Cleveland Browns fans complained the past few years as the team sat idly by while free agency raged. The Browns fiddled while free agents burned holes in owners’ pockets.

Or something like that.

Since the 2014 version of free agency began, the Browns have spent $55.8 million in guaranteed money.

That’s the highest total in the AFC North, and following the matching of Jacksonville’s offer to Alex Mack, ranks third in the league in guaranteed money spent since March 11.

Which means the Browns rank third to the Bucs and Broncos in guaranteed money, with most of it going to Mack ($18 million reported, though the number has not been confirmed), linebacker Karlos Dansby ($12 million) and safety Donte Whitner ($13 million). The Browns started free agency with a glut of cap space, and they’ve not been shy about using it.

And they’ve spend more than $50 million in guaranteed contracts without even addressing the quarterback position.

Second in the division in spending are the Baltimore Ravens at $36.3 million, though their total does not include re-signing Dennis Pitta just before free agency began. That signing brings the Ravens' guaranteed money total to $52.3 million -- still short of the Browns.

Most of Baltimore’s money went to Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe ($19 million).

Take away those two re-signings and Baltimore’s guaranteed total of $18 million is more like a team that feels good about itself.

Same for the Bengals, a team that has made the playoffs three years in a row and feels it’s close to something good. Cincinnati has spent just $7.3 million in guaranteed money, the fourth lowest total in the league.

Pittsburgh? The Steelers never go overboard in free-agent spending and this year is no different. Their total of $8.7 million is just ahead of Cincinnati.
A look at what the national media is predicting for the Baltimore Ravens with the 17th overall pick:

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Posted: April 10
Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Banks' comment: "The Ravens are having the kind of strong offseason you'd expect them to assemble after getting the smelling salts treatment under their noses: coming off a playoff-less season for the first time since the close of the Brian Billick coaching era in 2007. And having Clinton-Dix, the top-rated safety, waiting for them at 17 makes this one of the easier draft debates conducted in the Ravens' war room."

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Posted: March 25
Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Brooks' comment: "Gary Kubiak's arrival in Baltimore will change the core traits the Ravens' personnel department looks for in offensive linemen. Martin's athleticism, balance and technical skills are ideal fits for the Ravens' new zone-based blocking scheme."

Cooks
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football
Posted: April 7
Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Campbell's comment: "The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin last season and need to get more receiving weapons for Joe Flacco. Steve Smith is on his last legs and may not provide much next season. A receiver like Cooks could cause a lot of mismatch problems on the other side of the field from Torrey Smith."

Charles Davis, NFL.com
Posted: March 18
Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Davis' comment: "Not a need pick, but too talented to pass up if he lasts this long."

Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated
Posted: April 3
Pick: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Farrar's comment: "What we do know is that the team wants to move 2013 first-rounder Matt Elam to strong safety, leaving it in the lurch when it comes to deep coverage. Pryor, who I actually like a bit better than Clinton-Dix, is physical in the run game and can handle everything from slot duty to center field. He’s not quite as fast as Earl Thomas, but he plays with a similar disregard for his own body -- and the bodies of his opponents."

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network
Posted: April 9
Pick: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Jeremiah's comment: "The Ravens could look at the receiver position here, but safety is a higher priority."

Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports
Posted: April 11
Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Kirwan's comment: "Big Cyrus had a very good pro day and the doctors declared him ready to go. The Ravens have to do a better job of protecting Flacco, so it comes down to Zack Martin or Kouandjio. The upside is with the latter, and Ozzie Newsome is an Alabama guy."

Ourlads' Scouting Service
Posted: March 26
Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Ourlads' comment: "The Ravens need help at center, guard and tackle. Martin fills one of the three positions. He projects inside from left tackle. He will get a chance to play on the edge first because he uses his hands well and is an efficient pass protector. Intense and focused. Good body control and balance."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Posted: April 10
Pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Prisco's comment: "He can play either guard or tackle, which would give the Ravens some flexibility."

Rob Rang, CBS Sports
Posted: April 14
Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Rang's comment: "General manager Ozzie Newsome is a master on draft day in large part because he sticks to the Best Player Available strategy. Lewan is a top 10 talent, whose propensity for over-aggression on and off the field could result in a bit of a slide."

