The AFC North is one of the most consistently competitive divisions in the NFL. Strong defensive play mixed with a general competence at securing serviceable quarterbacks have led to a ton of success for the Pittsburgh Steelers and some success for the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cleveland Browns ... well they’re just not good. They have never truly been good. They are still a long ways away from being good, and will need to build out through both free agency and the NFL Draft to have a chance of competing with the other three teams.
Below, we’re going to take a look at the four teams in the division and their biggest needs going into the free agency period. Figuring out the needs of every other team is crucial in figuring out the landscape of the entire NFL and what it means for the 49ers.
Needs: Running back, inside linebacker, cornerback
The Steelers don’t have many needs as they are a very complete team. They already re-signed James Harrison so edge rusher isn’t a need at the moment. Inside linebacker is an issue though, with Lawrence Timmons in decline and also hitting the open market. They need someone next to Ryan Shazier and Timmons may no longer be that guy.
Also on defense, they need to see what happens with Ross Cockrell. They need depth regardless, but they need to address his potential departure as well as he is set to be a free agent. On offense, they need a backup running back with DeAngelo Williams set to hit the open market and also being 34 years old.
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback
The biggest need for the Ravens is definitely the pass rush. They need a new defensive end alongside Timmy Jernigan, and they need to replace one or both of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They have been terrible at getting to the passer and it needs to be addressed. Also on defense, they need another cornerback to go with Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young.
On offense, they need a pair of offensive tackles and at least one guard. Kelechi Osemele left a big hole at guard and they need to replace him. At tackle, if they re-sign Ricky Wagner then they simply need to add someone for depth. Finally at wide receiver, they need someone to pair with Breshad Perriman.
Needs: Defensive end, safety, offensive line, cornerback
Dre Kirkpatrick is set to hit the open market and the Bengals need to add another defensive back. Pacman Jones has declined big time. Also in the secondary, they are still hurting from the departure of Reggie Nelson at safety. Along the defensive line, they need to find someone opposite Carlos Dunlap, because Michael Johnson is not that guy.
Along the offensive line, they need to retain Kevin Zeitler at guard, as losing him would be huge. They need two offensive tackles, though re-signing Andrew Whitworth would be a good start there. Cedric Ogbuehi was terrible last season.
Needs: Quarterback, safety, cornerback, offensive line
Neither Robert Griffin III nor Cody Kessler are the long-term answer at quarterback. They need a new starter and they need one now. Not only that, but they also need a new center to protect this fictional quarterback, and a new right tackle as well.
The secondary is also a mess. Joe Haden is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but he’s rarely healthy. They need a body there, and they need two safeties at least. Jordan Poyer is decent but he’s a free agent.