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NFL free agency grades for the AFC North after the first weekend

It’s still early in the offseason, but plenty of big moves have been made in free agency. We take a look at each division to see how they stack up so far.

Who should the Ravens target at Wide Receiver?

The 2021 NFL offseason is in full swing, as the majority of free agents have found their homes for this season. More signings, trades, the draft and possible holdouts are on the horizon, but teams have made their first claims on what their team will look like as they take on the 2021 season.

To gauge where each team is so far this offseason, we’ll take you through each division to see how each team has done in their quest for a championship.

AFC East

Baltimore Ravens

Free agents added/retained

G Kevin Zeitler

Free agents lost

DE Yannick Nguakoue
LB Matt Judon
C Matt Skura
RB Mark Ingram

The Ravens lost the bulk of their pass rush with Yannick Nguakoue and Matt Judon hitting the road and they haven’t done much in acquiring assets. Zeitler is a good addition, but so far they haven’t done enough to mitigate their losses.

They also could have added at least one of the second or third tier wide receivers to their thin rotation. The Ravens must improve their passing game to compete in the AFC and hopefully they’ll continue to work at getting Lamar Jackson more help as the offseason moves forward.

Grade: C

Pittsburgh Steelers

Free agents added/retained

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
CB Cam Sutton
OT Zach Banner
OT Joe Haeg
DT Chris Wormley

Free agents lost

LB Bud Dupree
LB Vince Williams
CB Mike Hilton
OT Matt Feiler
RB James Conner (currently unsigned)

The Steelers have a salary cap crunch, so being able to retain some of their role players should at least help with cohesion. Getting JuJu Smith-Schuster back is a positive, but wasn’t a huge need compared to other positions. But he didn’t cost a whole lot at $8 million for one-year.

The Steelers usually get the most out of their draft picks, so we’ll likely see them go after some offensive lineman and a replacement for James Conner come April 29th. If they can hit those picks, they will have kept from having a disastrous offseason, but for now, we can’t really give them a good grade with the moves so far.

Grade: C

Cleveland Browns

Free agents added/retained

CB Troy Hill
S John Johnson
DT Malik Jackson
WR Rashard Higgins
LB Malcolm Smith

Free agents lost

Oliver Vernon (unsigned)
CB Terrance Mitchell
DT Larry Ogunjobi

Cleveland’s worst unit last season was their secondary and they’ve made good strides this offseason in rectifying that fact. Grabbing safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill from the Rams were two strong moves to improve their pass defense, which is a must in this league if you want to make it to the Super Bowl.

Overall, the Browns continue to do a great job in free agency the past few seasons. And helping their weakest unit this season sets them up to take yet another step forward.

Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals

Free agents added/retained

DE Trey Hendrickson
CB Mike Hilton
CB Chidobe Awuzie
DT Larry Ogunjobi
OT Riley Reiff

Free agents lost

CB William Jackson
DE Carl Lawson
DT Geno Atkins
WR A.J. Green
WR John Ross

Adding Riley Reiff is a good move, but not nearly enough to truly upgrade their offensive line, which is the main priority this offseason. They will likely draft a lineman with their first round pick, but it would be nice to see more attempts to shore up the line.

Losing A.J. Green and John Ross sounds worse than it is, as neither have shown enough consistency of late to be irreplaceable. Getting another receiver or tight end is a priority, but Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd aren’t slouches. But, this offense will want to throw the ball a lot and adding another target for Joe Burrow, along with protection, is still needed.

Grade: C