him. So a culture shift was due. Next and probably the best thing they’ve done was can Vontaze Burfict. Hallelujah! To change the culture you have to get rid of cancerous players in the locker room. That dude was one hit away from the opposing team whooping his ass, his own team whooping his ass, and a severe injury due to his dirty play nature. In the words of Duane “GET EM OUTTTT!”  No other big moves were made with the Bengals as of yet. Sometimes no news is good news. So who do I think they could go after in the draft? The biggest need is inside linebacker. I could definitely see a Devin White or Devin Bush at pick #11 if they decide to go defense. Both of those kids are athletic freaks who love the game and have the leadership skills that you want on your defense. If they decide to go offense, I could see an offensive lineman like Jawaan Taylor out of Florida or Jonah Williams from Alabama. You have to protect your Franchise Quarterback! That is something that they have ultimately struggled with for a few years. My petty pick would be to take any of the Quarterbacks and ship Andy Dalton off to no man’s land. But that contract he’s locked into looks pretty steep. They may have to keep him for another year or two.

 

Now it’s time to discuss my third place team at this point…. The Baltimore Ravens. Yes… I can hear Gerald and Duane in my ear lighting me up. Just stick with me here for a few minutes. The Ravens are probably one of the smartest teams in the AFC North at this very point. They are also one of the most delusional teams in the AFC North as well. This isn’t an opportunity for me to slander the Ravens. I can do that whenever I feel like it. From a football fan perspective, I’m so happy the Joe Flacco era is over. Yes, he brought a ring to Baltimore. Yes he had that playoff run that was incredible. He looked like a future superstar! After that playoff run and that fat payday, I believe he got complacent and said he got his bread. I’ll never forget last NFL offseason. I told BOTH of my best friends Lamar Jackson would be a Raven. And they scoffed at me. Matter of fact after the Ravens drafted Hayden Hurst, Duane went to bed. I stayed up as I was interested in what could happen. That’s when the Ravens traded back into the first round and selected Lamar Jackson.  I was happy and confused on how this was going to play out. Well it played out pretty well. Joe Flacco sustained an injury and Lamar took the wheel and never looked back. They made the playoffs and made the statement that they needed. The birds were back… and not the Orioles. This offseason for them hasn’t gone so well in my eyes. I know my Charm City Beat team hates when I talk about the Ravens. Let us not act like I haven’t lived in Maryland for 20+ years and have been forced to digest this team. I know them almost as well as I know the Steelers. They lost CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Zadarius Smith, Alex Collins (he made his bed on that one), Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and probably a few that I’m missing. Mosley wanted his bag and deserved his bag. Suggs was a shocker. I thought he’d retire a Raven. But let’s not act like his playing time wasn’t declining. Can he still be a productive pass rusher? Absolutely he can. He just isn’t an every down guy at this point in his career. Weddle had up and down play but he was the defenses QB and a straight up Baltimore guy. It sucks that they let him go. I’m sure a contract could have been worked out for the both of them. Zadarius Smith played great and wanted his bag too. Alex Collins??? Weedman Weedman YEAH THAT’S MEEEEE! Crabtree was hot trash. John Brown was the surprise move. That deep threat and speed could have been deadly with Jackson getting the ball to him. So you lose all of that talent on the team. But the splash move of bringing in Earl Thomas is awesome. He brings a ball hawk and hard hitting mentality to the Ravens. He’s the new QB of the defense. He will do just fine and that type of play is needed in the rough AFC North.  Mark Ingram is a solid running back. I’m glad to finally see him in a 3 down role. He could easily top 1000+ yards in the new look Ravens offense. My biggest question with the Ravens is who is Lamar going to throw to? I know they have 16 tight ends but where’s the WR’s at? You got rid of your top 2 guys and haven’t brought anyone in at this point. Which leads to by draft needs… If they go offense in the draft, it has to be receiver and no other position. Luckily the receiver class this year is deep. They could go the speed route and take a Parris Campbell out of Ohio or a Hollywood Brown from Oklahoma. Be wary of WR’s with the last name Brown. Ask Pittsburgh how that has worked out for them. Especially since they are related. I’d steer clear of these egos. The only wide receiver with the last name Brown I’d take is A’s Brown out of Ole Miss which is definitely an option at this point in the draft. If they go defense, I can see a linebacker or pass rusher at this point. Look at a Mack Wilson out of Alabama or Brian Burns out of Florida State. If these needs get addressed in the draft and it pans out, the Ravens could move up to second place or even win the division again. With no good receivers on the roster at this point, I have to leave them in third. Plus the overall talent loss from this offseason makes them a little more vulnerable in my opinion. We shall see.

