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Inside the AFC North

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are some notes and observations from within the division:

  • For the many Baltimore Ravens fans who are interested, here is how the Ray Lewis negotiations are expected to break down: The team and Lewis' representation will negotiate from now until the start of free agency. Baltimore, at some point, will make what it feels is its best/final offer and hope it's enough to convince Lewis not to test the market. From there it will be up to Lewis to decide if the Ravens' best offer is better than any offer he could get elsewhere, and that will determine if he tests free agency. If Baltimore chooses, a franchise tag also is possibility to keep the negotiations between Lewis and the team.

  • Speaking of the franchise tag, there's growing momentum in Cincinnati that T.J. Houshmandzadeh will not get tagged by the Bengals. Things can always change, but most teams view receiver as one of the last links in the chain, and Cincinnati may fall in line with that thinking. That is why you don't see many receivers franchised, but you will see linemen, quarterbacks and linebackers, because those are considered core positions to build a team around.

  • Despite so much talk surrounding the franchise tag this week, one team which likely will not use it this year is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The reigning Super Bowl champions do not have a strong free-agent class. The top player available for the Steelers this year is starting cornerback Bryant McFadden.

  • Here is a name to watch for the Cleveland Browns: Hank Poteat. The eighth-year cornerback is an unrestricted free agent from the New York Jets and we're being told he is a "Mangini guy." New Browns coach Eric Mangini likely will bring in some of his favorite, most-reliable players from the Jets and Poteat is a prime candidate. It also doesn't hurt that the Browns could use some veteran help at the cornerback position.