2012 NFL Free Agents: Predicting Each Team's Best Camp Cut
Usually training camp cuts are reserved for players on the fringe of the 53-man roster. They are the individuals that are battling it out for the couple final spots heading into the regular season.
If that is the case, why would I have Shaun Phillips, Brandon Jacobs and Corey Williams on this list? After all, they have been major contributors over the course of the last few seasons.
Certain veterans are unable to live up to their contracts and teams find is necessary to go in another direction. Additionally, young players take the next step and leave veterans on the outside looking in.
This article is going to focus on the best player that could be cut from all 32 NFL teams heading into training camp towards the end of the summer.
Arizona Cardinals: Todd Heap
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Teams with young quarterbacks tend to keep a veteran tight end on the roster to act like a safety valve. This helps out the quarterback and enables the outside to be opened up much more.
I just don't see how Arizona hangs onto Todd Heap past training camp. The former Pro Bowl tight end has regressed a great deal over the course of the last couple seasons and they have some young weapons who need to see the field.
Rob Housler was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft and should see more playing time if he is healthy in 2012. Additionally, Jeff King usually sees himself on the field as the run-blocking tight end.
Atlanta Falcons: Todd McClure
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The Atlanta Falcons did re-sign Todd McClure back in March, but that doesn't mean that he is guaranteed a roster spot. They added Peter Konz, the consensus No. 1 center in the 2012 NFL draft, which could quickly force McClure out of Atlanta.
There remains a chance that the Falcons decide to keep the veteran for a season or two in order for Konz to gain some seasoning.
However, if Konz proves himself healthy and ready to start immediately, it wouldn't be that hard of a decision for this team to make.
Baltimore Ravens: Bryant McKinnie
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I took a look at the Baltimore Ravens roster and current depth chart. In doing so, I just couldn't find many established players that could get walking papers prior to the start of the season in September.
Then I came across Bryant McKinnie.
He performed well last season in Baltimore after the Minnesota Vikings cut the veteran tackle in the offseason due to lack of conditioning and being overweight.
The Ravens selected Jah Reid in the third round of the 2010 draft and then went with another swing player in Kelechi Osemele last month in the second round.
One of those two are likely going to be the starting left guard heading into the season. There does remain a chance that both perform extremely well and could replace McKinnie at the tackle position.
Of course, this would mean that Michael Oher would have to move to the blindside, something that didn't work out all too well in the past.
Buffalo Bills: Leodis McKelvin
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The Buffalo Bills didn't select Stephon Gilmore in the top 10 last month for no reason. He is just too good to sit on the bench or be utilized as a nickel guy as a rookie.
They also retained Terrence McGee in the offseason, who figures to be the starter at the left corner position.
Leodis McKelvin just hasn't lived up to his first-round billing and struggles to stay healthy. He has started a total of 28 games in four seasons.
Buffalo also has young options at the corner position with Aaron Williams, Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks. If McKelvin doesn't show he can start in training camp, you can expect Buffalo to cut him loose.
Carolina Panthers: Thomas Davis
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This is all about injuries. Thomas Davis has had multiple ACL tears over the course of the last few seasons and has seen action in just nine games since the 2008 season.
The Carolina Panthers also selected Luke Kuechly last month in the 2012 NFL draft. If Davis is unable to prove that he is healthy during training camp, there is a strong chance that Carolina shows him the door.
Chicago Bears: Earl Bennett
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One thing that happens when a team upgrades a great deal at a certain position is that holdovers are likely to be thrown further down the depth chart. Another thing that happens is that certain players may lose their job completely.
The Chicago Bears invested two third-round picks on Brandon Marshall and also traded up in the second round to draft Alshon Jeffery.
General manager Phil Emery has also made it clear that they plan to use Devin Hester in more of a receiving role in 2012.
If this is that case, then you can expect Earl Bennett to be a training camp casualty. His receptions and yards numbers have gone down in each of the last two seasons. This despite the fact that Chicago did ask Bennett to play a larger role in the passing game.
Cincinnati Bengals: Nate Clements
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Reports indicate that Leon Hall is recovering much more quickly than anticipated from a November Achilles injury. This doesn't mean that the Cincinnati Bengals' No. 1 corner will be able to return when the 2012 season starts in September.
However, it is a pretty damn good sign at this point.
Couple the fact that Cincinnati went and acquired three cornerbacks in the offseason and you have to wonder just how shaky the ground is that Nate Clements stands on.
Cincinnati added Dre' Kirkpatrick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, while signing both Terence Newman and Jason Allen in free agency.
If the Bengals are happy with Hall's progression in training camp, there remains a possibility that they look to cut one of these veterans.
Clements would be my choice.
Cleveland Browns: Scott Fujita
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This isn't as much about BountyGate is it is about what the Cleveland Browns have done the last couple seasons to upgrade at the linebacker position.
The Browns went out and drafted two linebackers last month in the form of James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho. While neither might not be prepared to start immediately, both bring a lot of athleticism to the defense.
Scott Fujita, who is looking at a four-game suspension, just hasn't been all too great for the Browns over the course of the last two seasons.
