Walker's (early) weekend mailbag

Let's dig into our AFC North inbox.

Charlie from Brunswick, Ohio, writes: What are the odds that the Browns can pick up another veteran wide receiver before the season starts? While hopefully Bobby Engram strengthens the receiving corps, I'm betting the Browns will need more help then he can provide.

James Walker: The odds are slim of Cleveland making a significant veteran pickup before training camp. But if an injury occurs this summer, that opens the door for the Browns to look for more help. The only big name left on the market that I think can be of significant help is Terrell Owens. He could probably start for Cleveland right now, considering what it has on its roster. But the feeling I get is the Browns do not want to take in that type of big personality in their locker room when they know they’re rebuilding.

Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: What is the status of the Marvin Lewis contract negotiations? Any chance it will get done before the season?

Walker: To my knowledge there hasn’t been a lot of movement lately. I don't want to speculate beyond that, because things can always change. I'm not sure if the Pittsburgh Steelers' three-year extension given to coach Mike Tomlin could spark things with Cincinnati or not.

Thomas from Charlottesville, Va., writes: How do you think a Cedric Benson suspension would change the Week 2 Bengals-Ravens match up?

Walker: If Benson is suspended, which hasn't been determined, I think it would impact the Bengals tremendously. He was the biggest part of Cincinnati’s offense last year. The Bengals will pass more this season, but two games against the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens to start the season would be very tough without Benson.

Ian Currie from Atlanta wants to know what rookie RB Jonathan Dwyer's role could be with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Walker: Ideally, Dwyer could step in and help in short yardage. That is an area the Steelers really struggled last year. In college at Georgia Tech, Dwyer was a strong runner. But Pittsburgh’s players haven’t put the pads on so that remains to be seen.

Zack from Bethlehem, Pa., wants to know why the Ravens and Steelers are signing rookies to three-year deals.

Walker: That's an interesting question, Zack. I haven't really thought much about it. But with the labor uncertainty teams may be looking into shorter deals just in the event the worst-case scenario plays out and there’s no football next year. The bigger the contract, the bigger the up-front signing bonuses, and that’s where players make a lot of their money.

Complaint department (Bengals edition)

What is going on in our AFC North community? There seems to be a lot of Bengal hatred lately in our division inbox. Did I miss something?

Jason from Cocoa, Fla., writes: James, I'm taking Flavor Flav's advice, and I don't believe the hype about the Bengals. They're a 6-10 team this year, 7-9 at best. They're coming of a division title, not a four-win record. So they're not sneaking up on anybody, and other teams will not look past them. We can all see that the schedule looks harder, but teams vary year to year, so that's all crap. Pittsburgh went 12-4 and won the championship with the toughest schedule, but laid an egg last year with a much easier draw - losing to inferior teams, such as the Bengals, twice. I'd appreciate it if you recognize me in January for knowing more about the Bengals than that one-trick pony who can't pronounce 85 in Spanish. Yes, that's one-trick, going deep. He's too scared to go over the middle, can't block for his RB's, and CAN'T get his team past the wild card.

Mike from Baltimore writes: I believe the Bengals overachieved last year. The Bengals were either in the game, or out of the game. But the Ravens were never out of any game last season. I believe the Bungals are more likely to pan out at 7 -9 than the Ravens are.

Jermaine B. from Baltimore writes: Why are people determined to label Carson Palmer as an "elite" QB? In six years as a starter he he's only made the playoffs twice & lost both games at home! And folks can [quit] the excuses about the teams around him. A TRULY "elite" QB elevates the players around him.

Ben from Groton, Conn., writes: Chad Ochocinco provided bulletin-board material all right--for a physical Steelers secondary. I hope he keeps talking when all those girls are in the playoffs and he's watching from the couch in January.

Denis from De Pere, Wis., writes: Dude has only broken the 100-yard barrier twice in 18 games against the Steelers. Keep talking, Chad. Keep talking.

Dennis F. from Alexandria, Va., writes: Funny the Bengals see the Steelers as their biggest rival. Too bad the Steelers don’t see it the same way. Sure they swept us last season. But when it comes to the Steelers our biggest rival is the Ravens.

James from Baltimore writes: JW, you said in the chat that the Bengals were the best team in the division last year. I think you're forgetting the last several games of last season. How can you not say the Ravens were ultimately the better team after they went into Foxborough and dismantled the Patriots while the Bengals sputtered against the Jets at home?

Adam B. from Apple Valley, Minn., writes: Chad Ochocinco recently complained that the Ravens are getting all of the offseason hype even though the Bengals are the defending AFC North champs. But I say the Ravens deserve it since they're 20-12 the last two years and have gone 3-2 in the playoffs despite all five games being on the road. While the Bengals have gone 14-17-1 in the same stretch and are 0-1 in the playoffs, despite the one game being at home.