<
>

Wake-up: Franchise tag for Peyton Hillis?

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

If the Browns don't have to use the franchise tag on linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a candidate to get it next is running back Peyton Hillis, according to the Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

The paper continues to report that the team intends to place the tag on Jackson. But, if the sides can reach a long-term deal, the Browns can use it on Hillis or kicker Phil Dawson, according to the Plain Dealer.

Hillis had a disappointing season to finish off the final year of his contract, totaling 717 yards and three touchdowns. That was a major dropoff from 2010, when he produced 1,654 yards and 13 touchdowns.

According to the Plain Dealer, the Browns are interested in bringing back Hillis. "I really liked what I saw when he was in there playing healthy," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said.

Hensley's slant: While using the franchise tag on Jackson is a smart move, it would be a crazy one to put the tag on Hillis. I've long said that the Browns need to part ways with Hillis after a troubling season last year. But, even if you want Hillis back, you can't think it's the right move to put the franchise tag on him. It will cost the Browns $7.7 million for one year. Cleveland can let Hillis become a free agent and sign him back for less than that. It would be a classic case of overspending.

BENGALS: Cincinnati hired longtime offensive line guru Jim McNally as a consultant. He coached 15 of his 28 NFL seasons in Cincinnati from 1980-94 and developed Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz during a stretch that included two trips to the Super Bowl. His job is to help the Bengals a couple of days during offseason camps and training camp while focusing on film work. "It's a fresh set of eyes from afar that can look at our team and other teams and offer valuable insights," offensive line coach Paul Alexander told the team's web site. "I'm excited about it. We're talking about the guy that taught me pro football." Hensley's slant: The Bengals are making some strong additions after filling the openings on the coaching staff, hiring McNally and Hue Jackson. If everything goes according to plan, McNally will be helping Alexander coach two new guards on the Bengals offensive line. That was the weakest position on the Bengals last season.

RAVENS: CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg says the Ravens shouldn't use the franchise tag on guard Ben Grubbs even if they sign running back Ray Rice to a new contract. Bringing back Grubbs via the tag is “unrealistic” because the cost is too high, according to Eisenberg. “While Grubbs mans one of football’s lower-paying positions, his tag price for 2012 [boosted by big contracts given to tackles] would be $9.4 million – way more than any team would pay for a guard,” Eisenberg wrote. “The Ravens might still figure out a way to keep all three [Rice, Grubbs and quarterback Joe Flacco], but tagging Grubbs isn't going to happen." Hensley's slant: The odds are against the Ravens using the tag on Grubbs because it is cost prohibitive, especially after the Ravens gave guard Marshal Yanda a deal last year that averaged a little more than $6 million per season. But I wouldn't close the door on this possibility completely. If the Ravens have the cap room to spare, they might put the tag on Grubbs because it's a one-year commitment. It would be a classic case of overspending like the Browns with Hillis (see the lead item above), but the Ravens would be overspending on a player who is coming off a Pro Bowl season and has a track record of being consistent.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette says that getting another first-round pick might benefit the Steelers more than keeping wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Steelers would get a first-round pick as compensation if they put a first-round tender on Wallace and don't match an offer sheet from another team for the restricted free agent. "If someone else signs Wallace and they let him go, the Steelers could draft both an offensive and defensive lineman on the first round," Bouchette wrote. "They would still have two good receivers in Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to build around, and save a whole lot under the salary cap. It doesn’t sound so bad to me." Hensley's slant: The Steelers need Wallace more than an additional first-round pick (which likely will be one of the last ones in the first round). Pittsburgh has to be unsure if Brown, who benefited greatly last season from defenses double-teaming Wallace, can be the No. 1 target. And the Steelers can't rely on the frequently injured Sanders to be the No. 2 receiver. Letting Wallace go would increase the chances of re-signing Jerricho Cotchery and keeping Hines Ward for veteran depth.