AFC North mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's dig into some more questions as I clean out our AFC North inbox.

Alex from State College writes: A few weeks back you talked about A.Q. Shipley visiting the Steelers. Whatever amounted to that? Do you think they might draft him? Having watched him the past few years, I know he is a solid player.

James Walker: Shipley met with the Steelers, just like other prospects. He is on Pittsburgh's radar but not with the first pick. So if the Steelers pass on some of the top center prospects in the first round, such as Alex Mack of Cal, Eric Wood of Louisville or Max Unger of Oregon, then Shipley becomes more of a possibility.

DB from Los Angeles writes: Hey James. Why are the Browns even considering trading a young talent like Braylon Edwards? He had too many drops last year, but finding a WR with his level of talent is so difficult. Thanks.

James Walker: DB, the biggest thing is Edwards is in the final year of his contract. So barring the franchise tag or labor strife, Edwards will walk this time next year for nothing. He hasn't been happy in Cleveland for various reasons. So why not try to get a first- and third-round pick now when the team is rebuilding anyway? The Browns are a long shot to make the playoffs with or without Edwards. On the other hand, he could take a team like the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles over the top.

Joe from San Antonio writes: Do you think it was wise for the Steelers to keep Charlie Batch over Leftwich? I think Byron was the far superior backup QB.

James Walker: The Steelers didn't have a choice, Joe. Byron Leftwich wanted to compete for a starting job and got that with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pittsburgh reportedly offered him a deal and kept the door open but only as a backup. Batch has played his role well in Pittsburgh. There is some concern with Batch coming off a collarbone injury. So the preseason will be important for him to erase any doubts before the regular season.

Will from CinSity writes: Hey Jdub love the blog/anyone who shows some love to my bengals. Do you think the bengals feel confident enough with their in house OL that they will pass on Andre Smith and Oher and go with Moreno or someone else.

James Walker: You must be a first-time reader, Will. But I appreciate you checking in. I'm very fair with praise and criticism of all four teams, and last season there wasn't much room to praise the Bengals. Cincinnati really wants an offensive tackle, and the team will take that position before any running back in the first round. But overall I think this weekend is a golden opportunity to improve. Cincinnati has 11 draft picks. The team can help its roster dramatically by making the right picks, and with the return of quarterback Carson Palmer I even put the Bengals on sleeper watch for 2009.

James from Orangevale writes: JW, LUV da blog - ck it daily to keep up w/my stillers! My ? is on the league CBA. Are the owner's contractually bound to pay these high salaries to the top 10 rookies? If not, why all the crying on their part? If so, why would the NFLPA be AGAINST a rookie cap? Please enlighten us as we head toward a possible work stoppage. THX!

James Walker: "Contractually bound" is a tricky phrase, James. Let's just say if a team doesn't pay close to the slotted salary, then it won't get the player it drafted. The long contract talks between the Oakland Raiders and quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the most recent example. It's pretty obvious why the NFLPA is against a rookie cap. It's the NFLPA's job to represent the player, and a cap would mean less money for rookies. I doubt this will change, James. If I'm the NFLPA and owners approached about becoming more like the NBA, I would say, "OK, if you want a rookie cap like the NBA, then we want all contracts fully guaranteed like the NBA." That would quickly end the conversation.