Joe Flacco A look at some of the top story lines in the AFC North as the NFL free agency period looms on the horizon:

Baltimore - The Ravens made quarterback Joe Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, signing him to a six-year, $120 million contract. The move was seen by many as not only the right thing to do, but also necessary.

The problem for the Ravens is that they still have several free agents to re-sign, most notably Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, and Dannell Ellerbe among others. Not to mention that veteran center Matt Birk recently announced his retirement.

In the end, this move may end up panning out much like Peyton Manning's deal in Indy in 2004. For now, it would seem the Ravens have too many question marks to address on their roster.


Cincinnati - Bengals' middle linebacker Rey Maualuga becomes a free agent this year, and re-signing the fourth-year veteran from USC must be seen as a priority for the franchise. It seems funny to say that Maualuga was second on the team in tackles in 2012 with 122. What isn’t funny is his importance to Cincinnati’s defense.

The Bengals also need to address issues in the secondary, and there are some interesting names available in the free agent market. At the end of the day, though, they may just look to the Draft to address this issue.


Cleveland - The Browns have been linked to several high-profile wide receiver free agents, including Mike Wallace of Pittsburgh and Kansas City's Steve Breaston. The Browns' interest in the aforementioned individuals appears to be cursory at best, as reports have now surfaced they are looking to land a top-flight tight end.

Of course, this is coming from an organization that passed on both Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, and the former even came with a very high recommendation from former Browns' great, Bernie Kosar.


Pittsburgh - The Steelers, willing to let Mike Wallace shop the free agent market, have apparently found his replacement already. Kansas City's Steve Breaston is the top candidate to replace Wallace, and what he may lack in speed he makes up for in route running ability. In addition, it also seems apparent the black and gold feel that Antonio Brown is a more explosive wide out anyway.