AFC North mailbag: Bengals and Ravens

Let's answer some questions this week on the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.

Ben Doverman writes: What do you think of TCU's Andy Dalton as a second- or third-round pick for the Bengals?

James Walker: Ben, Dalton is a decent option but I like several quarterbacks better, especially in the first two rounds. I'm not sure Dalton is NFL-ready this year, and that's what the Bengals need. They need a player who can potentially step in right away and start at quarterback in case Carson Palmer is not bluffing about retirement.

Harold Mintz from Las Vegas wants to know if Palmer is using the Bengals as a scapegoat for his decline in production.

Walker: That's a good question, Harold. But I don't think it's something that's crossed Palmer's mind when he made his trade demands. Palmer knows he's not playing as well as 2005 or putting up the same numbers. But he's also confident he can help a contender with the right pieces around him, and I agree. At 31, I'm not sure Palmer can carry a team by himself anymore. But he's still better than a lot of starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

David from Fontainebleau, France, doesn't want Cincinnati to draft another quarterback considering its poor history.

Walker: I understand your concerns, David. But I'm not sure they have a choice. Perhaps the Bengals can go the route of trades or free agency. But with the lockout, there is no telling how long that will take. The NFL draft is a certainty in April, and I think the Bengals would be wise to select a possible replacement when they can.

Stevie J. from Charm City wants to know if it's possible the Ravens trade up to draft LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Alabama receiver Julio Jones.

Walker: Peterson is out unless the Ravens want to trade their entire draft, Stevie J. Peterson is probably going in the top seven. Baltimore is at No. 26. I like Jones but don't think he's on the Ravens' radar, either. He's probably a top-15 pick. In my opinion, receiver is not a big enough need for the Ravens to trade multiple picks.

Dave from Newark, Del., writes: I am curious as to what is going on with Fabian Washington in the offseason?

Walker: Washington is a free agent and probably won't return to Baltimore. He lost his confidence last season and was eventually benched. The emergence of players like Josh Wilson and Lardarius Webb also makes him expendable. Washington is a good athlete, and if he gets his confidence back he may be able to help another team.

Bob K. from Portsmouth, Ohio, writes: Now that the NFL is locked out, how is it that teams can still work out and scout players?

Walker: College players who are yet to be drafted technically are not part of the NFLPA. They soon will be. But for now it's safe for NFL teams to communicate with college players and work them out.

If you have any additional questions on the AFC North, please send them to our division inbox.