The start of training camp is now just days away for teams across the NFL, with preseason and the regular season not far down the line. While there are some potential acquisitions that could still take place, most major moves have already transpired in free agency and the draft.
Therefore, we have a good idea of what the AFC North teams’ rosters will look like in 2022. Let’s break down where each position group stacks up within the division, continuing with the tight end rooms.
1) Baltimore Ravens
Projected starter: Mark Andrews
Depth: Nick Boyle, Charlie Kolar, Isaiah Likely, Patrick Ricard*
After earning a first-team All-Pro selection in 2021, Mark Andrews has a strong case as the NFL’s best tight end. Despite catching passes from three different quarterbacks, Andrews reeled in 107 receptions for 1,361 receiving yards and nine scores.
Behind Andrews, the Ravens have assembled maybe the deepest tight end room in the league. They drafted a pair of fourth-round picks at the position in Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, and still have Nick Boyle in-house returning to full health.
Patrick Ricard is included as well as a fullback/tight end hybrid. Ricard is one of the few top-tier fullbacks in the NFL but is also an underrated pass-catching option.
2) Cleveland Browns
Projected starter: David Njoku
Depth: Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall, Marcus Santos-Silvia
The Browns moved on from their short-lived Austin Hooper experiment this offseason and committed to David Njoku, who they gave a handsome four-year contract extension. Njoku’s production to this point does not match his new salary, but he’s talented enough to make a jump in a featured pass-catching role.
Behind him is rising third-year player Harrison Bryant. Bryant, a former fourth-round pick, has 471 receiving yards and six touchdowns in two seasons. His usage figures to increase now as the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart, so he too could see an uptick in statistics.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected starter: Pat Freiermuth
Depth: Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Connor Heyward
As a rookie, Pat Freiermuth started nine games for the Steelers. His offensive role became more consistent as the season progressed and he wound up totaling just under 500 receiving yards with 60 receptions. He proved himself as a red zone threat with seven touchdowns.
Much of Freiermuth’s production was short-yardage but the Steelers’ downfield passing attack was limited as a whole. The Penn State product could make significant strides in his sophomore season. The 6-foot-8 Zach Gentry is now the primary backup, and the Steelers also drafted Connor Heyward, younger brother of defensive tackle Cam Heyward.
4) Cincinnati Bengals
Projected starter: Hayden Hurst
Depth: Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox, Thaddeus Moss
The Bengals did not re-sign veteran C.J. Uzomah this offseason, who played an important role during their postseason run last season. They replaced him with a familiar AFC North face in Hayden Hurst.
Hurst is a good enough pass-catcher and blocker to be an adequate replacement for Uzomah in the Bengals’ offense. He had 571 receiving yards with six scores in 2020 but his production was slashed in half last season after the Atlanta Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts.
After Hurst, the Bengals still have former second-round pick Drew Sample, who is now entering his fourth season. Sample has yet to really establish himself as a consistent producer for Cincinnati.
What are your thoughts on this order? Share your own below and join in on the conversation in the comments!