AFC NORTH NOTES: Frye still chasing Ben

The Scout network has sent SteelCityInsider.com a mountain of information about each NFL team written by beat writers in each NFL market. We condensed the info with fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers in mind. Following is one of four stories:

Charlie Frye was a rival of Ben Roethlisberger growing up in Ohio. Now they are rivals in the AFC North, and Frye is definitely doing the chasing after Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl.

Frye was a modest 2-3 as a starter, but he says in 2006 the gap between him and Roethlisberger might not be as wide as it seems.

"The rookie quarterback you saw last year, you won't see next year," Frye said. "I'm only going to get better."

Frye was in Phoenix with his family for about a month after the Browns season ended to get away from football for a while, but he is back in at the Browns training complex in the Cleveland suburb of Berea working out with strength coach John Lott and studying film with offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon and quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer.

"The main thing I'll be keying on is timing," Frye said. "That's something you work on during the offseason or during training camp.

"I think I need to put on some pounds. I'm going from five games to hopefully playing more than 16 games. It's going to be a big difference. A little bit of weight could help. I'm at 215 right now. I think I want to gain no more than ten pounds."

Frye rode the bench the first 11 games of the 2005 season. He was made the starter against Jacksonville Dec. 4 and started the rest of the season. Frye completed 98 of 165 passes for 1,002 yards.

He threw four touchdown passes and five interceptions and was sacked 22 times. That would be 72 sacks projected over a 16-game season; Frye has said he must throw the football sooner.

PLAYER NOTES

--There is talk of moving Kellen Winslow Jr. from tight end to wide receiver next season. Winslow has played only two games in two seasons, missing the other 30 because of injury.

--General Manager Phil Savage and his scouting staff have been holed up in their draft war room 10 to 12 hours a day since Feb. 12 reviewing their notes on more than 800 potential draftees.

--Coach Romeo Crennel made no changes in his coaching staff. For what it's worth, Butch Davis kept his staff intact between 2001 and 2002. The 2002 season was the only time the Browns made the playoffs.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--WR Antonio Bryant dropped too many passes for the Browns to want him back.

--DB Antwan Harris spent the season on injured reserve and won't be invited back.

--DB Ray Mickens played well as a nickel back in 2005 and could get another chance if he doesn't sign with another team.

--OL Mike Pucillo showed he is a capable backup at all three interior positions, particularly at guard. Re-signing him won't be a priority, but the Browns are likely to make an offer.

--P Kyle Richardson shanked too many punts to be re-signed; free agent to be Dave Zastudil of the Ravens is from the Cleveland area.

--TE Aaron Shea has played six seasons with the Browns and is too often injured. He will not be offered a contract.

--LT L.J. Shelton is a player the Browns want to re-sign because they prefer using a first-round choice on a defensive player.

--LB Ben Taylor made too many of his tackles six or seven yards downfield. He won't get an offer from the Browns.

--LB Orlando Ruff could not knock Taylor from the starting lineup. He will not be back.

--DE Orpheus Roye's contract extension is the top priority, but the Browns expect Roye to test free agency.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--NT Ethan Kelly is a good plugger. He will probably return to the Browns as a backup.

MEDICAL WATCH: TE Kellen Winslow Jr. (knee) is continuing his rehab from June surgery and should be ready for training camp; WR Braylon Edwards is lifting weights after Jan. 3 knee surgery. His projected return date is the season opener; QB Trent Dilfer is recovering from surgery Feb. 7 to repair a partially torn right patella tendon.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

According to the Baltimore Sun, associates and friends close to linebacker Ray Lewis have said that he doesn't want to play in Baltimore for the 2006 season.

Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the linebacker hasn't informed the team of any such intention.

But Newsome did admit that Lewis had a recent meeting with team owner Steve Bisciotti in Florida and acknowledged Lewis asked to be traded before the start of the 2005 season.

Lewis, a seven-time Pro Bowl performer, distanced himself by sitting away from teammates during games and talking less frequently to local reporters during the week.

Some believe Lewis doesn't want to be the face of the franchise anymore after the Ravens declined to restructure his contract, which still has three years left. Lewis is scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2006 and $6.5 million in 2007 and 2008.

According to the Sun, the Ravens were sending out "feelers" in a possible trade for Lewis, but they haven't gotten more than a second- round draft pick in exchange.

A team source said Lewis discussed his contract situation with Bisciotti, among other things.

Lewis might not suit up for the Ravens until training camp, although it has nothing to do with his contract situation.

In his first interview since October, Lewis said he will miss all of the Ravens' minicamps while recovering from hamstring surgery.

Lewis told the NFL Network that he expects another three months of rehabilitation, which should allow him to ready for the start of training camp. He has traditionally skipped the team's three voluntary minicamps but has participated in the mandatory one.

Lewis missed the last 10 games of the regular season with a torn hamstring and had surgery in December.

PLAYER NOTES

--Deion Sanders announced on Sporting News Radio that he would not be coming back for what would have been his 15th year.

Sanders, who has played a reserve role the past two seasons, has not talked to the Ravens since leaving the complex without speaking to the media Jan. 2. He is an unrestricted free agent.

It is likely Sanders will resume his career as a television studio analyst on Fox's pre-game show.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--CB Dale Carter was a disappointment; he is expected to retire.

--S Will Demps injured his knee late in the season which hurts his chances of returning; he could be re-signed late in free agency.

--TE Darnell Dinkins would be re-signed if Ravens can't find a better blocking tight end.

