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AFC North Round Up: Ravens Upstage Steelers and the Bengals Get a Weapon

The Cleveland Browns were inactive on day one of the 2022 NFL Draft, but the rest of the AFC North Division made some splash moves worth discussing.

The Cleveland Browns playing the role of bystander the first night of the NFL Draft was expected, but the same cannot be said for the series of events that played out with the Baltimore Ravens, who managed to upstage the one team that took a quarterback in the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The lede for the Ravens wasn't who they selected with the two picks they ended up with in the first round, but rather the trade that sent wide receiver Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals along with the 100th pick in the draft for 23rd pick and the fallout from it.

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta was conflicted about the move, saying, “That’s a complicated topic and for me personally, complicated because Marquise was my first pick and one of my favorite guys on the team. But Marquise came to me after the season and requested that he be traded and he was not happy and wanted to play elsewhere.”

A surprising development, but rather straight forward. That is until Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took to Twitter, seemingly finding out about all of this at the same time everyone else was. 

If not for the public nature of his reaction, this might not be a story. But with the strange back and forth between the Ravens and Jackson over his contract this offseason, it raises some questions. 

Jackson, without an agent, has largely allowed the Ravens to control the public discourse. And whenever they talk about the prospect of a new contract, they respond by saying it's on him to come to the bargaining table. At times, those responses can be perceived as patronizing.

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So is this a quarterback who is simply surprised by the departure of a teammate, a teammate who clearly knew this trade was coming, or is this the latest example of a strained relationship that could result in Jackson eventually leaving the Ravens?

Further, the Ravens struggled to recruit free agent receivers last year. Now Brown leaves. Is this an indictment of the offense in the eyes of receivers? A commentary on Jackson as a quarterback? Both?

Maybe this is simple and the Bengals simply insert him into the strong safety position in tandem with Jessie Bates III. If they play a true two-high defense, Hill's lack of size is at least mitigated to a point. Nevertheless, he may be more equipped to take on that role in another season with some added strength.

For this season at least, there's no reason to move on from Vonn Bell unless Hill is just that good. They could utilize Hill as a slot safety option or just move him around the defense depending on the situation. He might even play boundary corner in certain situations like in the red zone. With Mike Hilton as the team's slot corner, they could have two effective blitzing options off the edges. Hill is going to eventually become a deep safety, but the presence of Bell should allow them to be creative with Hill, improving the speed and coverage ability of the defense as a whole.

Given the job that Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Amaruno did this past season, Hill could prove to be one of the more dangerous rookies in the 2022 season. He seems more like a defensive weapon than anything else. Certainly, the Bengals got their share of good fortune in the postseason, but they played well defensively and Hill could give them another dynamic playmaker.

Heading into day two of the NFL Draft, the Browns will be in the mix. The fact that only Pickett went day one might further delay a trade for quarterback Baker Mayfield, but they will have their opportunity to add talent of their own, entering the day with selections 44, 78 and 99.