2020 NFL Offseason Team Needs: AFC North

Hear me out – the AFC North was a bit disappointing in 2019.

The Steelers couldn’t compete offensively, the Bengals finished the season with the worst record in the NFL, the Browns failed to even come close to the preseason hype that surrounded them, and the Ravens got knocked off in their first playoff game despite having some of the best odds (at least according to Vegas) to win the Super Bowl.

It’ll be an exciting offseason for fans of teams in the AFC North, highlighted by the Bengals possessing the the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft, but there are plenty of storylines to follow with the Ravens, Steelers and Browns.

Before we jump into the biggest needs for those in the AFC North, here are the links to the divisions we’ve already covered…

AFC South
NFC South

Baltimore Ravens
14-2, 1st place AFC North
Lost in Divisional Round
First pick in 2020 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 28

Biggest Need: Edge Rusher

The Ravens are obviously in a good place as a franchise, at least going 14-2 the year before will make you believe that, but there are a few areas the team needs to clean up this offseason to help put them over the edge and truly compete for a Super Bowl. Baltimore led the NFL in percentage of defensive snaps they blitzed on in 2019, so finding an edge rusher that can get to the opposing team’s quarterback while only rushing four players would help the team immensely. The Ravens were unable to successfully replace Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith last offseason, and now they face the possibility of losing Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward to free agency. I understand there’s a case to be made for wide receiver as the team’s biggest offseason need, but my vote goes to edge rusher.

Top Free Agents: Jadeveon Clowney, Arik Armstead, Yannick Ngakoue, Shaq Barrett, Dante Fowler

Top NFL Draft Prospects: Chase Young (Ohio St.), A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU), Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn St.), Terrell Lewis (Alabama)

Terrell Lewis

Pittsburgh Steelers
8-8, 2nd place AFC North
First pick in 2020 NFL Draft: Round 2, Pick 17

Biggest Need: Quarterback

In 2019 we saw what happened when you remove Ben Roethlisberger from the team’s starting lineup. The results were pretty terrible as Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were game managers, at best, and didn’t come close to being as effective as an aging Roethlisberger. Big Ben isn’t getting any younger, and the Rudolph/Hodges plan seems to be rather lackluster, so the Steelers find themselves in a situation they haven’t been in for over a decade… needing a QB. Trading away their first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick has seemed to work out, so far, but it limits what the Steelers will be able to do in regards to the quarterback position in the NFL Draft. It’s going to be an interesting next couple of months in Pittsburgh, and I feel fairly confident in saying that I don’t believe they’ll truly be able to address their biggest need this offseason.

Top Free Agents: Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers

Top NFL Draft Prospects: Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jordan Love (Utah St.), Jacob Eason (Washington)

Jacob Eason

Cleveland Browns
6-10, 3rd Place AFC North
First pick in 2020 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 10

Biggest Need: Offensive Line

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Browns were the biggest disappointment of the 2019 season. Loaded with talent at all major skill positions, the team underperformed and got lit up by the media in the process. Maybe I’m still caught up in my pre-draft evaluations of Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, but I love this team’s playmakers and hope they don’t change a thing – because I think they can work and flourish together. The team got rid of Freddie Kitchens, which I definitely believe was a good thing, and now they need to focus on strengthening the offensive line so that these playmakers can actually have time to accomplish what they set out to do. I like the Browns as a nice bounce-back candidate in 2020 if they’re able to maximize their moves this offseason.

Top Free Agents: Anthony Castonzo, Jack Conklin, Andrew Whitworth, Jason Peters, Bryan Bulaga

Top NFL Draft Prospects: Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Mekhi Becton (Louisville), Josh Jones (Houston)

Mekhi Becton

Cincinnati Bengals
2-14, 4th Place AFC North
First pick in 2020 NFL Draft: Round 1, Pick 1

Biggest Need: Quarterback

This will be the easiest decision I’ll make of all 32 NFL teams. I’m on record saying that the Bengals have needed to address the position of quarterback for the better part of three years now. Insert Joe Burrow. A guy that will come in and start from day one, the Bengals have no choice but to select Burrow first overall and do whatever they can to surround him with talent and an offensive line to protect him. There is a camp of people out there that are scared of Burrow being a one-year wonder at LSU, but I personally don’t believe you can just luck your way into one of the most impressive (and statistically best) offensive seasons we’ve seen in the history of college football. It should take the Bengals about the same length of time it took you to read this write up to turn in their draft card with Burrow’s name on it.

Top Free Agents: Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers

Top NFL Draft Prospects: Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jordan Love (Utah St.), Jacob Eason (Washington)

Joe Burrow

Check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we’re joined by Zach Patraw of The Dynasty Draft Room to discuss the top edge rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft!

Ben Morgan is a co-host and blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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