Each Wednesday, NFP will take a look at how one of the NFL’s eight divisions did in the offseason. Today, the AFC Central.
Most improved team: Bengals
In terms of incoming talent being overwhelmingly better than outgoing talent, there really is not an AFC North team that stands out. Most of the teams treaded water. The Bengals had a balanced offseason approach. They re-signed a few key free agents in Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga and Andre Smith. They added a veteran who could be a big contributor in James Harrison (taken from the rival Steelers, which was a bonus). And they drafted a couple of potential impact players to spice up their offense in tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Despite having two strong coordinators in Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, the Bengals also were able to keep them in place. Continuity and player development also should help this team.
Biggest veteran move: Elvis Dumervil, Ravens.
They needed a confidence building move after having had so many big names walk out the door. They were fortunate Dumervil was available, and he should be a fine fit in the Baltimore defense as a more dynamic pass rusher than Paul Kruger. The Ravens actually reloaded on defense remarkably well, also bringing in safety Michael Huff, linebacker Arthur Brown and defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears.
Best draft addition: Jarvis Jones, Steelers.
He should be the perfect Steeler pass rusher. He wasn’t very impressive in his workouts, but all he did at Georgia was make plays and terrorize quarterbacks. He probably won’t have 14.5 sacks this year as he did a year ago, but Jones should be more than an able replacement for James Harrison.
Best under the radar move: Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer, Browns.
The Browns have arguably the most unsettled quarterback situation in the NFL with Brandon Weeden on shaky ground with the first string. The Browns gave themselves two strong options should a change be called for. Campbell probably was the best proven veteran backup on the market, a quarterback who has seen it all and has the ability to still play. The Browns were fortunate to find Hoyer available when the Cardinals let him go after putting a second round tender on him. The long time backup to Tom Brady never has had an extended chance to prove himself, but a lot of respected NFL talent evaluators think he can play. The only challenge for Rob Chudzinski will be determining which player is 1A and which is 1B. Chances are we’ll see both before the season ends.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.