Predicting Every NFL Team's Hardest Preseason Roster Decision

Dan Van WieContributor IIIAugust 8, 2012

Predicting Every NFL Team's Hardest Preseason Roster Decision

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    We are only weeks away from NFL training camps winding down, and teams will be required to make their final rounds of cuts when they announce who has made the final active roster.

    We enjoy looking ahead and trying to predict which players are going to be in some degree of potential danger at making the roster. The last round of cuts is always the most difficult for the head coaches, because those players were so close to making the team.

    Our mission today is to predict the hardest roster decision for every NFL team.

    There are a number of things that could have an impact on the players we are raising in this presentation. Injuries could easily change the depth chart, as could teams signing new free agents or picking somebody up off of waivers. Trades that could impact the final roster decisions.

    It will be interesting to see how many of the players we nominate here actually make their team's final active roster and which ones wind up getting the pink slip.

Arizona Cardinals

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    The Arizona Cardinals' hardest roster decision will be whether or not they should keep tight end Todd Heap.

    The Cardinals love how Rob Housler has been progressing at tight end, and he could wind up being the No. 2 receiver in Arizona this year.

    So where does that leave Heap?

    In his debut with the Cardinals in 2011, Heap put up anemic numbers: 24 receptions for 283 yards and one touchdown. Heap was scheduled to earn $2.15 million this year, but he recently agreed to cut his salary down to $1.15 million, according to this tweet from Adam Caplan:

    Cardinals TE Todd Heap recently took a cut in pay; down from $2.15 M to $1.15 M for 2012 (final yr on contract), source confirmed.

    — Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 4, 2012

    While that decision might have saved Heap's job, it might not be enough if he doesn't pick up his personal production.

    With the way that Kevin Kolb looked in the preseason opener, tight ends will be serving as an insurance blanket, and Heap will need to come up with a strong showing over the preseason games, or he could be gone.

Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons' hardest roster decision will be what to do with guard Garrett Reynolds.

    Reynolds was a starter in Atlanta in 2011, but his level of play could best be described as disappointing. He was benched in favor of Joe Hawley last year.

    The writing was on Reynolds' wall when the Falcons invested the No. 55 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft in Peter Konz, the stellar lineman from Wisconsin.

    While the jury is still out on how Reynolds can perform in 2012, the Falcons need to figure out if Reynolds is worth the roster spot or not. He is not a financial liability, as he is only scheduled to earn $565,000 this year, which is the final year of his existing contract with the team.

    If the Falcons' final guards project to be Konz, Justin Blalock and Mike Johnson, would they still keep Reynolds on the roster?

     

Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens' hardest roster decision will be the roster spot of left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

    McKinnie was a starter in Baltimore in 2011, but he has issues with putting on extra weight and then has trouble staying in shape as a result.

    The Ravens have Michael Oher to plug into the spot, and they drafted Kelechi Osemele to make an impact on the offensive line as well. Remember that the Ravens lost Ben Grubbs to the New Orleans Saints in free agency, so their offensive line is already hurting from that departure.

    A Chris Korman article in The Baltimore Sun details some of McKinnie's financial woes coming into the 2012 season:

    Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie will have 50 percent of his eligible wages garnished this season, according to a settlement he reached with Pro Player Funding.

    McKinnie owes the New York-based company more than $4.5 million for loans he took out to cover costs during the NFL lockout last year.

    According to the NFL players association, McKinnie is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.2 million this season. Court documents show he was eligible for a $1.5-million performance bonus on March 15 and a roster bonus of $500,000 on March 17. Both were garnished, but it is unclear exactly how much money Pro Player Funding will recover.

    On the surface, you might think that with this kind of financial motivation would push McKinnie to have a better year until he comes to terms with Pro Player Funding and erases his debt.

    However, based on the spotty play from last year, the weight struggles and now the added stress of his financial woes, maybe the Ravens will decide to go with their younger players and let McKinnie be a headache for some other team.

Buffalo Bills

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    The Buffalo Bills' hardest roster decision will be who to keep on the defensive line.

    The Bills simply have too many quality players and not enough roster spots.

    The defensive line right now at training camp boasts Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Chris Kelsay, Shawne Merriman, Spencer Johnson, Dwan Edwards, Torell Troup, Alex Carrington, Kellen Heard, Jay Ross, Robert Eddins, Danny Batten, Sean Ferguson, Kyle Moore and Jarron Gilbert.