I can easily see them going young here and cutting the vet loose.
Dallas Cowboys: Mike Jenkins
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Surely the Dallas Cowboys are going to make every attempt to trade Mike Jenkins before the start of training camp. Jenkins might get some play on the market because his contract is pretty cap friendly for the 2012 season.
Short of a trade happening, I have a hard time believing that Jenkins would be content coming into training camp as the third corner behind Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
Orlando Scandrick is also due about $8 million in 2012, which seems to cement his status as the Cowboys' nickel guy.
There just isn't a ton of room on the roster for Jenkins at this point.
Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno
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Knowshon Moreno has been one of the biggest first-round running back busts in recent draft history. After looking decent as a rookie, the former Georgia standout has struggled a great deal in each of his last two seasons.
There are also indications that Moreno will not be available for the start of training camp due to an ACL injury suffered last year.
The Broncos have Willis McGahee and Lance Ball returning after the two combined for over 1,600 rushing yards in 2011.
They also spent a third-round pick on Ronnie Hillman, who figures into the equation as a rookie in 2012.
The writing is on the wall here.
Detroit Lions: Corey Williams
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The Detroit Lions should be planning to go with Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh as their starting defensive tackles heading into the 2012 season. After all, they spent first-round picks on both of these young defenders.
They also have an emerging Sammie Lee Hill prepared to hold down the fort as their third defensive tackle.
Corey Williams is set to make nearly $6.1 million in the final year of his contract. I can easily envision a scenario in which he gets the boot during training camp.
Green Bay Packers: Donald Driver
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This one has to be hard to Green Bay Packers fans to read, but it seems nearly inevitable at this point. Green Bay has a glut of wide receivers better suited than Donald Driver to make a difference in 2012.
In addition to both Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, the Packers have up-and-coming Randall Cobb ready to play more of a role in the passing game.
Do the Packers really want to pay $5.6 million to a player that translates to being nothing more than a No. 4 wide receiver in 2012? That is the real question here.
Houston Texans: John Beck
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Some might be asking themselves: John Beck? Why would I include him on this list?
A couple things.
First, he is currently the Houston Texans' third-string quarterback. Secondly, he just isn't that good.
With that being said, the Texans made their roster purges earlier in the offseason and really appear set in terms of that.
There does, however, remain a possibility that the Texans decide to go with homegrown product Case Keenum over Beck at the No. 3 quarterback spot.
Indianapolis Colts: Dwight Freeney
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Anyone that thinks the Indianapolis Colts are actually going to trade Dwight Freeney just doesn't understand the complex financial situation of his contract.
The former Pro Bowl defensive end is set to earn over $14 million in base salary next season. Anything short of a restructured contract means that the Colts would have to release Freeney outright.
In short, no team will take on that type of financial obligation.
Does this mean that Freeney is guaranteed a roster spot in 2012? Most likely.
However, there is a possibility that the Colts decide to save that money against the cap and utilize Jerry Hughes opposite Robert Mathis at outside linebacker.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Aaron Kampman
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Aaron Kampman has been a downright failure for the Jacksonville Jaguars since signing a four-year, $24 million contract in 2010.
Most of this has had to do with various injuries and an inability to stay on the field. He has recorded a total of four sacks in just 11 games over the last two seasons.
Jacksonville also drafted Andre Branch, who figures to play a prominent role opposite Jeremy Mincey at left defensive end.
Kansas City Chiefs: Ryan Lilja
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This is all predicated on Jeff Allen stepping up during training camp and proving that he can start as a rookie in 2012.
If that happens, there is a strong chance that the Kansas City Chiefs will let Ryan Lilja go. He struggled a great deal in pass protection last season, consistently allowing defenders to hit the offensive backfield.
With the addition of Eric Winston in free agency and the aforementioned Allen in the draft, it makes sense for Kansas City to cut ties with Lilja and move forward.
Miami Dolphins: Anthony Fasano
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The Miami Dolphins selected Michael Egnew in the third round of the 2012 draft, which makes Anthony Fasano vulnerable of losing a roster spot.
The veteran tight end has failed to reach 40 receptions in each of his four seasons with the Dolphins. If they can upgrade, it makes sense to let Fasano go.
Couple that with the fact that Fasano is set to earn nearly $4.5 million in 2012 and you have the makings of a salary cap casualty.
Minnesota Vikings: Michael Jenkins
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Michael Jenkins came to the Minnesota Vikings last offseason in order to help fill the void left by Sidney Rice, but it just never materialized.
He recorded less than 500 receiving yards in 11 games and consistently struggled to provide a strong presence down the field.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted both Jarius Wright and Greg Childs last month while adding Jerome Simpson in free agency.
At this point, there just doesn't seem to be room on the roster for Jenkins.
New England Patriots: Chad Ochocinco
The New England Patriots have made it a goal to add as many wide receiving threats for Tom Brady in the passing game.
They have brought in Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney.
This indicates a distrust in Chad Ochocinco moving forward. Despite agreeing to a restructured contract earlier, I doubt very much that he makes it out of training camp.
New Orleans Saints: Chris Ivory
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Chris Ivory led the New Orleans Saints with over 700 rushing yards in 2010 and was their major ground threat in the playoffs last season.
