Gridiron Goldstein: AFC North Free Agency
The Ravens hope newcomer Willis McGahee can bounce back after a subpar 2006 in which spent plenty of time hurling chunks.
After I examined the NFC East and AFC East and new Rotorob writer Derek Jones did the same for the NFC North, it’s time to continue on with the Best Series Ever…ahem, it’s time to look at how free agency treated the always thrilling (Read: Mind-Numbingly Boring) AFC North. Oh come on, what else are you going to do, watch this random video of a woman playing Kung Fu on the NES which, for some reason, was called ‘Spartan’ in Japan? Hey, come back here!
Key Signings – RB Willis McGahee (picked up in trade from Buffalo)
Key Departures – LB Adalius Thomas (New England), G Edwin Mulitalo (Detroit), OT Tony Pashos (Jacksonville)
The Skinny – Let’s get something out of the way immediately. McGahee is no LaDainian Tomlinson or Jim Brown. And I don’t say that to sound like an ass. McGahee is a fine runner when he has a competent offensive line. Sadly, the Ravens offensive line is not shaping up to fit that description. There are intangibles like…umm, the killer Baltimore nightlife and whatnot, but you’re swimming without a lifeguard if you are relying on McGahee as your top back next season.
The loss of Thomas, meanwhile, will hurt the fantasy production of the defense. It’s still a very talented group that will cause turnovers, get sacks, and get picked way too early in every fantasy draft. It’s just the way things work.
Key Signings – Umm, none. But the commish decided to make an example of them. That’s something!
Key Departures – G Eric Steinbach (Cleveland), WR Kelley Washington (New England)
The Skinny – In one offseason, the Bengals went from having a legitimate top wide out, two quality number two guys, and a nice third option, to a wide out corps that is basically down to two guys, thanks to Chris Henry’s half-season suspension. Yes, that’s more than most teams have, but it’s less than the Bengals have had and it’s troubling for Carson Palmer. He’s still a top (if not, the top) fantasy quarterback, but more room for problems exist now.
Other than that, expect the same ol’, same ol’ from Cincy. Palmer, Ocho, and TJ will do their thing. Rudi Johnson will get 1,300 to 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns assuming Steinbach’s loss can be adequately covered up. Wake me up when the playoffs start.
Key Signings – G Eric Steinbach (Cincinnati), RB Jamal Lewis (Baltimore), C Seth McKinney (Miami)
Key Departures – RB Reuben Droughns (New York Giants)
The Skinny – Unlike the Bills, who upgraded at running back while letting the offensive line wither and wilt, the Browns are going with a washed up back and a revamped line. Well, you can’t always get what you want, I suppose. This strategy could actually work better than the Ravens’ ploy. Lewis will never be the back he once was, but this is a good situation for him. He’s moved up from ‘Not worth having on a team’ to ‘Decent back-up runner.’ Yay for progress!
As for the rest of the team, not much is different. Charlie Frye should get better protection and Kellen Winslow is recovering from another surgery. Braylon Edwards is entering that magical third season and the offense seems set to take off. But, well, it’s the Browns, so not much has really changed, right?
Key Signings – OL Sean Mahan (Tampa Bay)
Key Departures – LB Joey Porter (Miami)
The Skinny – The 2006 season was a flat out disaster for the Steelers. There’s no sugar coating that. Ben Roethlisberger almost died a couple times and Pittsburgh was never really alive. But that’s history now. Assuming Ben can keep his head on top of his shoulders, he should bounce back and be a weak fantasy starter or strong backup. Willie Parker remains a legitimate number one fantasy back and the receiving game will be hit and miss. Seriously, I think it’s time to reshuffle the divisions.
That does it for the AFC North. Here’s a new clip of Anquan Boldin. Yes, I do type ‘Anquan Boldin’ into youtube almost daily. No, I don’t think that’s sad. [Editor’s note: no, RotoRob doesn’t officially endorse Andy’s man love for Anquan Boldin.]