Off-Season Rival Watch: 3/31

Around the AFC North, where one team has CB trouble and an ex-Browns coordinator is on the hot seat.


The uncertain status of Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington might force the Ravens into adding two more cornerbacks this offseason.

Webb and Washington are coming off season-ending knee injuries, leaving the Ravens with two healthy experienced cornerbacks (Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr).

Heading into April, Harbaugh said Webb and Washington "are still a ways away."

"Here's how the gauge will be: When we get into June, I'm hoping they will be moving around on the field in drills a little bit," Harbaugh said. "If they're doing that, that would be a good sign for August. If they're not and they can't even open up training camp, then they can't. We'll put them on (the physically-unable-to-perform list) and get them healthy. So, we'll have to have a contingency plan at corner."

If the Ravens place them on PUP to start training camp (which is called Active PUP), they can't practice with the team until they are removed from the list. If they remain on PUP at the start of the regular season (which means they are put on Reserve PUP), they are ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the season.

Washington said he is aiming to return by the start of training camp. Webb looks more like a candidate for the list.

Harbaugh said the contingency plan could be signing two veteran free agents or the combination of signing a veteran and drafting a cornerback.

There are still a lot of options because only four of the top 15 unrestricted free-agent cornerbacks have been signed. Some of the free-agent cornerbacks who remain unsigned are: Lito Sheppard, Nick Harper, Dre Bly, Fred Smoot and Ken Lucas.

"You can't have enough corners," Harbaugh said.

Another option is re-signing Frank Walker, a physical backup cornerback who has drawn criticism from fans for his frequent pass-interference penalties. Walker reportedly is drawing interest from Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis.

Would the Ravens be interested in bringing back Walker?

"It's funny you ask the question and the whole fan base, everybody's going to be like, 'Don't do it.' But Frank's a better player than what people think," Harbaugh said. "I get as frustrated with Frank as anybody does, and Frank knows that. He'll tell you about it and he'll laugh about it. Frank has got as much talent as any corner in the league. He's tough, he's competitive, he's a physical guy. He loves to play the game. When he gets carried outside of his technique, he struggles just like any corner does. When he stays within himself and plays technique, he plays very well."

Harbaugh added, "Frank has got some other options right now, too. People have respect for him. We may not be able to get him signed back. Right now, I'm not so sure that he's not the best guy out there. You can give me a list of guys and we could think about it, but ... he knows how we play. He knows how we practice. He knows the expectations. We've had him for two years. We've been through some moments as we all know. And those moments, you kind of grow through those things. Hopefully, he understands now what's expected of him."


Even though quarterback Carson Palmer struggled during the second half of the season and in the playoff loss to the Jets, the Bengals remain committed to him as their starter.

"Carson wants to win very badly. Carson will message me once a week about something, somehow, someway and wants to know what's going on," Lewis said.

During the recent pursuit of Terrell Owens, Palmer also did his research, calling former teammates of Owens and also talking to him.

While everyone on the Bengals remains committed to Palmer, the possibility of drafting a quarterback in the middle to late rounds remains a possibility according to Brown.

"We have two guys who were with us last year and I thought they did well enough," Brown said. "I'm not going to say no, never on that one on making some change behind him.

"I still think we're in the process of being put together again. Every team goes through this every year. I don't know that this is over yet. We've done all right."

Entering his eighth season in 2010, Palmer has yet to win a playoff game. After injuring his elbow in 2008, some are convinced that he still is not the same quarterback that he was in his first five years.

"I thought for most of the season he had a terrific season. I did not think he played well late in the season and in the playoffs and to me he looked like a wounded quarterback," ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Ron Jaworski said. "He didn't have the accuracy or velocity I'm used to seeing out of Carson Palmer. It was not the same guy. Mechanics and all that were fine but he wasn't accurate."


Negotiations between the Bengals and coach Marvin Lewis remain at a standstill, but Lewis has been pleased with how the team has approached the offseason so far.

