NFL

AFC North Free Agency Preview: Who Will Be Re-Signed?

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Before the NFL Draft starts in Chicago on April 30th, every team will look to fortify themselves through free agency. The potential 2015 class of NFL free agents may be the best group in league history. Plenty of high-profile players with a lot of upside left in their career will hit the open market. The NFL salary cap will limit some teams from being able to keep these future free agents on their current roster. Here is a look at two potential free agents for each team in the AFC North that likely will be re-signed next season by their present team.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

2015, Projected Cap Room Available, $30,685,910

2015, Projected Unrestricted Free Agents, 14

Smart spending has helped Cincinnati create their great financial situation heading into next season. The roster is rooted with plenty of talent leaving Mike Brown to spend as much as he wants basically on whoever he wants. Cincinnati will not throw money around frivolously when free agency begins instead their philosophy of calculated spending will prevail.

 

Clint Boling – Cincinnati Bengals, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 25

NFL Experience – 4

Current Salary – $1,551,362

Boling returned from ACL surgery last January stemming from his Week 13 injury in 2013. He rehabbed and returned to become a reliable force on the Cincinnati offensive line. The fourth round pick from Georgia in 2011, Boling is in the final year of his rookie contract. He has established himself as a feisty and durable commodity for the team. Expect the Bengals to re-sign Boling who has helped open holes for both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

Eric Winston – Cincinnati Bengals, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 31

NFL Experience – 9

Current Salary – $134,118

Winston is the current president of the National Football League Players Association and a longtime solid offensive tackle. The third round pick in 2006 has played for five different teams including his latest stop with the Bengals. He signed a one-year contract with Cincinnati this past December and should be a relatively cheap investment to add depth in 2015. He currently is the starting right tackle for the Bengals.

Baltimore Ravens

2015, Projected Cap Room Available, $3,805,483

2015, Projected Unrestricted Free Agents, 14

With very little cap room in 2015, Baltimore will have to sign low-budget players and possibly allow some of their own top players to test the market. The end result is the Ravens could end up losing some substantial players off their current roster. Both players selected below are great values for a team pinching pennies (millions).

 

Justin Forsett – Baltimore Ravens, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 29

NFL Experience – 7

Current Salary – $570,000

The open market for 29-year old running backs that are soon to be 30 is not kind. Forsett has not seen a lot of work in his career and his body is fairly fresh compared to most running backs at this point in their careers. Forsett has racked up over 1,500 yards from scrimmage this season as the featured back in the Ravens’ offense. He should be the beneficiary of  a modest bump in pay and remain in Baltimore next season.

 

Owen Daniels – Baltimore Ravens, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 32

NFL Experience – 9

Current Salary – $1,000,000

Dennis Pitta, who the Ravens were counting on to be the next Todd Hea,p has suffered set backs the last two years with injuries. That has opened the door for Daniels to remain with Baltimore for another year or two. He ranks third on the team in all receiving categories with 48 catches for 527 yards and four touchdowns. The asking price by Daniels to re-sign and continue to play professional football should something Baltimore can swing even with their extremely limited amount of cap space available.

 

Cleveland Browns

2015, Projected Cap Room Available, $38,181,890

2015, Projected Unrestricted Free Agents, 14

The Cleveland Browns will be able to retain just about any player on their current roster with a more than ample amount of money available under the salary cap. Either re-signing their own players or bringing in new faces the off-season should be very news worthy for the Browns. The deepest group amongst free agents in the entire AFC North, the Browns will have a lot of decisions to make this off-season.

 

Brian Hoyer – Cleveland Browns, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 29

NFL Experience – 6

Current Salary – 41,250,000

“Still very much a question mark,” was the answer Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine gave regarding the team’s quarterback situation at his press conference on Monday. One week ago it seemed as if Hoyer would walk away from Cleveland and distance himself from Johnny Manziel and the Browns.  That was until the latest “Johnny Football” incident occurred when he was late for another meeting. Did you forget the one in August? Or maybe the Peyton Manning Passing Academy tardiness? Manziel did his usual jibber-jabber about being more involved and dedicated and so on and so on.

“The sample size on Manziel wasn’t very big and wasn’t very encouraging,” Pettine also stated to Cleveland media. “I’m not writing off his behavior as acceptable — it is unacceptable,” Pettine said. “Especially, we said that we hold the quarterback to a higher standard than everybody else. That just comes with the territory, the position. Has his behavior been disappointing? Absolutely.”

Maybe Manziel is traded and Hoyer re-signs in Cleveland.

 

Buster Skrine – Cleveland Browns, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 25

NFL Experience – 4

Current Salary – 41,481,500

Skrine, a former fifth-round pick out of Tennessee-Chattanooga is in the final year of his rookie contract he signed in 2011. Cleveland should go deep into their piggy bank to retain the services of this up and coming defensive back. He is second on the team with four interceptions and his 67 tackles rank fourth-overall. His production will serve him well next year when he sits down to sign his next contract. Will it be in Cleveland?

Pittsburgh Steelers

2015, Projected Cap Room Available, $4,425,765

2015, Projected Unrestricted Free Agents, 11

There are plenty of decisions to be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers when free agency begins. Known for keeping their own desired players in-house, there are a few interesting players on the roster that will receive attention from general manager Kevin Colbert. Fortunately for Pittsburgh most of those players worthy keeping should come at a price the team possibly could afford.

 

Brice McCain – Pittsburgh Steelers, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 28

NFL Experience – 6

Current Salary – $635,000

The defensive star of their division wining game over the Cincinnati Bengals was none other than McCain. He intercepted Andy Dalton twice helping Pittsburgh to their first AFC North division title since 2010. Playing a bigger role in the absence of both Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen, McCain has made the most of his nine starts. He is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown and has also notched one fumble recovery. He has a keen ability to be around the football. Pittsburgh would obviously like to bring him back in 2015.

 

Antwon Blake – Pittsburgh Steelers, UFA in 2015

Current Age – 24

NFL Experience – 3

Current Salary- $570,000

Blake, like Brice McCain, has grown into a more prominent role in the Pittsburgh secondary.  Against Cincinnati, Blake made a giant impact when he stripped the football from receiver A.J. Green.

“I just grabbed whatever I could grab,” Blake said referencing to the game changing play. “Fortunately enough, I got the ball, so it came out.”

Starting one game and appearing in all 16 he has recorded 43 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovered. He is a very aggressive and tough player similar to retired Antoine Winfield.

 


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.