The Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns have all had varying levels of activity in this offseason so far. Both the Steelers and Ravens have primarily let talented players leave, only to sign less talented replacements, while the Browns have revamped their defense without landing that new quarterback that many crave.
While those three teams have all made some good moves, on the whole they either haven’t taken big enough strides forward yet (the Browns) or are significantly weaker at this point than they were during last season (the Ravens and Steelers).
That leaves the Bengals in a prime position to snatch the top of the division this year. Despite not making any real moves of note to improve the roster since last season, continuity and emerging talent alone should make the Bengals favorites for the division at this point.
Now there is still a long ways to go, but with the Steelers locked in cap hell, the Ravens expecting a lot of turnover and the Browns unlikely to find their next quarterback between now and September, the Bengals have to feel excited about the upcoming season.
Yes, the Ravens and Steelers still have significantly better quarterbacks leading their rosters. However, the Ravens have lost Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed (most likely), Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Matt Birk since last season. It’s nearly impossible to lose that many players of that caliber and still continue to compete they way you did previously. Similarly, the Steelers have lost Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, James Harrison, Max Starks, Willie Colon, Casey Hampton and their key players are pushing closer and closer to 40, never mind 30.
Even if Andy Dalton doesn’t elevate his game like the Bengals will need him to if they are to advance closer to the Super Bowl, they should still win their division and comfortably make the playoffs if the offseason continues in the form it has so far.