With the 2011 NFL draft in the books, let's dig into our weekend mailbag.
James Walker: I was, Jason. Not only was the deal rich for the Browns, but Atlanta traded up for a position most league executives do not feel is vital. I like Jones' talent, but in terms of value he was the second-rated player at his position and the Falcons gave up two first-rounders, a second-round pick and two fourth-rounders over the next two years. If the Browns' front office works this properly, they could get five solid players for the price of one.
Thomas from Ironton, Ohio, wants to know my take on former North Carolina receiver and Browns second-round pick Greg Little?
Walker: Little could be a good fit in Cleveland's West Coast offense. He's big, physical and fights for the ball, which are all desirable traits. I also like that he played some running back in college, which helps with breaking tackles. I'm a little concerned Little missed a year of football and could be rusty making the jump to the NFL as a rookie. The Browns need an immediate impact from Little. Also, Little has gained a reputation as a bit of a diva, like many at his position. But Little disputed that and will have a clean slate in Cleveland.
Joe from Afghanistan writes: Does the selection of no corners for the Cincinnati Bengals indicate that they will be looking to re-sign Johnathan Joseph?
Walker: Joe, I assume you are overseas serving our country and I thank you for that. To answer your question, the Bengals took a corner in the seventh round (Korey Lindsey) but he's a longshot to make the team. I think Cincinnati simply preferred to fill other needs and feels comfortable with what they have in Leon Hall and Adam Jones. I don't think anything has changed with Joseph's situation, because the going rate for corners remains the same. Equal or lesser corners are commanding $10 million per year, and still I don't see the Bengals going that high for Joseph in free agency.
Matthew C. from Dayton, Ohio, writes: James, I was wondering if you thought a compromise might be reached with Carson Palmer and the Bengals at some point.
Walker: It makes sense, Matthew, but some of this has nothing to do with logic. I think there's stubbornness involved on both sides and, in some ways, a battle for power. If Palmer gets out, ownership would feel it caved into the pressure and set a precedent for other unhappy players to do the same. Palmer, too, is a serious person and wouldn't want to go back on his threat to retire. But if you get past the precedents and personal vendettas, I don't see why the sides can't mutually part ways. The Bengals have their long-term solution at quarterback in Andy Dalton, and there is definitely value for Palmer in the open market, which helps the organization much more than Palmer sitting at home. The sense I'm getting is the coaches have accepted the situation and are ready to moved on. But I think it's going to come down to ownership doing the same.
David Grubbs from Searcy, Ari., writes: What do you think about the Steelers drafting defensive end Cameron Heyward with such a great need at cornerback?
Walker: I was fine with the Heyward pick, David. I think he's a great fit for Pittsburgh's defense. But I did think the Steelers should have drafted a cornerback at least in the second round. Perhaps the value wasn't there on their draft board, so they waited for a corner until the third and fourth rounds with Curtis Brown of Texas and Cortez Allen from the Citadel. But recent mid-round picks at corner like Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett haven't panned out for Pittsburgh. The Steelers need this pair to buck the trend and contribute immediately.
Ben from Cockeysville, Md, writes: Do you think the Baltimore Ravens will show interest in signing Lawrence Vickers?
Walker: Ben, I haven't thought about that until now. But Vickers would actually be a good fit in Baltimore. All indication are Vickers is on his way out of Cleveland because he doesn't fit the West Coast offense that well. Whether Baltimore would show interest, it's too early to say. With labor uncertainty it is extremely difficult right now to get any teams to talk about possible targets.
Luke from Pullman, Wash., writes: I was wondering with the lockout and free agency stuff going on, what can teams do with undrafted rookies?
Walker: The league is closed for business, Luke. Rookie free agents are simply unemployed and can't look for work until a new collective bargaining agreement is reach. It's one of the many sad repercussions from this lockout.
Adam from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Am I the only person that is furious the Bengals did not take the deal from Atlanta so they can draft a luxury position like receiver. I don't care if A.J. Green is the next Jerry Rice, you need someone to throw to him and that person needs pass protection. Just ask Arizona fans how Larry Fitzgerald fared last year with Derek Anderson and Max Hall throwing to him.
Walker: Cincinnati is hoping Dalton turns out to be better than the quarterbacks you mentioned, Adam. But this will be the question asked in Cincinnati for quite some time. Atlanta was willing to give up a huge bounty and eventually did -- to a division rival. The Bengals didn't believe the value was there and really wanted Green. I think Green will be a good player, but now there's added pressure for that pick to pan out. Overall I wasn't surprised the Bengals stayed at No. 4. For whatever reason, they often get cold feet when it comes to first-round trades. The last time Cincinnati traded in the first round was seven years ago.
Frank from Pittsburgh writes: As a Ravens fan, I'm torn about whether the Chicago Bears should owe the Ravens the promised fourth-rounder. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome should have been prepared in case something like this happened. That being said, the team with the later pick "forgetting" to inform the NFL, regardless of whether it was intended or not, should be penalized. If not, it opens the door for potentially offering trades with no intention of following through. The Bears should be penalized in some way.
Walker: I don't think any shady business was involved, Frank. Plus, that is very hard to prove. But at the very least, this was amateurish on the part of Chicago to operate as though it never executed a trade. My sense is it was an honest (albeit silly) mistake by Chicago, and the Ravens simply got the short end of it. Sometimes life isn't fair.
Stephen A. from Baltimore writes: Michael Vick didn't want that Madden cover. As you said its perfect in our division, and it's going to bite Peyton Hillis too. I hope Montario Hardesty is all healed up.
Shawn from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Can Browns fans finally look forward to next season and expect nine, even 10 wins?
Walker: Stephen, people seem split on the "Madden curse." Troy Polamalu and Ray Lewis both got injured. So Hillis is fighting a lot of history. I also was surprised the Browns didn't draft a running back this weekend. Shawn, you were almost our "Homer of the Week" for asking that question, but we have one better.
AFC North Homer of the Week
Espe from Fairbanks, Alaska, writes: This may put me in the "Homer of the Week," but who cares. I believe the Bengals will compete for a playoff spot. Last season was a disappointment but it was mainly self-inflicted like the 10-game losing streak. During that streak the Bengals gave up 99 points off turnovers and even with that they were close in 8 out of the 10 games. Spotting a team 10 points is never a good thing, but if the Bengals can keep down the turnovers they will compete for a playoff spot.
Walker: I applaud your post-draft enthusiasm and "Homer of the Week" acceptance, Espe. But there remains a pretty significant gap between the Bengals and the Steelers and Ravens. The biggest issue now is at quarterback with Palmer not expected to return. Are you sold on a rookie quarterback winning the AFC North and leading the Bengals to the postseason? As I've said all along, 2011 is a rebuilding year for the Bengals, and they remain at least two years away.
If you have any additional questions, complaints or homer comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.