If you have an Insider subscription, you can click here for the latest mock drafts from Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider.
Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel USA Today Sports, Getty ImagesTeddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel are options the Cleveland Browns will consider with their top pick in May's NFL draft.
And then there was one.

The Cleveland Browns' busy offseason leaves them having addressed the possible loss of Alex Mack (he stayed) and the departures of T.J. Ward and D'Qwell Jackson (Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby). They added a running back (Ben Tate) and they added depth at several spots, including the offensive line (Paul McQuistan), receiver (Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson), tight end (Jim Dray) and cornerback (Isaiah Trufant).

On Monday, they even added the long-lost fullback, a guy the team did not give Rob Chudzinski a year ago. Chris Pressley is coming off a missed season due to ACL surgery so he is not a lock to make the team, but if he can give anything at all it’s more than the Browns had a year ago.

All this does is set the Browns up to draft the way they want to draft, not the way they have to.

"[GM] Ray [Farmer] talked about that process of just stabilizing, leveling the ship," coach Mike Pettine told the gathered media at the NFL owners meetings.

Which basically leaves one spot to address: quarterback.

Yes, Virginia, there will be a new quarterback in Cleveland before training camp.

Probably two.

The team must add a veteran before the “voluntary” minicamp the end of the month. They can’t go into camp with only two guys, especially because Brian Hoyer will probably be limited as he comes off knee surgery. Given that the market of veterans left are the Rex Grossmans of the world, the Browns also will add a quarterback in the draft.

When is the million-dollar question.

If it’s fourth overall, the choices remain the same three: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater. If it’s later, there is a bundle from which to pick.

"That's the position that needs to be addressed," Pettine said. "But we're not locked into, 'We're drafting a starter.'"

Which is good to hear.

Because if the Browns draft a guy to start and they force him in too quickly they'll be following the wash-rinse-repeat cycle that has contributed to so many problems since 1999. The challenge comes in managing the situation.

Because if the team selects a quarterback with the fourth pick, Hoyer will find out quickly what it’s really like to play for his hometown team. Assuming he starts, the first time he has a two-interception, one-touchdown game in a 23-14 loss, the clamor will start from fans and media about the guy drafted fourth.

If it’s Manziel, that clamor will be loud and ornery.

If it’s Bortles, folks might be a little more patient because the word on him is he will need a year or two.

If it’s Bridgewater, it’s anyone’s guess.

Then if the young guy plays the negativity will continue if he struggles.

This negativity has affected Browns quarterbacks since '99 – all the way back to Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. It’s unrealistic to think it didn’t, because quarterback is a confidence position. He who hesitates is lost. It may sound like an easy excuse, except it affects a player’s psyche.

The spiral is almost natural. Young guy has to learn, to grow, but because he’s learning he makes mistakes, which leads to criticism, which he says he doesn’t hear but he does. Which leads to self-doubt, which leads to tentative play, which leads to more mistakes and more questions and clamor – and soon enough, the environment to succeed is damaged, which only exacerbates the issue.

There is the Bruce Arians argument, which says a team needs to pass-protect and run the ball to help a young quarterback, but if the guy can play he can play. But Bill Walsh, the great quarterback guru and leader of the San Francisco 49ers, once talked about protecting a young quarterback from a damaging environment. He talked almost emotionally, as if the damage to the player was almost permanent.

The word he used: traumatic.

The Browns have to be aware of this, and if they’re not they need only look at their history since their return. The good thing is whoever plays will have a much fuller deck than many of his predecessors. That’s the result of the offseason work.

But the Browns have saved the most important position for last.

How they handle it not only in the next two months but also through the entire 2014 season could have as much impact on the team as the selection itself.
Center Alex Mack channeled The Turtles on Monday.

He and the Cleveland Browns are simply "happy together" now that the Browns matched Jacksonville Jaguars' five-year offer sheet to the Browns center.

"Imagine you and me ... "

Mack termed all the reports that he preferred to be in Jacksonville mere positioning.

