Ravens will face toughest tests in NFL’s best division — AFC North

OWINGS MILLS – The AFC North was the best division in the NFL last season with every team finishing .500 or above.

It will be even better this year and the Ravens will face a serious challenge finishing in first place for a second straight year.

The Ravens, Bengals, Browns and Steelers all got better this offseason on paper with some key signings.

While the Ravens have lost 10 free agents so far this offseason, they added running back Derrick Henry, Henry, a four-time Pro Bowler and the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and re-signed All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Madubuike. The Ravens are led by two-time NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Steelers hope to solve their issues at quarterback by signing Russell Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowler, and Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Pittsburgh also added former Ravens inside linebacker Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, which will add even more spice to their rivalry.

The Browns provided quarterback Deshaun Watson with another weapon by adding wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who has a huge upside despite underachieving in Denver. Cleveland should have a solid attack with running back Nick Chubb, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in four of the past five seasons and receiver Amari Cooper, who caught 72 passes for 1,250 yards last season, also in the mix. Cleveland also has a couple of former Ravens on the roster — outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, returner/wide receiver James Proche, and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley.

The Bengals signed former Ravens safety Geno Stone, who was second in the NFL with seven interceptions last season. Cincinnati also added Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Brown. However, the Bengals will be contenders with Joe Burrow back in the lineup after missing the second half of last season with a wrist injury he suffered against the Ravens on November 16th.

It should be a fun and tough season for the AFC North.

“Obviously, a few of our competitors have taken some of our players,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “It happens every year; every year we look at the AFC North [teams and] they draft well, [and] they sign good players. They have a way of doing things. But let’s not forget, we’ll be there, too. I love our team, [and] I love our roster.

“We have some challenges ahead, but we’re going to be ready to play in September.”

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