With Week 16 in the books, the Bengals and Ravens have officially clinched playoff spots with wins over the Patriots and Falcons, respectively. But the division is still up for grabs as Cincinnati leads, with Baltimore right behind them in the standings. The Browns were in the playoffs after beating the Ravens in Week 15, but a Christmas Eve loss to the Saints officially eliminated them. However, the Steelers bounced back on Christmas Day to beat the Raiders and remain in the hunt at 7–8.
Regardless of who ends up punching a ticket to the playoffs this year, all four teams in the AFC North will have some decisions to make for free. Let’s take a look at the 2023 class for each team and how much cap space it has to work with:
Note: All salary cap figures used are according to Spotrac and are subject to change after publication.
What you should know: Veteran safety Vonn Bell should be a priority for one of the youngest teams in the NFL, along with key defensive components like Eli Apple and Germaine Pratt. The Bengals will also have decisions to make on Hayden Hurst and Samaje Perine, both of whom have stepped into unexpected roles for the offense this year.
2022 cap space status: $2,145,100
2023 cap space status: $48,884,776
2023 free agents: Jessie Bates, S; Vonn Bell, S; Hayden Hurst, TE; Eli Apple, CB; Three flowers, CB; Samaje Perine, RB; Drew Sample, TE; Clark Harris, LS; Max Scharping, RG; Brandon Allen, QB; Trent Taylor, WR; Michael Thomas, S; Jalen Davis, CB; Germaine Pratt, LB; Trayveon Williams, RB; Joe Bachie, LB; Clay Johnston, LB; Mitchell Wilcox, TE; Cal Adomitis, LS; Elijah Holyfield, RB
BREER: Von Bell and the Practice Drill That Kept the Bengals’ Home Field Advantage.
What you should know: Second to last in the league for 2022 cap space (but in the top ten for ’23), the Ravens have a big decision looming as franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Add in a knee injury that has kept him out in three straight games, and it gets more complicated.
2022 cap space status: $681,359
2023 cap space status: $43,986,785
2023 free agents: Marcus Peters, CB; Roquan Smith, LB; Justin Houston, DL; Kyle Fuller, CB; Lamar Jackson, QB; Ju’wuan James, LT; Sammy Watkins, WR; Jason Pierre-Paul, DL; Josh Bynes, LB; Steven Means, DL; Brent Urban, DL; DeSean Jackson, WR; Josh Oliver, TE; Vince Biegel, LB; Daryl Worley, CB; Kenyan Drake, RB; Demarcus Robinson, WR; Kevon Seymour, CB; Trystan Colon-Castillo,C; Christian Welch, LB; Geno Stone, S; Tyler Huntley, QB; Del’Shawn Phillips, LB; Nick Moore, LS; Justice Hill, RB; Ben Powers, LG
What you should know: The Steelers sit just below the league average for 2022 cap space ($4,993,577), one of 21 teams currently below that. Most of Pittsburgh’s focus should be on defensive free agents, such as Terrell Edmunds and Larry Ogunjobi.
2022 cap space status: $4,755,518
2023 cap space status: $13,275,957
2023 free agents: Larry Ogunjobi, DL; Mason Rudolph, QB; Devin Bush, LB; Cameron Sutton, CB; Chris Wormley, DL; Derek Watt, FB; Jesse Davis, RT; Tyson Alualu, DL; Marcus Allen, LB; Robert Spillane, LB; Terrell Edmunds, S; Malik Reed, DL; Damontae Kazee, S; Trenton Scott, RT; Jeremy McNichols, RB; Josh Jackson, CB; Anthony Miller, WR; Karl Joseph, S; JC Hassenauer, C; Steven Sims, WR; Miles Boykin, WR; Jamir Jones, DL; Christian Kuntz, LS; Benjamin Snell Jr., RB; James Pierre, CB; Zach Gentry, TE
BREER: Kenny Pickett on the good and bad of his rookie season.
What you should know: The Browns currently rank first in the league for 2022 cap space, but their projected spot drops significantly when looking toward ’23, when they sit just above the bottom 10 teams in the league. Most of the Browns’ key pieces (Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb, etc.) are locked in, so there aren’t many looming questions for them. Still, they will prioritize keeping a strong offensive line, and center Ethan Pocic is a big part of that.
2022 cap space status: $32,001,806
2023 cap space status: $3,767,210
2023 free agents: Deion Jones, LB; Jadeveon Clowney, DL; Jack Conklin, RT; Kareem Hunt, RB; Jacoby Brissett, QB; Anthony Walker Jr., LB; Taven Bryan, DL; Chris Hubbard, LT; Greedy Williams, CB; Ronnie Harrison, S; D’Ernest Johnson, RB; Stephen Weatherly, DL; Ethan Pocic, C; Jesse James, TE; Greg Mancz, C; Pharaoh Brown, TE; Reggie Ragland, LB; Jermaine Carter Jr., LB; Jordan Kunaszyk, LB; Chase Winovich, DL; Sione Takitaki, LB; Michael Dunn, LG; Hjalte Froholdt, RG; Chris Odom, DL; Thomas Graham Jr., CB; AJ Green, CB; Ben Stille, DL