"Business is business," he said. "All I can say is I'm happy to be here. I'm excited to play football. I'm ready to go to work."

Mack said all the usual things about the free agent experience. It was interesting. The uncertainty was wearing. He's happy how it worked out. And yes, he's happy to be the highest paid center in the league.

"I work hard," Mack said. "I'm going to continue to do that."

Mack is right about that. He is a hard worker, and a valuable member of the Browns offensive line.

And, thanks to the work of Marvin Demoff, he has a five-year contract that he can void after two years to again pursue free agency.

"It gives me a lot of power as a player, which is exciting," Mack said. "That's something that may happen or it may not happen."

Mack said when he received the transition tag -- which allowed the Browns to match any offer he received -- he was sent scurrying to Wikipedia to find out what it meant. He added that he knew when he signed with the Jaguars he could wind up there, so he had to be happy with the thought of the Browns or Jacksonville.

In the two years he will be in Cleveland, Mack said he wants one thing: "To win games."

"I think about you day and night, it's only right ... so happy together."
Kevin Costner has done some great sports-related movies.

"Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham" are both classics. (“He hit the bull. Guy gets a free steak.”)

"Draft Day", which was recently released and is largely based in and shot in Cleveland, is not. Oh, it’s an occasionally fun 109 minutes, with some laughs here and there and a very cool slide-screen way of showing two people talking on the phone. It also has some great shots of the town the Browns call home, which is always a boost to Clevelanders.

But from a football standpoint, it’s illogical and implausible. A movie can be a good movie with some implausible elements if it’s held together by a good story or great writing, which "Bull Durham" has (“A player on a streak has to respect the streak”). "Field of Dreams" has the implausible reality of folks flocking to a baseball diamond in a corn field and players from the Black Sox scandal appearing to play in said corn field, but it also has a great story built around the love of baseball and the relationship between a father and son.

[+] EnlargeKevin Costner
Donald Traill/Invision/APKevin Costner plays Browns GM Sonny Weaver in "Draft Day."
The story of "Draft Day" is flimsy at best. Though it ends with a touching moment, the story simply can't carry the illogical football tale (spoiler alert), which sees Browns GM Sonny Weaver (played by Costner) start the day of the draft by trading three of his future first-round picks and then seeing the team that acquired them trade them back.

Right.

Between, there’s an owner talking to his GM at a shutdown water park, a common site for football executives to meet. (Come to think of it for the Browns ... )

The owner -- perhaps the best character in the movie, played by Frank Langella -- never takes off his sunglasses, even when he's inside.

And Costner and his front office dalliance, played by Jennifer Garner, have several meetings in a supply closet at the Browns headquarters. As if they think hiding there won't go unnoticed, except the dopey intern who knows nothing always manages to find them.

For Clevelanders, the best parts of the film are those scenes shot in Cleveland. Picking out the spots and seeing some of the inner workings of the team's facility are fun. But when a quick background shot is a highlight of the film, the film is lacking.

Thing is, Costner does a fine job as the GM. He comes across as a guy dealing with the pressures of his job and family while trying to keep the team on the right path.

But when a movie contrives its story to make a team do basic preparation for the draft on the day of the draft, it’s a bit much. If Sonny Weaver had not done his homework on the star quarterback when he had the sixth pick in the draft, he probably shouldn’t have been around to make trades on the day of the draft. Or if he'd had made a "splash" trade without being sure of the guy he traded for, well ...

The serious sports fan will notice all kinds of oddities like that, like the team allowing a player to march into the GM’s office to trash it. No player could get away with that without the cleaning crew from "Monsters Inc." taking him away for disinfecting.

Maybe this movie is made for the not-so-serious sports fan, who will find the interplay, give-and-take and banter more informative. Maybe.

Costner took batting practice with the Indians last summer while he was in Cleveland to shoot the film. He very graciously stopped to meet the media and was more than cordial, engaging and fun. But in discussing "Draft Day," he said he wouldn’t be doing a football movie, he’d be doing a love story with football around it. It was the same theme he adopted for "Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham."