    The final roster cuts could include a player such as Johnson, Edwards, Troup or Carrington. The Bills could also attempt to trade their extra defensive linemen.

    Having some extra salary-cap flexibility to add players due to future injuries could be a major factor in the final decision. With that being the case, Edwards is set to earn $3.65 million this year, in the final year of his contract.

    That is a lot of money to be paying somebody who probably won't be getting that many snaps.

Carolina Panthers

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    The Carolina Panthers' hardest roster decision will involve what to do with kicker Olindo Mare.

    Mare is the veteran returning kicker, but he hasn't exactly been lighting it up in training camp.

    According to a story in the Charlotte Observer by Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones, Mare only connected on half of his kicks at training camp this past Saturday, and the Panthers fans in attendance started booing him when his kick from 50 yards out fell short of the uprights.

    Tough crowd.

    The Panthers have a battle on their hands after signing Justin Medlock to a three-year contract in the offseason. Medlock was previously kicking in the CFL, and he has been outperforming Mare at camp.

    As tight as so many NFL games are, when it comes down to a last-second field-goal attempt, you want to have complete confidence and faith in your kicker.

    I'm not positive that would be the best description for Mare right now.

Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears' hardest roster decision will be what to do with offensive lineman Chris Williams.

    Williams is entering the final year of his contract, which calls for him to earn $1 million plus another $284,750 for a workout bonus.

    The problem is that Williams was a first-round pick for the Bears in 2008, but he's now coming into his fifth season in the league and isn't good enough to be a starter for the team. He has lost out on a starting job to J'Marcus Webb, so right now he is being viewed as a reserve lineman in Chicago.

    One has to wonder how happy Williams will be sitting on the bench during his contract season.

    Chicago will have to decide if they want him to be ready to plug in if somebody goes down or performs poorly, or they might want to trade him to a team that is desperate for a veteran lineman.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals' hardest roster decision will be what they do with undrafted rookie free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

    Coming into the 2011 season, Burfict was thought to be anywhere from a first- to second-round draft pick. But as the 2011 season rolled on, Burfict's stock plummeted due to his performance on the field and questionable decisions that led to many unsportsmanlike penalties and off-the-field issues.

    As a result, Burfict slid completely out of the draft.

    By not having to burn a draft pick on him, the Bengals figured that they had little to lose by bringing in the UDFA in for a closer look.

    Fast-forward to the Bengals' preparation for their opening preseason game, and the word now is that Burfict's stock is growing by the week. Burfict might be in a position to leapfrog Roddrick Muckelroy as the backup at middle linebacker.

    The following is from an article by Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com:

    Remember him?

    He came into the spring camps like Public Enemy No. 1 and simply left as No. 55 with a shot at making the team.

    Burfict signed as this year's most celebrated undrafted free agent with a lot of baggage when it came to fundamentals and maturity, but after a maze of interviews that first day, he went about his business and impressed the club with how he learned the playbook and got in the right place.

    He's big (250 pounds) and provides an interesting, if not distant scenario, if the Bengals can get him, Maualuga and Thomas Howard on the field at the same time. But first, Burfict has to make the team, and his roster battle with guys like 2010 fourth-rounder Roddrick Muckelroy is going to be a camp highlight.

    That presents the Bengals with an interesting decision. How much can they trust Burfict to be a stand-up player this year and stay out of trouble and not cause any distractions?

    Or would it be smarter for the Bengals to put Burfict on the practice squad and prove over the 2012 season that he has matured and deserves a roster spot in 2013?

Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns' hardest roster decision will be what to with quarterback Colt McCoy.

    The Browns finally made the much-anticipated call to go with rookie Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback for the 2012 season, leaving incumbent Colt McCoy to ponder the backup role or possibly request a trade where he could have a better chance at winning a starting job again.

    Will the Browns opt to retain the disappointed McCoy to serve as the backup and mentor to Weeden, or will they allow him to leave the team either by way of a trade or an outright release?

    One tweet addressed the issue, this coming from ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi:

    @mskog: What is the dumbest thing Brown fans will freak out about this training camp?”//12's release.

    — Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) July 25, 2012

    For now, McCoy has not made a formal trade request to the Browns front office. After the dust has settled, that might be exactly what McCoy wants to do. But for now, he is playing the role of a good soldier and keeping his feelings or frustrations to himself.

    What do Browns fans think the team should do with McCoy?

Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys' hardest roster decision will be which players to cut from the front seven on defense.

    It looks like Dallas has been amassing some quality players in the front seven. They have a good-looking group of defensive ends at camp in Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore and Rob Callaway.

    As for the linebackers, you have DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer, Bruce Carter, Orie Lemon and Alex Albright.

    That probably leaves players like Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Ben Bass on the outside looking in. If any major injuries hit the front seven in training camp, the Cowboys have some players they can turn to.

    If they emerge intact, then maybe Jerry Jones can spin one of these extra players into a draft pick.

Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos' hardest roster decision will be regarding running back Knowshon Moreno.

    For now, Moreno is only a fourth-string back early in the Broncos training camp. The players that have the best chance to take snaps away from Moreno are Willis McGahee, Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman.

    To make matters worse, Moreno is also competing with Jeremiah Johnson and Xavier Omon for a job. Just imagine how bad things would be for Moreno if Mario Fannin didn't have his Achilles tendon injury?

    As it is, I think the deck is stacked against Moreno, and the former starter could be released before the season begins.

Detroit Lions

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    The Detroit Lions' hardest roster decision will be which running backs to rely on and who they should part company with.

    Whatever problems the Detroit Lions have encountered with their running game haven't gone away. They had a full offseason to find a solution, but for whatever reason, they have decided to stick with the same cast of characters. So they enter 2012 with no clear answers at running back.

    The running laundry list of troubles include injuries to Kevin Smith, the concussions that trouble Jahvid Best and the suspensions looming for Mikel Leshoure, who hasn't been practicing due to hamstring issues.

    Will the Lions cut bait with any of these backs and sign a veteran that is at least healthy and able to play?

    Cedric Benson, for example, is still available as a free agent, but it is only a matter of time before he signs with another team.

Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers' hardest roster decision will be defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

    As a general rule of thumb, the Packers are a deep enough team that they really don't have that many major issues at training camp. Some might question that statement when you consider that the Packers ranked dead last in overall team defense in 2011.

    It wasn't that much of a surprise that the Packers focused on their defense early and often in the 2012 draft.

    The Packers signed free agent Anthony Hargrove to shore up the defensive end position and help out on pass rush. Hargrove, of course, was later implicated in the New Orleans Saints bounty-hunting scandal, and he will be forced to sit out his suspension unless their is some strange reversal from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. 

    The Packers won't have to worry about making a roster decision immediately due to the suspension that will keep Hargrove off the field to begin the year. However, once his suspension has been served, the Packers will have to waive an existing player for him to have a roster spot.

    That is when things will get interesting.

    Do the Packers think Hargrove is better than one of their other existing 53 men on the active roster?

    As it is, the Packers have to find alternatives to plug in while Hargrove is gone. A strong possibility could be rookie Jerel Worthy, the defensive lineman from Michigan State.

    If Worthy has a strong enough showing, the Packers could let Hargrove walk.

Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans' hardest roster decision will be what they do with wide receiver Bryant Johnson.

    Johnson played all year for the Texans in 2011, but his personal production wasn't very impressive (six receptions for 90 yards for the entire year is certainly not very impressive).

    Now in 2012, the Texans have to decide if they want to keep a player that knows the offense in Johnson or give his roster spot to either Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey.

    At this stage, it would be a surprise if Johnson made the final roster.

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Indianapolis Colts' hardest roster decision will be what to do with running back Delone Carter.

    Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com wrote an article looking at the Colts current depth chart. Kuharsky wrote the following: "Veteran Mewelde Moore is listed as the No. 2 running back behind Donald Brown, with rookie Vick Ballard third and Delone Carter fourth."

    If Carter is indeed going to be the fourth-string running back, there doesn't appear to be much need for him on the roster. Between the trio of Brown, Ballard and Moore, all three of them weigh between 209-217 pounds, whereas Carter weighs 238.

    If there is enough of a need for Carter to have touches as the big back in Indianapolis, that is one thing.

    But with the prospect of Andrew Luck and his mobility and dual rookie tight ends, the question remains: How often will they really need Carter?

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars' hardest roster decision will be wide receiver Mike Thomas.

    Thomas might have seen his life as a Jaguars player flash before his eyes when he learned that Jacksonville listed Cecil Shorts ahead of him on the depth chart.

    The Jaguars now have a wide receiving corps of first-round pick Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Lee Evans and Cecil Shorts. That might make Thomas expendable, especially when you considered that the team just signed him to a new deal in 2011. That deal was for $18 million, of which $9 million was guaranteed.

