Baltimore Ravens – Without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed last season, the Ravens were somewhat of a rudderless ship; the long-time veterans were gone, leaving a huge leadership void in Baltimore. That doesn’t appear to have been rectified, as the team has spent most of the offseason dealing with the Ray Rice situation, continually stubbing its toe at every turn. Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs should be the team’s new leaders, but they aren’t Lewis and Reed in any way, shape or form.
Storyline: Devoid of leadership, the Ravens continue to unravel, as the Ray Rice situation is indicative of their rudderless ship.
Cincinnati Bengals – Leave it to the Bengals to give $100-plus million to a guy who has never won a playoff game; signing Andy Dalton to a mega-extension just reeks of desperation, as the QB-starved franchise panicked to keep him in Cincinnati for the next six years. Yes, he has a nice 30-18 record in the regular season. And yes, he’s led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. But once in the playoffs, he’s fallen short in some very winnable games.
Storyline: Andy Dalton is getting paid like a big-time quarterback, but he’s not one when it matters most.
Cleveland Browns – While most people didn’t realize it, the Browns had the pieces to be a pretty good team before drafting Johnny Manziel. Five members of the roster made the Pro Bowl last year, part of a very good nucleus, and quarterback Brian Hoyer was 3-0 before getting hurt. Giving that group a shot, without the distractions of the former Heisman Trophy winner being around, would have been the prudent thing to do. Instead, Cleveland brought the circus to town.
Storyline: Johnny Manziel proves to be a distraction for a team that already had the pieces in place to win.
Pittsburgh Steelers – As has been the case for years, the Steelers once again watched marquee players leave town this offseason via free agency. This time around, Emmanuel Sanders and LaMarr Woodley were the big defections. Sanders is an especially big loss, coming just a year after another wideout – Mike Wallace – left Pittsburgh. At some point, losing that much talent catches up to a team. The fact that the Steelers haven’t made the playoffs the past two seasons suggests it already has in Pittsburgh.
Storyline: The Steelers continue to let talented players walk, a habit that has now caught up with the talent-stripped franchise.