2011 NFL Free Agency: What AFC North Teams Need to Address

George BankoContributor IIIJune 6, 2011

2011 NFL Free Agency: What AFC North Teams Need to Address

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    Following a not-so-secret meeting between the NFL higher ups and the players association, some have speculated that the lockout could be over within the next month or so.

    If that happens, teams can finally sign free agents and trade players. No doubt, teams are chomping at the bit as they wait to sign what they hope will be the missing piece that gets them to the super bowl. But, what does it mean when a potential trade falls through or a free agent signs with someone else? Here are the worst possible free agency and trade scenarios for the AFC North.

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Trading Away Carson Palmer

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    Yes, trading away an inconsistent Palmer would be a huge blow to the Bengals franchise. Palmer demanded a trade back in January, and he was also considering retiring. I think the trade request was largely due to Palmer’s dissatisfaction with his diva receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, who did nothing but complain about the team’s offensive strategy and their playing time.

    The Bengals drafted TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who may give them some hope, but he’ll need at least a couple years to get acclimated to the NFL. Palmer can’t go just yet, or the Bengals would be in a rebuilding phase for the next 3 seasons.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers: Secondary Declining, O-Line Depleted

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    What happened to the Steelers defense last season? They defended the run well, but the secondary really let them down especially towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. As good a quarterback as Aaron Rodgers is, he was near perfect in the Super Bowl aside from a few drops from his receivers. The staple of the Steeler franchise should have shown up a bit more for the biggest game of the season.

    The future of the Steelers defense could be uncertain heading into 2011.  Cornerback Ike Taylor and tackles Willie Colon and Trai Essex will be free agents, so expect Pittsburgh to look for some possible replacements if they decide to leave.

    Also, their offensive line was decimated by injury last season. After two of their starters were injured, they lost 3 more offensive linemen in a single game. Even though they still got to the super bowl, the Steelers can’t expect to stay competitive if they’re using their third string offensive linemen. 

3. Cleveland Browns: Upgrade at QB Must Happen

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    The Browns find themselves in a situation similar to Arizona. They have some talent on the offensive line and a decent wide out in Josh Cribbs. They also have a promising running back in Peyton Hillis. But the guy who's supposed to lead all those components to the promise land is veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, who hasn’t had a decent season in 3 years. Colt McCoy got a few starts last season, but only posted a 2-6 record and still has a long way to go. Third-string quarterback Seneca Wallace will never be a starter with his style of play.

    The Browns were reportedly interested in Kevin Kolb awhile back and it seems like that is no longer the case. This is probably due to their new-found faith in McCoy. McCoy threw six touchdowns in eight starts last season. I know you could argue that McCoy is still young, but I don’t see much upside from here. He’s an accurate quarterback with below average arm strength. The Browns would make a big mistake not upgrading at the QB spot, but maybe they feel their just one more bad season away from landing a decent draft pick that could turn into their franchise quarterback for 2012.

Baltimore Ravens: Sew Up Holes on Offensive Line, Get a Receiver Under 30

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    There’s rumors going around that former first round pick Michael Oher could be moving from the left tackle position to the right. If that’s the case, the Ravens could use another left tackle on an aging offensive line that let Joe Flacco get sacked 40 times last season. 

    As far as the passing game goes, Anquan Boldin was a great pickup but the Ravens receivers are still way too slow. You know your receiving core is slow when your no. 2 receiver is 37 years old. But the Ravens are in luck, since the 2011 free agent pool is packed with receivers who could give their offense some juice. 

    There are plenty of speedy guys who make an impact either in the slot, or at the No.2 position. Green Bay receiver James Jones might not resign if he doesn’t get paid like a starter, Steve Smith from the Giants would be a great addition. The Ravens just need some youth at receiver badly and their offense won’t ever be elite without it.