Division rivals take an early hit
Within the first 24 hours after free agency opened, each of the Steelers’ AFC North Division rivals had lost players – in many cases, starting players – to other teams.
One of the strengths of the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals team that finished 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card was the depth of the defensive line. Cincinnati was able to utilize any of eight defensive linemen in a rotation for a particular game, and that group – Domata Peko, Robert Geathers, Carlos Dunlap, Pat Sims, Geno Atkins, Jonathan Fanene, Frostee Rucker and Michael Johnson – was a key to a defense that finished No. 7 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 9 in points allowed.
But alas, those eight have already dwindled to six. New England signed Fanene to a three-year contract, and the Browns pilfered Rucker from their in-state rivals.
The Baltimore Ravens defense lost a starter when Jarrett Johnson signed with the San Diego Chargers. Johnson, 30, had 56 tackles and 2.5 sacks for the Ravens in 2011. In his nine seasons, all with the Ravens, Johnson had 20 sacks.
The Cleveland Browns lost Peyton Hillis to the Kansas City Chiefs, who reportedly signed the 26-year-old running back to a one-year contract worth $3 million. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards with a 4.4 average and 11 touchdowns for the Browns in 2010 when Brian Daboll was the team’s offensive coordinator. Daboll now holds the same position for the Chiefs.