NFL free agency 2014: Michael Johnson, Eugene Monroe top potential AFC North targets

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC North could see a lot of change as the likes of Arthur Jones, Emmanuel Sanders and T.J. Ward are set to hit free agency.

The offseason is underway and several talented player are set to join new teams. The free agency period will officially begin on Tuesday and features dozens of players looking for big deals. With the talent set to the market, it is sure to make for an interesting offseason.

The AFC North made a quick exit from the playoff picture after three teams missed the postseason and the Bengals lost in the first round. While the division had a rough time this season, it still has a plethora of talent, with some set to hit free agency. The landscape of the AFC North may continue its youth movement following this offseason.

Below, you can find the top free agents for each team.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals suffered their third-straight first-round loss in the playoffs this past season. Along with the quick defeat, they lost both of their coordinators to different teams so that they could land head coaching jobs. While they have been to the playoffs three-straight times, the Bengals are still a team that is very much in flux but still have plenty of cap space to sign and re-sign players.

DE Michael Johnson

The Bengals franchise tagged Johnson this past season. Although his sack numbers dropped, he was still a very productive player. He actually combined for more quarterback pressures (hits, sacks and hurries) than he did in 2012. He finished the season ranked as the No. 4 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus. He should generate significant interest on the open market. There was some buzz that the Buccaneers could be in the mix.

OT Anthony Collins

He has been a very reliable swing tackle for the Bengals for six seasons and should be able to get a starting job elsewhere. Collins has the ability to play both tackles spots, as well as both guard positions. His versatility and lack of mileage should be very attractive to a team seeking offensive line starters for a cheap price. He could be a solid fit for the Dolphins or Cardinals. The Bucs have also been mentioned as suitors.

WR/KR Brandon Tate

Teams searching for a productive kick returner should look no further. Tate has not been used much as a receiver in his five seasons in the league but is absolutely a play-maker on kick and punt returns. He is not likely to garner a major contract but could see some long-term offers thrown his way.

Other players of note: OT Dennis Roland, S Chris Crocker, CB Brandon Ghee, S Taylor Mays, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Dane Sanzenbacher (RFA)

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Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have several key players set to hit the free agent market and little cap room to re-sign any of them. Baltimore is limited by a lack of salary cap space and may not be major players in free agency. The Ravens were able to strike a deal with Dennis Pitta, but have a few other key pieces set to hit the market.

DE Arthur Jones

The former fifth-round pick has become an extremely productive starter during the last two seasons for Baltimore. He was valuable in their Super Bowl run and was a full-time starter this past season. He posted 8.5 sacks during the last two seasons from the 3-4 defensive end position and has shown to be a very good run defender. He is expected to command a strong salary on the market. The Colts and the Packers have been pointed to as interested teams.

OT Eugene Monroe

The former first-round pick of the Jaguars started 11 games for the Ravens after being acquired in mid-season trade from Jacksonville. Baltimore traded a fourth and fifth-round pick for Monroe and are reportedly interested in re-signing him, but have yet to come to a deal.

Other players of note: NT Terrence Cody, TE Ed Dickson, CB Corey Graham, WR Jacoby Jones, S James Ihedigbo, OT Michael Oher, ILB Daryl Smith, FB Vontae Leach, LB Jameel McClain

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers had one of their toughest seasons in recent memory this season but they still have a ton of talent. Some of that talent is actually set to hit the free agent market, and given the Steelers unwillingness to spend in the past, could be set to play elsewhere next season. The list features quite a few key pieces to their overall roster.

DE Ziggy Hood

The Steelers have used Hood as starter on-and-off for the last several seasons. He is a proficient run stopper with the ability to get after the quarterback. At 26, Hood is still very young and is just entering his prime. He could get a nice offer on the market that sets his price outside of the Steelers' range.

WR Emmanuel Sanders

The former slot receiver proved he can be an outside option as well this season. Sanders is likely to get slot receiver money but his ability to play outside may help his market. He signed a restricted tender with the Patriots last season but the Steelers matched. The Patriots could be in the mix again this year, especially if Julian Edelman departs.

Other players of note: WR Plaxico Burress, S Ryan Clark, RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Jerricho Cotchery, DE Brett Keisel, TE Michael Palmer

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Cleveland Browns

The Browns are coming off another season of little success. Cleveland will move in another direction with new head coach Mike Pettine at the helm and he may want to pass on re-signing some of the players that were brought in by the past regimes. Still, there are not a lot of pending free agents for the young Browns.

S T.J. Ward

The safety is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection and is likely to garner top dollar for his services. A reliable starter throughout his career, Ward avoided the franchise tag and will hit the open market. He is really the team's only major pending free agent on defense and the team still has plenty of cap space. Denver, Detroit and the New York Jets have all been linked to Ward on the rumor mill so far.

G Shawn Lauvao

The guard has been a starter for three seasons and been relatively reliable in that time. He has a lot of experience for a young player and could see a few suitors on the market. Depending on how new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan feels about Lauvao could be a candidate to return after testing the market.

Other players of note: RB Willis McGahee, OT Oniel Cousins, LB Craig Robertson (RFA)

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