 

On paper, my second place team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, throw some bias on it too. I recently had a discussion with Gerald and we both agreed on paper this can switch between both the Ravens and Steelers holding down the 2nd and 3rd ranking in the AFC North. I give Pittsburgh the edge on paper because they are the more complete team at the moment. We have limited areas of concern as of right now. We will dive into that issue in a moment. Let’s talk the elephants in the room. To be completely honest, I gave Lev Bell a ton of shit for not taking the contract that was offered. 5 years 75 million with about 33 million paid in the first two years? Not a bad look to me. I do agree that NFL players deserve guaranteed money as this is a violent game at the pleasure of the consumer. They have to learn to not cut off their noses to spite their faces. I am a firm believer that Lev Bell is a talent player who is a major product of his offensive line and QB. He will be missed but he has been replaced. Enter James Conner who didn’t miss a beat with the team. As a matter of fact he outplayed Lev Bell stat wise from the last full year Lev played. We will be fine in the RB department. Hopefully we add a set of legs in the draft this year. Now let’s talk Mr. Big Chest, Blonde Mustache…..yeah the asshat himself, Antonio Brown. He was my favorite player. He deserves to get paid. He is a top 2 receiver in the NFL and in my opinion, he isn’t # 2. What disappointed me is the growth of the ego, childish behavior, interviews, crying, pissing, and moaning.  He ran his mouth so much that he damaged his value and in turn the Steelers got a Checker burger and fries in picks for him. The locker room cancer is gone. His feelings are probably hurt. Should I be that guy and say his stats are because he gets the ball forced to him? Yes. He is definitely a product of the system as well. I think we will be okay in the WR room. Juju, Moncrief, and Washington should hold up fine. Also, I’m a firm believer in a WR being taken as early as round 1. The need is there for sure. Sooooo, now the reason why I think the Steelers are better than the Ravens right now? We didn’t lose as many players as they did. We are a better defense on paper. We are a better offense on paper. Just saying again that this is all ON PAPER. Paper is different than on the field. They have beaten our ass with less. It’ll always be one of my favorite matchups. When drafting this year, I can see the Steelers going many ways. Some of us say we will trade up since we have the ammo from a few trades. I’m saying we will stay put unless someone crazy is dropping. If we trade up into the top 10, look for a WR or LB. A D.K Metcalf, Devin White, or Devin Bush would be my move but it would have to be for a trade up. If we stay put, I can see a best player available scenario. Look at Nassir Adderly, the safety from Delaware or Noah Fant, the blazing tight end from Iowa. The reason I even slotted Noah Fant here is to do the New England Patriots dirty. Gronk just retired. Do not let Brady get another athletic tight end. For the love of god please don’t.

 

                  Surprise…. The Browns are the projected first place team for the AFC North…. No I haven’t been smoking crack. I may have to if the Browns go 12-4 with a first round bye and on paper there is nothing leading me to the fact that they can’t win the division. They hit big time in the draft last year. Baker Mayfield has the swag and attitude. The kid is a winner. The kid can ball out too. As he got more comfortable, he was slicing teams up. Yes, he had his ups and downs. I still haven’t forgiven him from not getting the Steelers in the playoffs. However, if it’s up to him, he may keep the rest of the north out of the playoffs. The defense is ready and willing to play. Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Denzel Ward will lead up a more physical and talented defense. Just thinking of that defensive line gives me nightmares of the havoc they can put out. Then on offense, the have the kid Mayfield, Kareem Hunt (even if he’s suspended for 8 games, he will still be a problem), Nick Chubb who had a great rookie year, Duke Johnson, who may be one of the best receiving backs in the league, David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, and then they had the nerve, the audacity to trade their first round pick and Jabril Peppers for Odell Beckham Jr…. Are you freaking kidding me?! The weakest part of the Browns to me is the offensive line. Also, middle linebacker could be an issue as well. Without a first round pick, they won’t get the top half of the talent. However, with the offseason moves, who needs a first round pick? I truly think they aren’t done at all. I haven’t even dove into the second round of the draft so I’m not going to sit here and throw random names out. It would be crap. Just wait and see with the Browns. I’m excited for them from a NFL standpoint to see how high they can go.

 

                      So after reading this, I’m sure there are upset fans everywhere with me. I could honestly care less. Just look at things from a NFL perspective and not a homer perspective. I’m not telling you to not root for your team. Just be a realist and take your head out of your ass for a few minutes and you may realize something about your own team. I welcome all criticisms and feedback. I welcome new ideas as well as teaching me something I may not know about your team. I’m still a rookie at being a journalist so feel free to beat me up! I look forward to talking to all the readers and listeners of Littube Sports throughout the year. I apologize for the on screen hiatus but don’t worry; I’ll be back and better than ever! Until next time!

