Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
The agent for guard Ben Grubbs said he had a "positive" meeting with Ravens officials at the NFL combine, but the sides aren't close to reaching a deal. Free agency will begin in two weeks.
“He’s in the prime of his career and may or may not have another opportunity to sign another significant contract. He needs to be sure that he explores all his options," agent Pat Dye told the Baltimore Sun. "He loves it there [in Baltimore] and would welcome being back there, but anything that the Ravens present him, we would have to evaluate it in the context of what the market might bear to him."
Dye added, "Is that to say something might not happen before free agency starts? No, that’s not to say that at all. I would expect that we would be talking in the near future, but I don’t think a [deal] is imminent at this point.”
The Ravens have made it clear that they want to keep Grubbs. Head coach John Harbaugh recently said the team is "offering a lot of money" to the 2007 first-round pick.
“They expressed a very strong interest in having him back,” Dye said. “They gave us some definitive parameters that would reflect that they have a very strong interest.”
Hensley's slant: The Ravens should tell Grubbs that their offer gets pulled if he tests the free-agent market. That way, he would have to decide whether to take the Ravens' deal or risk getting less in free agency. Grubbs should get more money in free agency considering there are a lot of teams looking for guards this offseason: the Bears, Cowboys, Bengals, Falcons, Chiefs, Panthers, Colts and Titans.
BENGALS: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis isn't confident that the team can find a top cornerback beyond the first round. “There’s research that says the best starting corners are first-round picks,” Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Year after year if you had 70 corners the best ones and almost all of them are going to be first-round guys.” The two cornerbacks linked to the Bengals in the first round are North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins and Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick. Hensley's slant: This isn't a surprise because the Bengals have always put a high priority on cornerbacks. They drafted Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph in the first round, so the Bengals likely will target another one this year because Hall is recovering from an Achilles injury and Nate Clements is entering his 12th season. There is a solid chance that Cincinnati will draft the second-best corner in the draft with one of its two first-round picks.
BROWNS: Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson earned his new contract through durability and determination. "Bottom line, he had a very, very good year on a very, very bad team. Not easy to do," Pluto wrote. "That's why it was good news to see him sign a new 5-year, $42.5 million deal ($19 million guaranteed) with the Browns. At first, that seemed a lot of money for a linebacker who will be 29 in September, a linebacker who played only six games in the previous two seasons. But Jackson proved himself in 2011, staying healthy and seemingly never even being tired." Hensley's slant: A day after Jackson signed his deal, linebacker Ahmad Brooks agreed to a six-year, $44.5 million contract with the 49ers that includes $17.5 million guaranteed. Does that make you feel better or worse about Jackson's deal?
STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette doesn't think wide receiver Mike Wallace is going anywhere as a restricted free agent. "Why would another team pay all that money in order to convince him to sign and give their first-round pick to the Steelers?," Bouchette wrote. "Baltimore has practically announced it won't sign him and Cincinnati needs something else. That leaves New England and San Francisco? With the new rookie wage scale, those first-rounders became more valuable, too." Hensley's slant: The Ravens are out, and the Bengals would surprise me at this point, too. But I wouldn't rule out teams desperate for a deep threat like the Patriots and 49ers. New England coach Bill Belichick is always thinking outside the box.