AFC North Reset: Breaking down the free agency moves of the Browns' top foes

The Bengals, Ravens and Steelers were all active to start the new league year

Nearly a full month has elapsed since the start of the new league year, and hundreds of players are now employed by new teams.

The AFC North is home to a number of them, as the Browns, Ravens, Steelers and Bengals were all active in their own way through the first couple of weeks in free agency. Just as many familiar faces, though, are no longer in the division.

We've kept you posted on all of the happenings in Berea. Consider this a crash course on what's occurred with the teams the Browns will see a combined six times in 2021.

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Deals: Signed G Kevin Zeitler (Giants) and WR Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)

Biggest Losses: LB Matthew Judon (Patriots) and LB Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders)

Under the Radar: Extended LB Tyus Bowser

The Ravens did what they typically do during this point of the offseason. They said goodbye to two key defensive players who drew big offers elsewhere (Judon and Ngakoue), plucked an experienced starter from the market who won't affect their compensatory pick status because he was waived by his previous team (Zeitler) and extended a handful of returning players (Tyus Bowser) who will now take on bigger roles because of the aforementioned departures. The signing of Zeitler shores up a big area of potential weakness with one of the most consistent in the league to play the position. The losses of Judon and Ngakoue are significant, and the Ravens will need some of their younger players to step up and fill the void left by two of the most dangerous pass rushers in the league.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest Deals: Re-signed WR Juju Smith-Schuster and CB Cameron Sutton

Biggest Losses: T Alejandro Villanueva (free agent), LB Bud Dupree (Titans), CB Steven Nelson (free agent) and CB Mike Hilton (Bengals)

Under the Radar: Re-signed DT Tyson Alualu

The Steelers had to do a lot of work before the start of the new league year just to get under the cap, and that required parting ways with a number of familiar faces, including a handful of key players on defense. Longtime QB Ben Roethlisberger was a big help in that process, allowing the Steelers to restructure his deal and limit the number of players Pittsburgh had to let go. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Smith-Schuster would be playing for a new team in 2021, but he stunned many when he decided to re-up with the Steelers for another season. That gives Roethlisberger some stability on a Pittsburgh offense that shouldn't look all too different in 2021. As for the defense, the Steelers will be relying on plenty of new faces after losing numerous starters from last year, including Nelson, Dupree, Hilton and LB Vince Williams.

Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Deals: Signed DE Trey Hendrickson (Saints), T Riley Reiff (Vikings) and CB Mike Hilton

Biggest Losses: DE Carl Lawson (Jets), DT Geno Atkins (free agent), WR A.J. Green (Cardinals) and CB William Jackson III (Washington)

Under the Radar: Signed DT Larry Ogunjobi (Browns)

Two players who provided constant nightmares to the Browns — Atkins and Green — are no longer with the team, signifying a truly new era in Cincinnati. The Bengals began free agency with a swap of sorts, as they lost Lawson to the Jets and quickly replaced him with Hendrickson, who had a breakout 2020 season with the Saints. The Bengals filled some holes in the secondary and on the offensive line — the Reiff signing was particularly important — allowing them to take a bit of an open approach to the No. 5 selection in the upcoming draft.

The Browns' offseason roster on April 1, 2021

Advertising