    Jacksonville could pick up some other quality players for the amount of money that they are giving Thomas.

    Also, you have to question how well Blaine Gabbert will be able to get the ball to his wide receivers, as he obviously had a rough rookie year in 2011. If Gabbert struggles again, the depth of the wide receivers becomes a moot point.

    The money going to Thomas could be used as part of a new contract for Maurice Jones-Drew, for example.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Kansas City Chiefs' hardest roster decision will be what to do with Ricky Stanzi if he can't beat out Brady Quinn as backup quarterback.

    The jury is still out on Ricky Stanzi.

    Granted, the 2011 training camp was an abbreviated one, and Stanzi didn't get enough coaching to really impress the Chiefs' coaching staff as a rookie.

    I am sure more than a few Chiefs fans were concerned when Matt Cassel went down last year and the staff turned to Tyler Palko to take over at quarterback. If you watched Palko play last year, you would know what I am talking about.

    Fast-forward to 2012, and now Stanzi has been able to be coached all offseason with the Chiefs staff. But once again, Stanzi finds himself firmly behind another quarterback—this time, Brady Quinn—and Stanzi is looking at third-string status again in 2012.

    With so many rookie quarterbacks getting the chance to start in 2011 and now again in 2012, you have to think that Stanzi's stock is plummeting.

    Maybe the exhibition season will provide Stanzi with a chance to change some minds about where he is with his game.

Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins' hardest roster decision will be what to do with their four running backs: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Steve Slaton and Lamar Miller.

    The thought is that Miller might be in the best position to take over as the starting running back in 2013 if Bush leaves in free agency. But how many touches can you give him this year to keep him and the other backs happy?

    While we may have to wait for the initial episodes of HBO's Hard Knocks before we get an inside look at Miami Dolphins practices, there are a number of offensive positions that have major question marks.

    Who is going to be the starting quarterback, and what happens to the backup while the Dolphins continue to coach up Ryan Tannehill, getting him ready for his eventual first start? Who takes over for Reggie Bush next year if he leaves in free agency after 2012? When will the Dolphins be able to roster a true No. 1 wide receiver again?

    All of these are fair questions to ask, and some of these topics will have an influence on which players are kept in 2012.

Minnesota Vikings

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    The Minnesota Vikings' hardest roster decision will be what to do with wide receiver Michael Jenkins.

    Minnesota isn't blessed with the greatest wide receiving corps in the NFL, so it is vital for the receivers that are on the team to step up and take their game to a higher level.

    That might be difficult for Jenkins to do.

    As per this tweet by Tom Pelissero of ESPNTwinCities.com, there is concern about Jenkins at camp:

    Frazier said the #Vikings still need to see Michael Jenkins "come along physically" through the preseason. Not exactly a vote of conifdence.

    — Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 6, 2012

    In 2011, Jenkins was the third-leading receiver in Minnesota, catching 38 passes for 466 yards, three touchdowns and an average of 12.3 yards per reception. That is just an average season—nothing very special about those numbers.

    However, the Vikings are paying Jenkins to perform much better than that. His current contract calls for him to earn a base salary of $2.5 million this year.

    Jenkins needs to produce more to earn that kind of paycheck.

    His roster spot might have been saved due to the season-ending injury to Greg Childs and the suspension of Jerome Simpson for the first three games of the year.

New Engand Patriots

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    The New England Patriots' hardest roster decision will be whether to keep Julian Edelman on the roster.

    The New England Patriots seemed to be picking up a well-known veteran free agent every other day in the offseason, but as we entered the last week of July and the start of training camp, one by one, those veterans have either retired or been released (Robert Gallery, Joseph Addai and Tony Fiammetta come to mind).

    But some of the veterans they signed are still with the team, and two of them in particular—Donte' Stallworth and Brandon Lloyd—are making things very uncomfortable for Julian Edelman.

    Edelman, of course, was used all over the football field by Bill Belichick in 2011. He played wide receiver and cornerback and was involved in special teams as well.

    But all of that versatility will not matter if he can't beat out the host of wide receivers now on the team.

    According to this tweet by Greg A. Bedard, Edelman may be in danger:

    IMO, he's squarely on the bubble RT @hannable84: Do you think Edelman will strictly be a WR/ST'er this year? Anymore defense?

    — Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) July 25, 2012

New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints' hardest roster decision will be to keep undrafted rookie free-agent Travaris Cadet.

    For those of you that were too engrossed in the Olympics this week and missed the New Orleans Saints' exhibition opener against the Arizona Cardinals, you would have missed a stellar debut by UDFA running back/wide receiver Travaris Cadet.

    Cadet caught eight passes for 80 yards and scored a touchdown. If the Saints decide to keep him—he would offer a major financial windfall to the Saints due to being an undrafted rookie free agent—then his roster spot will be at the expense of a veteran player like Chris Ivory.

    While Ivory has never been a Pro Bowl back, he is still a nice player to have on the roster for depth purposes. So the Saints will have to keep a close eye on what Cadet does over the next few preseason games to determine if he is the real deal or just a flash in the pan.

    One thing is certain: If he can find a way to get open, Drew Brees will get him the ball.

    You might recall that New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz also went the same course as a UDFA and shined in the preseason.

    You just never know.

New York Giants

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    The New York Giants' hardest roster decision will be what to do with cornerback Terrell Thomas.

    Terrell Thomas is a talented cornerback, but he is having a very difficult time staying away from the injury bug. The Giants have to be worried about the frequency with which Thomas injures his ACL.

    It happened in college and now twice in the NFL.

    Making things tougher, the timetable for his recovery seems like a moving target. First, he was going to be gone for the year, and now it is possible he could only be out for three to five weeks, per an article by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger.

    The other main thought is that if your final roster spot comes down to Thomas or another skilled player that is still healthy, do you go with the healthy player or take a chance on Thomas, knowing that he could very easily get hurt again and miss the entire season?

New York Jets

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    The New York Jets' hardest roster decision will be what they do with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Or tackle Wayne Hunter; take your pick.

    As for Kerley, an article by Brian Costello of the New York Post suggests that he has worked his way solidly into the doghouse by having a bad training camp.

    With the problems that the Jets are having at finding dependable wide receivers that can stay healthy, they really didn't need Kerley to turn up so bad.

    On the other hand, the Jets demonstrated how concerned they were about Hunter's play when they attempted to trade for Jeff Otah, but they had to return Otah to the Carolina Panthers when he failed his physical. Otah would have been a stretch as it was, but that tells you how far Hunter has fallen in the Jets' estimation.

    They will have some hard decisions to make on both of these players.

     



Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders' hardest roster decision will be to determine what to do with corner Shawntae Spencer.

    Spencer has plenty of experience as a starting corner with the San Francisco 49ers, but he lost his starting job in 2011, and now the Raiders are apparently seeing first-hand why he lost his job.

    The word according to a tweet by Vic Tafur is:

    It’s early … really early but Shawntae Spencer may be a concern for coaches. Former 49ers cornerback is letting WRs do whatever they want

    — Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 3, 2012

    Letting wide receivers do whatever they want is a very good way to get a quick exit off the team. If that was what Spencer did in San Francisco last year, no wonder they took his starting job away.

    If things continue like this in Oakland, the Raiders will have no choice but to release him.

    Oakland has been hurting due to losing starters like Stanford Routt and Nnamdi Asomugha in the past two years. So they attempted to bridge the gap by bringing in Spencer, only to determine that this could turn into a big mistake.

    It could be a long year in the Oakland secondary, so we will see how things turn out.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Philadelphia Eagles' hardest roster decision will be whether or not to keep defensive tackle Antonio Dixon.

    A story by Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News expresses doubt about how good of a fit Dixon might be in the unique Eagles defensive scheme.

    The word is that Dixon is better at stopping the run than rushing the passer, but Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Washburn prefers a stronger pass-rusher. 

    The Eagles do have some depth with Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox, so if Dixon winds up being released late in camp, you know that the Eagles decided they had enough depth to live without him.

     


Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers' hardest roster decision will be to determine if they keep Max Starks or release him.

    The Steelers have been going through a transition in the past several years. They have been gradually removing their older players on both sides of the line of scrimmage and replacing them with much younger versions.

    That pattern continued in the 2012 offseason when Pittsburgh drafted Mike Adams from Ohio State to come in as a left tackle. Adams will be expected to replace Max Starks in the starting lineup, so we will see if Adams is in over his head or not.

    As for Starks, he is dealing with knee issues and might not be ready for Week 1. If that is the case, Pittsburgh can put him on the PUP list and see how his health is progressing.