Except it didn’t turn out that way. This movie is primarily about football, with small elements of a love story sprinkled in. The football stuff just doesn’t add up.

On the star scale, "Draft Day" gets two.

On the when-to-view-it scale, it's definitely a "wait for Netflix" kind of film.
video
That was quick.

The Cleveland Browns didn’t need to think much at all about matching the offer sheet the Jacksonville Jaguars gave center Alex Mack.

They decided before the end of Friday to keep Mack with the Browns. Apparently, owner Jimmy Haslam meant it when he said the team had no intention of losing Mack. So the center will stay in Cleveland on a five-year deal, which he can void after two years, that will pay him $10 million, $8 million and $8 million the next three seasons -- all guaranteed.

Mack was either going to wake up rich in Cleveland or Jacksonville. As it turns out, he’s going to be rich with the team that drafted him.

He becomes the league’s highest-paid center, which the Browns accept. And they accept it because he’s been a good player for them for years, and because it continues a trend of keeping or adding players so the Browns can address the draft with the mindset of taking the best available player.

The Browns earned the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft by being a bad team in 2013.

They didn’t need to create more needs. They clearly believe they can swallow Mack’s cost and still extend the contracts of veterans like Joe Haden and Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon. As long as that’s true, there’s no reason not to keep a player if they like him. And the Browns clearly like Mack.

A week of talk and chatter simply went in a circle and wound up where it started, with Mack as the Browns starting center in 2014.
Ten random thoughts on Alex Mack's expected signing of his offer sheet from the Jacksonville Jaguars today, which would make this an "Alex Mack First and 10":

  1. A lot of contract numbers have been leaked. While the numbers are all consistently close, I'm waiting to pass judgment on the deal until the actual numbers are known. I've seen too many contracts reported as worth $50 million when the last year of the $50 million was a $24 million salary that was never expected to be paid in the first place and only put in the deal to make the player and agent feel good about getting $50 million.
  2. [+] EnlargeAlex Mack
    Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsRegardless of which team veteran Alex Mack plays for in the 2014 season, he's poised to be the NFL's highest-paid center.
    That being said, there are nine more items to fill here so ... If the deal is as reported -- five years, $42 million, $18 million guaranteed the first two years -- it's a bit of a head-scratcher. Why Jacksonville would think that would scare the Browns into not matching is puzzling.
  3. This is why I want to see the actual numbers. Because as reported, it's kind of a "Huh?" offer to a transition player.
  4. Mack made the system work. Or his agent did. Regardless of where he plays, Mack will be the league's highest-paid center. That's a good offseason.
  5. Which reminds me of one of my favorite stories about contracts, way back when baseball's arbitration system first began. Pitcher Dave Stewart was one of the first cases, and he lost. His comment after: "No problem. I was either going to wake up rich, or richer."
  6. I'm not convinced Mack prefers to play in Cleveland anymore. The fact that he will sign with an organization that has struggled as much as the Jaguars have indicates he's ready to move on. That being said, if Mack returns I would not expect him to sulk. He's been a pro since he arrived, and if it turned out he'd be rich in Cleveland as opposed to Jacksonville, there would be no reason to wonder about his commitment or effort. He'd remain a pro.
  7. If the Browns do choose to match, they'll have the core of their line for the next few years with Joe Thomas, Mack and Mitchell Schwartz in the fold. Yes, I said Schwartz. He's better than he's given credit for. Perhaps the Browns might wish to send the Jaguars a box of candy and a thank-you note.
  8. Mack also becomes the second-highest-paid player on the team, behind Thomas. This is the argument against matching. With guys like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron ready to be extended, and with Joe Haden at the head of the line, making the center that wealthy goes against the grain. Former NFL lineman Ross Tucker summed it up this way for the Sporting News: "It's not a difference-making position that has a huge impact on wins and losses." (LeCharles Bentley would no doubt disagree.) Consider that Mack's transition cost is more than $10 million. A respectable-to-good center or guard (with John Greco sliding to center) would cost half that much. Mack is a good player, but the sky won't fall if he's not a Brown this season and beyond.
  9. Ask most anyone about building a team and they'll say the most important position is the guy who throws the ball, followed by the guy who stops the guy from having the ball caught, followed by the guy who can get to the guy throwing the ball, followed by the guy who protects the blind side of the guy throwing the ball, followed by the guy who catches the ball. The order may change from team to team depending on talent, but that's the general list. That's a roundabout way of saying the list does not include a center.
  10. So the Browns have to ask: Does it make sense to pay a center that much when they have so many of the "prime" positions lined up for extensions or deals in the future? Imagine, too, if Brian Hoyer proves to be the real deal. He is on the second of a two-year contract.
PITTSBURGH -- A month into free agency few could have expected the Steelers to be as active as they have been in reshaping their roster. They have signed more than 10 free agents, including seven from other teams.

