Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Last year the AFC North proved to be one of the toughest divisions in football.
Of course the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, who both competed in the AFC title game, brought up the average. But is there really a difference between an 11- and 12-win team and four 8-8 teams?
But the AFC North has been weakened significantly through the first several days of free agency. The exits of linebacker Bart Scott, center Jason Brown, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (via trade), safety Jim Leonhard, tackle Stacy Andrews and receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Washington have dealt an immediate blow to the wealth of talent in the division. That group combined for three Pro Bowls.
It doesn't appear any AFC North team will be a major player in free agency. For anyone keeping score, the biggest addition to the division so far has been cornerback Domonique Foxworth in Baltimore.
The division lost a lot of depth and is opting to replace it in the NFL draft instead. The schedule should be easier next season, but whether that leads to another successful year for the AFC North in 2009 remains to be seen.