This doesn't mean that his roster spot is safe.
The Saints have a crowded backfield with the likes of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram. If all are healthy coming out of training camp, there is a strong possibility that Ivory could be the odd man out.
New York Giants: David Diehl
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This would be a surprising move, but something I could see the New York Giants doing during training camp.
They spent two mid-round picks on the offensive line and have other young options to replace David Diehl, who was a weak link along a mediocre unit.
If either Brandon Mosley or Matt McCants show an ability to play along the interior of the line, there is a possibility that the veteran guard gets a pink slip in August.
New York Jets: Bart Scott
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This could be more about my personal opinion of recent third-round draft pick Demario Davis, who has the looks of a stud linebacker in the National Football League.
However, there have been rumblings that the New York Jets might be looking to trade Bart Scott. His production has slipped over the course of the last two seasons and he isn't getting any younger.
Scott is guaranteed all of his $4.2 million salary in 2012, which complicates a possible release.
Oakland Raiders: Cooper Carlisle
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One of the best under-the-radar signings this offseason was Mike Brisiel going to the Oakland Raiders. He is going to provide a great deal of help in their zone-blocking scheme.
This moved Cooper Carlisle over to the left side, a position that he has never played before.
The Raiders are apparently running an open competition at this position with Carlisle as well as newly drafted Tony Bergstrom. If the rookie from Utah gets the starting job in camp, there is a strong possibility that Carlisle will be shown the door.
Philadelphia Eagles: Darryl Tapp
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One thing that drafting Vinny Curry in the second round of April's draft does is force one of the Philadelphia Eagles' veteran defensive ends off the roster.
Brandon Graham seems like a decent option here, but common sense seems to dictate that the Eagles will give the 2010 first-round pick more than two years to prove he can play.
The next possible option is Darryl Tapp, who really hasn't lived up to potential in either of his two NFL stops, accumulating just eight sacks in the last three seasons.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Trai Essex
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I could care less if the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't willing to anoint David DeCastro as their starting right guard. It is going to happen sooner rather than later.
Once that eventuality becomes clear, then the Steelers are going to have to make a decision on Trai Essex. Do they want to keep No. 79 as a fourth guard? Or are they prepared to cut him loose?
San Diego Chargers: Shaun Phillips
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This might come as a little bit of a surprise. However, training camp cuts can surprise as we have seen in the past.
The San Diego Chargers drafted Melvin Ingram in the first round and signed Jarret Johnson away from the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the offseason.
They now have what appears to be a full outside linebacker group. You also have to wonder if this is a team that is willing to give up on 2009 first-round pick Larry English.
This could be the surprise cut around the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Jacobs
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Brandon Jacobs joined a crowded backfield in San Francisco when he joined Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon with the 49ers.
This was before San Francisco spent a second-round pick on LaMichael James.
They now have five running backs that are capable of seeing the field at any time. While this isn't bad news for the team, it means that one of the backs are looking at a pink slip.
My money is on Anthony Dixon at this point. However, San Francisco hasn't avoided making the vet cut during training camp and won't here if Jacobs shows any regression in training camp.
Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson
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In a perfect world, the Seattle Seahawks would love to keep Tarvaris Jackson as their backup quarterback to recently-signed Matt Flynn.
Well, we don't exist in a perfect world.
Seattle drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and suddenly seem stacked at this position, at least in terms of bodies.
There is a possibility that Pete Carroll and Co. go with Flynn as the starter and a young quarterback in Wilson as the backup.
This would leave Jackson looking for another job.
St. Louis Rams: Steve Smith
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The St. Louis Rams have drafted four wide receivers in the initial four rounds of the last two drafts. They needed to get younger and more talented at this position in order to help out Sam Bradford moving forward.
This is going to leave a couple veterans on the roster fringe.
Despite signing a one-year contract earlier this offseason, Steve Smith is no guarantee to make the team. He needs to show that he is at complete health and can provide a spark off the bench. If not, Smith could see a quick end to his tenure in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kellen Winslow
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Back in February, ESPN indicated that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would free up nearly $5 million in salary cap room by releasing Kellen Winslow.
While a cap hit wouldn't seem to be the primary reason to release Winslow, it could play a role.
Roster logistics is another thing to take into account. The Buccaneers drafted Luke Stocker in the fourth round last season and might be prepared to let him take over the starting role.
Tennessee Titans: Will Witherspoon
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The addition of Zach Brown in the second round of April's draft makes Will Witherspoon expendable here. The veteran linebacker has been pretty good over the course of the last decade, but seems to have regressed during the last two seasons.
If the Titans are prepared to let Brown start out of the gate, it could mean that Witherspoon will be released.
Washington Redskins: Santana Moss
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This has less to do with the Washington Redskins' veteran wide receiver additions and more to do with the fact that they need to start letting youngsters see the field on more of a consistent basis.
Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson cannot progress as receivers if they are riding the pine.
Santana Moss, who is turning 34 next month, saw most of his major statistics drop in half last season. This could have to do with pedestrian quarterback play, but the Redskins just need to move on and turn the page.