The Steelers are around $300,000 under the salary cap and are done signing players for now, having shifted their focus to the draft. With free agency having slowed to a crawl following a furious spending spree, let’s take a closer look at the outside free agents that the Steelers added with ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson weighing in on each player:

Mitchell
Mike Mitchell

Position: S

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 210

Deal: five-year, $25 million contract with $5.25 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Set career-highs in tackles (66), interceptions (4), sacks (3 1/2) and forced fumbles (2) for the Panthers, blossoming after leaving Oakland for Carolina.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Mitchell to take over for Ryan Clark at free safety and get younger in the secondary. Mitchell prepares and plays with an edge. Next up for one of former Raiders owner Al Davis’ most infamous drat picks is proving those wrong who say his breakout season had more to do with the talent around Mitchell than his growth.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think the arrow is very much going up on him because he’s big and fast and now he knows how to play the game. I think he’s a better coverage player than he is a run defender. I think he’s going to be your deep centerfield more often than not and let Troy (Polamalu) do his thing. Tackling is one thing he needs to work on but he can blitz.”

Thomas
Cam Thomas

Position: DL

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-4, 330

Deal: two-year, $4 million contract with $1 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Recorded 23 tackles while starting 10 of 16 games at nose tackle for the Chargers and also made his first career interception.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Thomas to provide depth at nose tackle and defensive end. The player known as “Baby Zilla” could get an opportunity to start at the defensive end spot opposite Cameron Heyward depending on the players that the Steelers draft or sign in free agency.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I thought it was a decent pick up. I think he’s versatile enough to play any of their defensive line spots as is (Steve) McLendon. They certainly need d-line help but it’s not like boy they have to get a Casey Hampton or boy they have to get a (Brett) Keisel. It’s giving them more options going into the draft and he’s young, big body, fits the mold of what they want from that position.”

Moore
Lance Moore

Position: WR

Age: 30

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 190

Deal: two-year, $3 million contract with $645,000 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Caught 37 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns while starting five of the 13 games he played in his final seasons with the Saints.

Skinny: The Steelers moved quickly to fill their opening at No. 3 wide receiver after Jerricho Cotchery signed with the Panthers. They landed Moore, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2012, and had some other good seasons in New Orleans. Moore, like Cotchery, knows how to get open and has reliable hands. He is a little younger than Cotchery but isn’t as effective as Cotchery is in the red zone. Eight of Cotchery’s 10 touchdown receptions last season were from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think having a veteran in that room is really important, but I just wish he was a bigger guy. Cotchery was a pretty good red zone weapon where now they’re extra small at receiver. Moore had a bad year last year. He didn’t play much because of injuries but the few seasons before that he was a good player. He was always very reliable.”

Moats
Arthur Moats

Position: LB

Age: 26

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 250

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played in every game last season, starting 12 at inside linebacker, and recorded a career-high 54 tackles.

Skinny: This under-the-radar signing could turn out to be a significant one for the Steelers. Moats will provide depth at outside linebacker and play special teams. He also could get a shot at challenging Vince Williams for the starting job at left inside linebacker, though Moats has said the Steelers will first try him at outside linebacker.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s unique. I can’t really come up with a guy off the top of my head in the league who can play all four linebacker spots at a 3-4. They’re very different skill sets. At a minimum he’s your fifth linebacker. He’s a very good special teamer. He’s still really young.”

