Barring an unexpected change of circumstances, the Cleveland Browns are expected to part ways with free-agent fullback Lawrence Vickers. He was not tendered by the Browns and the team drafted Stanford fullback Owen Marecic in April, because Cleveland believes he's a better fit for the West Coast offense.
But will Vickers return to the AFC North in a different uniform?
In this physical division, there will always be a need for a punishing fullback. Vickers is one of the best run-blocking fullbacks in the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals both have voids at that position.
Ravens fullback and pending free agent Le'Ron McClain wants more carries and probably has to leave Baltimore to get them. Vickers, who doesn't need to carry the football, would be a great option to replace McClain and open holes for tailback Ray Rice. Adding Vickers also could bring more consistency to Baltimore's running game, which was lacking last season.
New Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden also wants to emphasize the run in Cincinnati and could use an upgrade at fullback. A backfield of Cedric Benson and Vickers certainly screams "power running game" and would be ideal for competing against tough defenses in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. In Cincinnati, Vickers also would have the chance to prove to doubters that he can fit in a West Coast offense.
It's unlikely the Pittsburgh Steelers would make a push for Vickers. Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians runs a lot of three-receiver and multiple tight end sets, which decreases the need for a true fullback. Backup tight end David Johnson also has done a decent job filling that role when needed.
But if Vickers returns to the AFC North, he would certainly have a chip on his shoulder. Not only would he play for a division rival, but Vickers would get a chance to punish the Browns twice a year for not re-signing him.