"There has been a big commitment upstairs and I'm glad we were able to do those things and I hope the fans feel the same way," Lewis said.

The past two offseasons the Bengals have suffered some pretty big losses. In 2008, it was Justin Smith and Madieu Williams while last year it was T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Still feeling the effects of Houshmandzadeh's loss, the team signed Antonio Bryant to a four-year, $28 million deal.

The Bengals have also kept their starting defense in tact by re-signing defensive tackle Tank Johnson and safety Roy Williams. It's also a situation where there are very few glaring needs (tight end is the only one at the moment), meaning the Bengals can use this draft more to build depth and create competition on the roster.

Lewis also feels like the team is in better shape to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in 28 years compared to the 2006 team which was coming off a division title.

"I feel like we're in a better position, better structure," Lewis said. "Even though we're not older. I think the leadership is more mature to handle it and priorities are better focused. The priorities then were more individual. These priorities lean more to be team oriented."

When asked how negotiations were going toward an extension for Lewis, team owner Mike Brown echoed the sentiments of his coach, who will be entering his eighth season, which ties Lewis with Paul Brown and Sam Wyche for the longest tenures in team history.

"That's an issue that Marvin stated well. It's between Marvin and me and that's where I'm going to keep it," Brown said.

During the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meeting, Lewis said that he will continue to talk to Brown and wait to see what happens. Some may say that Lewis has the opportunity to be a coaching free agent, but he is looking at it as an opportunity to show his team how to handle things in the last year of a deal.

"I always talk to our guys about when they get in that situation as a player not letting that get in the way of anything you do as a player to prepare for your season and have the best season you can possibly have. It's a great opportunity for me to show them how that goes," he said.

--The Bengals will have a total of nine picks in next month's draft after receiving compensatory picks in the third and fourth rounds. Those are the 33rd picks in each round. They will also have the 21st pick in odd rounds and 22nd in even rounds.

In recent seasons, the Bengals have used their compensatory picks to select Landon Johnson, Chinedum Ndukwe, Andre Caldwell, Chase Coffman and Bernard Scott.

"Third- and fourth-round picks can be made into productive players. We feel good about getting those picks," Bengals owner Mike Brown said.


As the Steelers' offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians has a Super Bowl ring and many, many critics. Some of those run the football team, and while they have not come down on Arians publicly, they have issued some marching orders.

President Art Rooney already has said he wants the team to run more consistently in 2010 than it did in 2009, and coach Mike Tomlin said this week he agrees with that assessment.

"It's a mentality," Tomlin said. "We've got to commit to doing it. Yes, ultimately when the ball's inside the white lines and we're playing football it's about execution. But it's also about planning, it's about preparation. It's a commitment, one that we're willing to continue to turn stones over to make sure that we're doing our very best to make sure we're great in those areas."

Arians stunned and upset fans and some in the organization alike when he arrogantly announced during the 2009 season that there was no fullback in his offense, never has been and never will be.

His tune may already have changed. Tomlin said there will be one on the roster "if it's available, particularly at this time of year when you have an expanded roster."

"I think you try to find as many guys with skills sets as you possibly can in an effort to put together a roster that's comprised of the best 53 men. So we're looking for guys that are not similar to guys that we have. Not only at that position but others. It's critical to having an improvement mentality."

Reminded what Arians said last season, Tomlin replied that, "When he made that comment, we didn't have the traditional fullback in the offense."

Of course, Arians said he has "never" had a fullback in his offense. It was he who orchestrated the departure of pure blocking fullback Dan Kreider in 2008 after reducing his use in 2007, Arians' first year as coordinator.

"If we run across one that's capable," Tomlin said as to whether they will use one in 2010. "Everything that we do offensively, defensively and special teams is geared toward accentuating the skill set of the people we have. If we don't have that guy we're not going to put a square peg in a round hole."

The OBR Top Stories