McCain
Brice McCain

Position: CB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 187

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,0000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Started a career-high four games for the Texans and recorded 32 tackles with an interception and seven passes defended.

Skinny: The Texans cut ties with McCain after opposing teams picked on the fifth-year veteran a good bit last season. The Steelers only had three other cornerbacks with significant NFL experience before signing McCain so he gives them some insurance and will be plenty motivated to bounce back from a rough 2013 campaign.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s a fourth or fifth guy that plays sparingly and might not even make the team if they draft one or two (cornerbacks) that are real impressive. He has at least played a lot of snaps in this league. He’s good enough to get on the field but bad enough to get burned when he’s on there and he’s little. He’s the (signing) I’m least excited about.”

Williams
Blount
LeGarrette Blount

Position: RB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 250

Deal: two years, $3.85 million, with $950,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged 5.0 yards per carry while emerging as the Patriots’ best back by the end of the season. Blount went off in a Patriots playoff win over the Colts, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns.

Skinny: The Steelers were looking for a proven back to provide depth and injury insurance behind Le'Veon Bell and they found a young one at a reasonable price. If Blount can shoulder some of the workload at running back that should keep Bell fresh throughout the season and perhaps add some seasons to his career.

Matt Williamson’s take: “If you watch SportsCenter and watch his highlights you think he’s better than he is. There’s times that he doesn’t play as big and strong as he really is. If there isn’t a hole there he doesn’t make his own, but he is powerful and I think he’s got really good feet. He doesn’t really offer anything in the passing game but the best thing is he’s better than (Jonathan) Dwyer and (Isaac) Redman. They upgraded there.”

Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey

Position: WR

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 219

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played a career-high 16 games, starting 12 of them, and caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in his only seasons with the Colts.

Skinny: The seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft has never lived up to expectations with suspect hands often neutralizing his unique blend of size and speed. Heyward-Bey gives the Steelers a bigger wide receiver and one who is still young enough to have some upside. If he doesn’t work out the Steelers took virtually no risk in signing Heyward-Bey

Matt Williamson’s take: “Highly unreliable and it really only comes down to drops. He drops so many passes. It wasn’t his fault that he was the seventh pick of the draft and didn’t live up to it. Nobody thought he should be (picked that high) except for Al Davis. He may not even make the team.”
PITTSBURGH -- The six Lombardi Trophies that line the front of the library at Steelers headquarters are impossible to miss even for those used to walking past them on a regular basis.

They have already made an impression on new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who has done everything in football but win a Super Bowl.

“I’m here to see if we can get that seventh Super Bowl trophy in that case and help these players become as good as they can be,” Munchak told Steelers.com on Thursday. “From what I can see on tape, this is a good, young group that wants to be the best and it’s going to be fun working with them. I see myself as a teacher.”

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Wade PayneMike Munchak is aiming to help the Steelers improve off of consecutive 8-8 seasons.
Munchak should find more than willing pupils -- whether it is in the meeting room or on the practice field -- since no offensive line coach can match his combined chops as a coach and a player.

Munchak is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best guards in NFL history. The nine-time Pro Bowler spent 14 seasons coaching the offensive line for the Oilers/Titans before becoming the head coach for the only franchise he had ever worked or played for prior to joining the Steelers.

That the Scranton, Pa., native became available at about the time the Steelers were looking to stop the revolving door at offensive line coach proved ideal for both sides.

“It is hard to pick up and move,” said Munchak, who was fired in January after three seasons as the Titans' coach, “but if you’re going to do that this is a great place to end up.”

Elation may be too strong to characterize the general feeling around the Steelers regarding the addition of Munchak. But not by much.

The offensive line came together nicely at the end of last season and it returns every starter, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who played eight snaps in 2013 before tearing his ACL.

Pouncey has been working out at the Steelers’ practice facility -- he was here again on Thursday -- and he is among the linemen who could elevate their play under Munchak's tutelage.

If the line shows significant improvement in 2014 -- and, of course, stays healthy to some degree -- the offense could be good enough to carry a defense that is in transition.

And carry the Steelers back to the playoffs following 8-8 seasons.