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Recent NFL Transactions: Antonio Brown, Eric Weddle

By:  Justin Holden

Let’s start this article off with the breaking news, shall we?  Antonio Brown has been traded to the Oakland Raiders.  The Pittsburgh Steelers received 2019 3rd round and 5th round draft picks in return.  The Oakland Raiders also re-structured Antonio Brown’s contract so that he will be earning $50.125 million over the next 3 years.  $30.125 million of that contract is guaranteed money.  This is obviously a huge win for Antonio Brown from a financial perspective, as remaining with the Pittsburgh Steelers would have netted him $39 million over the next 3 years.  It is also an obvious boost to the Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver corps, especially given the departure of Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys last year.  But let’s dig a bit deeper into the aftermath of this transaction, for both teams involved.

antonio_brown_raiders Aftermath of the Antonio Brown trade – Pittsburgh:

Even though Antonio Brown is a once in a generation talent at the wide receiver position and still should have at least a few years of quality production left in the tank, it is difficult to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost this trade given the situation they were in.  The Steelers will still have Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington on the roster, two talented young WR’s that should be able to fill the void over time.  We must also consider that Antonio Brown was an unsettled player that clearly didn’t want to stay in Pittsburgh for the remainder of his contract.  By agreeing to a trade, the Pittsburgh Steelers potentially avoided another ugly holdout situation, like the one they endured with Le’Veon Bell during the 2018-2019 NFL season.  Having said all that, a 3rd round pick and a 5th round pick is not much in terms of compensation for an elite player, albeit an aging one.  I expect a challenging season upcoming for the Steelers, not just because of the departure of Brown and Bell, but also because of the age of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and what appears to be a resurgence of the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North.

Aftermath of the Antonio Brown trade – Oakland:

I mentioned earlier that Antonio Brown would provide an immediate boost to the Oakland Raiders wide receiver corps, which has essentially been a wasteland since Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper departed from the team.  Acquiring a player of Brown’s caliber for 3rd and 5th round draft picks is a steal.  However, there are some things about this trade that I don’t like for Oakland.  First of all, they increased Brown’s salary from $13 million per year average to $16.66 million per year average, with a sizable chunk of the contract being guaranteed money.  While the Raiders certainly have money to blow, we still have to consider this into the evaluation of this transaction.  Did it make sense for Antonio Brown to be given a raise at this point of his career?  I would argue that he’s only going to get worse with age at this point.  A receiver playing into his thirties will lose speed and agility, which is why you see a lot of older receivers eventually relegated to WR2 or slot roles before they are bounced out of the league.  Brown is definitely a WR1 for now, but I wonder what will happen to his athleticism once he’s in year three of the contract.

The other thing I don’t like about this deal for the Raiders is that the team still doesn’t project to be a super bowl contender.  It would have made much more sense for Antonio Brown to go to a team where he was the missing piece of the puzzle; that last acquisition that could make a team a legit contender.  We all know the Raiders won’t be that even if they draft perfectly this offseason.  They’ve just given up too many impact players for draft picks and you need time for those draft picks to develop into solid NFL starters.  The Raiders made it perfectly clear through their actions last season that the franchise was in rebuilding mode.  So while “Carr to Brown” might end up being a great fantasy football headline over the next few years, I still can’t see the Oakland Raiders being anything more than an 8-8 team for the 2019-2020 NFL season.  Maybe someone should remind Jon Gruden and the Raiders GM that they’re managing a real life football franchise, not a fantasy roster.

Safety Eric Weddle released by Baltimore Ravens; signed by LA Rams:

eric-weddle-rams

Initially, I had mixed feelings about the Los Angeles Rams signing Eric Weddle at the salary they did ($6.25 million average over two years) and trusting him in a starting role for the 2019-2020 NFL season.  I then realized that safety Lamarcus Joyner, who played for the LA Rams during the 2018-2019 NFL season, is set to hit free agency.  When you consider that fact, this move makes sense for the LA Rams.  Joyner is most likely going to command a higher salary during the free agency process as multiple teams bid for him.  Rather than take the gamble of overpaying for a player in free agency, the Rams have opted to sign a veteran safety who has made the pro bowl in each of his last three seasons.  The fact that Weddle is originally from the west coast and was rated as the 10th best safety by Pro Football Focus helps ease concerns as well.  But, all of that doesn’t change the fact that Weddle is an aging veteran who showed a tendency to get burned by speedy receivers last year when he played for the Baltimore Ravens.  Clearly if the Baltimore Ravens saw him as a true pro bowl caliber player, they wouldn’t have been so quick to release him.  LA Rams fans will be hoping for the best with this key signing.  The signing of Eric Weddle could be looked back on as a great value pick, or as a flop.  Only time will tell.

AFC North | Unstoppable Saints | Low Key Trash Panthers | Nick Foles

Justin, Jimmy, and Gerald discuss NFL action in advance of week 17. We had a week where the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a close one and the Baltimore Ravens picked up a huge win over the LA Chargers. Another big story is Nick Foles leading the Philadelphia Eagles to some huge wins and a possible playoff spot. Are the defending super bowl champions finally positioning themselves as a legitimate threat to repeat?

 

Miami tops New England | Chicago takes down the Rams up North | Dallas turning Heads!

Gerald, Jimmy, and Justin discuss the Steelers lost and the stare of the franchise, LA falling to the Chicago Bears, Dallas being the real deal and Derrick Henry and his historical game And the Dolphins with the play of the year contender!

Baker Mayfield and the Browns | Bills top Jags | Chicago the underdog team of the NFL

This week on 3rd and Goal we discuss the Jaguars and how they were topped by the Bills, what the hell is going on in Ohio and how Chicago May be the sleeper pick of the year! Don’t forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube channel!