2024 AFC North Offseason Report Card: Key Additions, Subtractions, Final Grades

Steelers moves lead to a perfect grade, while Browns, Bengals and Ravens have some work to do in what could be the NFL’s best division.
Wilson takes over as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback.
Wilson takes over as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In 2023, the AFC North had a strong case as the best division in the NFL.

Only the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t make the playoffs, and they were sunk by multiple injuries to quarterback Joe Burrow. With Burrow healthy, the Bengals are a top contender to unseat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens were last year’s top-seeded team, while the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers both made the playoffs despite sub-standard quarterback play.

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So who got better this season? Who is ready to make a move in the division? Let’s look at each team’s offseason grade.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offseason grade: A

Key additions: QB Russell Wilson, QB Justin Fields, CB Donte Jackson, OL Troy Fautanu, LB Patrick Queen, WR Van Jefferson, S DeShon Elliott

Key losses: QB Mason Rudolph, QB Kenny Pickett, P Pressley Harvin III, WR Diontae Johnson

Analysis: The Steelers revamped their quarterback room more than any team in the NFL. And while the additions of Wilson and Fields would be underwhelming for some, acquiring them to replace Rudolph and Pickett is massive.

In the draft, GM Omar Khan built up the offensive line repeatedly, selecting Fautanu in the first round before nabbing a second-round center in Zach Frazier along with fourth-round guard Mason McCormick. 

Defensively, the Steelers added talent alongside edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, signing Queen and Elliott, while also trading for Jackson. 

While Pittsburgh’s ceiling may continue to be limited with its quarterback deficiency, coach Mike Tomlin has never endured a losing season in 17 years at the helm. With this roster, that should continue as the Steelers seek their fourth playoff berth in the past five years. 

Cleveland Browns

Offseason grade: B

Key additions: WR Jerry Jeudy, LB Devin Bush, LB Jordan Hicks, QB Jameis Winston, K Cade York

Key losses: LB Sione Takitaki, QB Joe Flacco, LB Anthony Walker Jr.

Analysis: Outside of the trade and subsequent extension for Jeudy, the Browns were one of the quietest teams this offseason.

This was the result of a few things. For starters, Cleveland is saddled with arguably the worst contract in professional sports, as Deshaun Watson counts $63.97 million against the salary cap for each of the next three seasons. 

The Browns also have huge contracts with a pair of defensive stars in edge rusher Myles Garrett and corner Denzel Ward. While those players are being well-rewarded, they limited Cleveland’s ability to do much in free agency.

In the draft, the Browns were once again without a first-round pick for the third consecutive year because of the Watson trade. While Cleveland selected defensive lineman Michael Hall Jr., guard Zak Winter and receiver Jamari Thrash in the middle rounds, it’s unclear how much they’ll play in 2024.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow
Burrow has taken part in offseason workouts after being out most of last season due to injuries. / Cara Owsley/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Offseason grade: B-

Key additions: S Geno Stone, S Vonn Bell, RB Zach Moss, DT Sheldon Rankins, OT Trent Brown, TE Mike Gesicki

Key losses: RB Joe Mixon, WR Tyler Boyd, OT Jonah Williams, NT D.J. Reader, CB Chidobe Awuzie

Analysis: The Bengals will look a bit different than in past years.

After years of having Boyd in the slot and Mixon in the backfield, both are suiting up elsewhere (Tennessee and Houston). To replace them, Cincinnati drafted Alabama wideout Jermaine Burton in the third round. Trenton Irwin and Andrei Iosivas will be a factor. As for tailback, Zach Moss will get the bulk of the Bengals’ carries, with second-year man Chase Brown rotating in.

In the trenches, Cincinnati watched as Williams and Reader left in free agency. To fill those departures, Bengals general manager Duke Tobin signed Brown and Rankins, while also selecting tackle Amarius Mims, and defensive tackles Kris Jenkins and McKinley Jackson all within the first three rounds.

If Burrow can stay healthy and the trade requests of both edge rusher Trey Hendrickson and receiver Tee Higgins aren’t granted, Cincinnati could once again make a deep playoff run.

Baltimore Ravens

Offseason grade: C+

Key additions: CB Nate Wiggins, RB Derrick Henry, WR Nelson Agholor

Key losses: Edge Jadeveon Clowney, WR Odell Beckham Jr., RB J.K. Dobbins, OT Morgan Moses, G John Simpson, RB Gus Edwards, S Geno Stone, LB Patrick Queen

Analysis: The Ravens lost plenty this offseason due to a cap crunch, but perhaps the biggest departure isn’t a player.

Baltimore watched as former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald took the head coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks, leaving the Ravens to replace him with Zach Orr, the team’s inside linebackers coach.

Orr won’t have the same talent to work with, as the Ravens lost Clowney, Stone and Queen. That said, Baltimore still has plenty of stars on defense, including All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, veteran edge rusher Kyle Van Noy and corner Marlon Humphrey among others. 

Offensively, the Ravens gained a future Hall of Fame running back in Henry, while second-year running back Keaton Mitchell will return at some point off a torn ACL. The unit should be strong again, with quarterback Lamar Jackson coming off another MVP award while receiver Zay Flowers should improve entering his second campaign.


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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is an NFL staff writer for Sports Illustrated. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon; previously wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing; and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Matt is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.