Munchak, the perfect coach to pull everything together for a line that doesn't have a projected starter over 28, said he wants his players to take an even-keeled approach to the game while also exhibiting toughness and selflessness.

He figures to be more teacher than taskmaster but he won't have to yell to get his players' attention. His credentials alone will do that -- and help Munchak impart a message that has guided since his days as an All-American at Penn State.

“You don’t want to be that weak-link guy,” Munchak said. “Be accountable and if you don’t have a good ethic we’re not going to be very good. I’m big on being prepared, being prepared for the moment. It’s a young group, so I’m looking forward to getting to know them and working with them and getting the job done.”
Tight end Ed Dickson signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, a week after the Baltimore Ravens reached an agreement with Owen Daniels.

It worked out the best for both sides. The Ravens lost confidence in Dickson the past two seasons, and Dickson deserved a fresh start. Even though he didn't live up to expectations in Baltimore, Dickson is young enough (he's only 26) to turn around his career.

Dickson becomes the Ravens' fifth free agent (and likely last) to sign with another team. The only surprise this offseason for the Ravens was losing cornerback Corey Graham.

The Ravens selected Dickson in the third round in 2010. He was the 70th player drafted, 25 spots before Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Eric Decker also were drafted after Dickson in that third round.

Dickson set career highs with 54 receptions and five touchdowns in 2011. In his last two seasons, he totaled 46 catches and one touchdown.

Only defensive tackle Terrence Cody (second round) and tight end Dennis Pitta (fourth round) remain from the Ravens' 2010 draft class.

Here are the Ravens' four other free agents who signed elsewhere this offseason:

 
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are hosting two linebackers for visits today, including a potential first-round pick, as well as one of the top all-around safeties in the draft.

Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier and UCLA’s Jordan Zumwalt are meeting with the Steelers at their practice facility as well Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.

Shazier has been widely projected as a first-round pick and the Steelers would be looking at the former Buckeyes star as an inside linebacker.

Shazier recorded 101 tackles in 2013, the third-highest single-season total in Ohio State history, and the 6-foot-1, 237-pounder has excellent speed.

The Steelers will almost certainly get only one crack at Shazier, as he shouldn’t get drafted any later than the early part of the second round.

“You could make an argument he’s one of the 10 best football players in this draft based on being a pure, instinctive football player,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Shazier.

Zumwalt also projects as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and the former UCLA star is expected to get drafted in the third or fourth round. The 6-4, 235-pound Zumwalt recorded 91 tackles last season and intercepted a pair of passes.

Bucannon is one of the top safeties in the draft and is in the tier of players at the position after Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.

The 6-1, 211-pounder had 15 career interceptions at Washington State, including six last season when he also recorded 78 tackles and forced three fumbles. Bucannon could get drafted as high as the second round.

This is the first day that the Steelers are hosting draft prospects since Monday.

General manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin each attended pro days at Penn State and LSU the previous two days.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits and they have met with two linebackers and two safeties this week.

Pryor, a projected first-round pick, visited the Steelers on Monday.
With two picks in the first round, most pundits have the Cleveland Browns taking some combination of quarterback, receiver and/or cornerback with the fourth and 26th picks.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's mock draft 4.0 Insider makes a lot of sense for the Browns.


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The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft after finishing 8-8 last season, and taking a cornerback, wide receiver or defensive lineman with their first-round pick would make a lot of sense.

Todd McShay’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today and he has the Steelers addressing arguably their biggest need with their first pick, taking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and making the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder the first cornerback taken in next month’s draft.


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With so many core players from last season returning, along with the few veteran free agents they signed this offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals are in relatively good shape when it comes to draft needs.

They aren't looking for many immediate impact players, but they still would like to add cornerbacks, defensive ends, versatile offensive linemen who can play multiple positions, outside linebackers and quarterbacks to add to their depth chart. Players at those positions could end up having tremendous value in later years as the Bengals continue building for the future.

With less than a month until draft weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay released his fourth 2014 mock draft Insider on Thursday. His first-round Bengals pick is one football fans across the Buckeye State ought to find intriguing.


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