AFC North mailbag: Ohio football

Let's see what's in the AFC North mailbag this week for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

Allan from Columbus, Ohio, and Kyle from Tiffin, Ohio, wants to know if free agent defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston could fit with the Browns.

James Walker: Someone will give Gholston another chance, Allan. But the Browns are switching to a 4-3 defense, and I don't see Gholston fitting into that scheme. I've covered New York Jets coach Rex Ryan since he was in Baltimore, and I have a lot of respect for his coaching ability, particularly on defense. If Ryan couldn't get anything out of Gholston in two years, there's a good chance he's legitimately a bust. Sometimes a change of scenery can help a player, but for Ryan to give up on Gholston says a lot.

Anton from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: What are the chances of Cleveland drafting a running back in the later rounds?

Walker: It's a very good possibility, Anton. The Browns relied on Peyton Hillis too much in the running and passing game last season, and as a result he got hurt late in the year. The Browns were really counting on 2010 second-round pick Montario Hardesty, but his history of knee injuries is a concern. Look for the Browns to take a scat-back type to complement Hillis in the middle or late rounds. One name to keep an eye on is Shane Vereen from Cal.

Brian from Solon, Ohio, writes: Does Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers' past injuries make him a big risk for the Bengals or Browns?

Walker: Brian, Bowers' knee injury and surgery probably drops him out of consideration for the first six picks. It's a shame because, if healthy, I think he would be a good fit in Cleveland or Cincinnati. Bowers led the nation with 15 sacks last year, and that kind of production is exactly what the Browns and Bengals need. But it's hard to invest such a high pick in a player when you're not sure he's healthy.

Jacob from Cincy wants to know if Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn is a trade possibility for the Bengals.

Walker: Jacob, it's hard to gauge interest in trades during this lockout because there is no movement and no discussions between teams and players. When I talk to people around the league, everything is really at a standstill aside from the draft. With free agency pushed back this year, I fully anticipate the Bengals' finding "Carson Palmer insurance" in this draft. That way they don't have to give up any compensation to other teams, and having a rookie quarterback still gives the Bengals flexibility of welcoming Palmer back as the starter without any issues if he has a change of heart this summer.