--WR Randy Hymes never grasp the system and likely won't return; the Ravens need third receiver to return kicks.

--NT Maake Kemoeatu is a solid but not dynamic run stuffer who has good value; the Browns could make a run at him.

--WR Patrick Johnson was a little-used reserve who could come back for depth in training camp.

--RB Jamal Lewis could receive franchise tag to keep from becoming a free agent.

--LB Tommy Polley was solid and could return as a starter for a bargain price.

--RB Chester Taylor seemed unhappy with his situation with the Ravens, which could lead him to look elsewhere in free agency.

--DE Tony Weaver is expected to be a priority to be re-signed but could receive interest from other teams.

--S Chad Williams did not help his stock in his limited time as a starter; he could return to the Ravens as a dime back.

--QB Anthony Wright failed to match his success as a starter in 2003 and will not be re-signed.

--P Dave Zastudil had his most consistent season but is not considered an elite punter; he could return if Ravens can't find stronger leg.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--K Aaron Elling struggled at times last season and is not expected to return.

--NT Aubrayo Franklin is developing into an average backup and will receive the low tender.

--DE Jarret Johnson is a hard-working, versatile player who can go from defensive line to linebacker; he will receive the low tender.

--FB Ovie Mughelli has made his mark as an above average special teams player; he will receive the low tender.

--OT Tony Pashos should vie for starting right tackle job but should only receive low tender.

--RB Musa Smith has yet to show his potential because of injuries; he will receive low tender.

--TE Daniel Wilcox is an average pass-catching tight end who will get low tender).

================== CINCINNATI BENGALS ==================

HOT TOPIC

The hottest personnel topic of the offseason is quarterback.

With Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer unavailable for spring and summer field work -- Palmer is in California rehabbing his left knee, in which he suffered two torn ligaments (ACL and MCL) in the playoffs -- the Bengals are trying to get healthy arms lined up for offseason work.

The Bengals have two healthy quarterbacks under contract, Craig Krenzel and newcomer Doug Johnson. Jon Kitna remains unsigned and likely headed for free agency March 3.

The Bengals do want Kitna back but at a fair backup price. Kitna seems intent on hitting the free agent market.

Palmer could return to Cincinnati as soon as late March to continue rehab and work with coaches in the classroom.

PLAYER NOTES

--Four Bengals players participated Sunday in the Pro Bowl, including wide receiver Chad Johnson, who saw two uneventful snaps at cornerback.

--Chris Henry, a second-year wide receiver, faces three weapons-related charges in Orlando, Fla., and a marijuana possession charge in Kenton County (Northern Kentucky), the latter case continued to March 22.

Lewis said he can't further discipline or cut Henry without risking a lawsuit by the NFL Players Association.

"You have to let the legal system run its course," Lewis said. "I'm not trying to defend him. He has bigger fish to fry (than his coach and his team). We'll see what happens. Then we'll make the right decisions."

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--CB Rashad Bauman is a solid special teams contributor, a good open-field tackler on defense but expendable.

--QB Jon Kitna's value to the Bengals would have appeared to increase with the uncertainty surrounding Carson Palmer's health status, but Kitna seems determined to test the market for a chance to start. Baltimore and Detroit are strongly interested in Kitna.

--FB Nick Luchey might want to go to another team where he has a chance to be active and play. Jeremi Johnson is a perfect fit as Bengals starting fullback.

--SS Anthony Mitchell is a smart veteran who is good in kick coverage, but he wasn't good enough to play in front of starter Ifeanyi Ohalete, who played poorly.

--LB Hannibal Navies was a first-year Bengal and played well on special teams and saw limited action on defense. He will be offered a deal to return.

--SS Ifeanyi Ohalete started strong as preseason pickup but displayed poor tackling ability against run.

--DL Carl Powell might be back, but he is injury-prone and the development of younger players will determine whether he's asked back.

--TE Matt Schobel will attract interest from teams that like to throw more to tight ends; he is unlikely to return.

--TE Tony Stewart is ultra-professional with a strong work ethic. He's adequate on special teams, but the Bengals need to upgrade at tight end.

--RB Kenny Watson is a strong special teams player, but his role as third-down back was won by former first-round pick Chris Perry. Like Luchey, Watson might want another chance with another team.

--LB Nate Webster had a serious knee injury in 2004 that might have ended his career, but he returned to play in one game in 2005. Don't look for a Bengals return, in spite of the respect he earned within the organization.

--LB Marcus Wilkins is way too valuable on special teams to let get away.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--FB Jeremi Johnson fills important role as blocker and occasional receiver perfectly in the offense and will be tendered.

--OL Scott Kooistra is being groomed for larger role and can play guard and tackle.

--WR Kevin Walter is excellent on special teams and makes most of chances in offense; he will be back.

--WR Kelley Washington will likely receive a tender from the Bengals in the hopes of getting draft-pick compensation. He showed signs of talent but never developed in the offense. Does not fit well in locker room.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--P Kyle Larson will be tendered and brought back for a third season with the Bengals. He is an excellent holder for Pro Bowl kicker Shayne Graham, and Larson's consistency as a punter is improving.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--QB Doug Johnson: FA; terms unknown.

MEDICAL WATCH: QB Carson Palmer is on schedule with his rehab from two left knee ligament tears, the Bengals have said. Palmer will not be ready for spring or summer field work. ... RB Rudi Johnson had a knee cleanout and is expected back for on-field work in May. ... TE Tony Stewart also had a knee cleanout. ... C Rich Braham had both elbows operated on.


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