    If Adams is at least holding his own, then one option would be for the Steelers to send Starks packing.

San Diego Chargers

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    The San Diego Chargers' hardest roster decision will be regarding running back Ronnie Brown.

    The Chargers already have a talented backfield with Ryan Mathews, Jacob Hester and Le'Ron McClain.

    The addition of Ronnie Brown seemed to be a head-scratcher because Brown has seen his career go into a state of free-fall. His value continues to plummet.

    To illustrate how bad it is, Brown's average rush in the past three years has gone from a respectable 4.4 yards per carry in 2009 to 3.7 yards per rush in 2010 and then an anemic 3.2 yards per rush in 2011.

    It would not surprise me in the least if Brown doesn't survive the month of August and the Chargers finally come to the conclusion that he has nothing left in the tank.

     

     


San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers' hardest roster decision will be if they plan to keep Kyle Williams.

    Williams, of course, is the special teams player that watched in horror as the ball bounced off of him on a punt return in last season's NFC Championship Game. The New York Giants recovered to get a key turnover and eventually win the game.

    Williams is now facing steep competition on special teams from Ted Ginn, LaMichael James, Perrish Cox and Delanie Walker.

    Then there is all of the new competition at wide receiver with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham being added to the mix, along with rookie A.J. Jenkins.

    Williams would like to have an opportunity to make amends for his mistake in the 2012 season, but he might not be able to survive the final cuts.

Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks' hardest roster decision will be figuring out which wide receiver loses his job due to the Terrell Owens deal.

    At least one "team insider" tells Pro Football Weekly that the Seahawks remain skeptical of third-year WR Golden Tate despite a strong camp (h/t Rotoworld):

    The T.O. signing is believed to be related more to Sidney Rice's health than Tate's practice play, but the jury remains out.

    "It’s hard to say with him," the insider said. "Just when you’re ready to anoint him, Tate backslides. He’s a heck of an athlete, but he still needs to work on refining his skills."

    Coach Pete Carroll recently insisted the club is "thrilled" with Tate and he "plays just like a starter." Forced to guess, we'd still project Tate and Owens as Seattle's Week 1 starters at wide receiver.

    From a Seahawks perspective, the organization's continued exploration of the receiver scrapheap doesn't bode well for Tate or Ben Obomanu.

St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams' hardest roster decision will be what to do with rookie corner Trumaine Johnson.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher has a large number of young and very impressionable players on the Rams roster.

    The team has watched as third-round pick Trumaine Johnson has gotten off to a less-than-stellar start to his pro career, as he missed opening day at camp because he slept through his alarm.

    He had some off-the-field issues in 2011 that led to an arrest, so with each red flag, Johnson is running the risk that Fisher might want to use him as an example for the rest of the team and give him his walking papers.

    Sometimes, you just need to send one message very loudly and clearly for the rest of the team to understand how they have to act and behave.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hardest roster decision will be whether or not to keep Dallas Clark on the roster.

    It is not surprising that new head coach Greg Schiano would go out of his way to bring in a player like Dallas Clark to his young Bucs team.

    Clark is entering his 10th NFL season, so he has been around the block more than once. Clark, no doubt, is being viewed as a guy for players to turn to and see how he goes about his business, how he prepares himself and how he helps players in the locker room.

    The Bucs are paying Clark $2.7 million this year to basically take over at tight end for Kellen Winslow, who has left the team.

    Clark, by the way, only played in 17 games over the last two seasons. He is now 33 years old, so there is reason to question how fruitful a player he can be this year.

    Those are the reasons he was probably signed.

    What about the way he will perform between the white lines? In 2011, observers felt that Clark was really off his game. He was hurt; he dropped passes and was, by and large, ineffective. His totals weren't very impressive either, notching 34 catches for 352 yards, two touchdowns and an average of 12.4 yards per catch.

    Whether or not Clark survives the final cut remains to be seen.

    But if Schiano and Josh Freeman need to turn to the tight end position for production this year, I am not convinced that Clark is the player you want to turn to anymore.

Tennessee Titans

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    The Tennessee Titans' hardest roster decision will be whether or not to risk Dave Ball's health by keeping him on the roster.

    Defensive end Dave Ball has suffered from multiple concussions since the 2010 season, so there was some concern about bringing him back in 2012. The Titans ultimately decided to bring him back, and in training camp, Ball suffered another concussion.

    The contract that Ball signed was for $1.2 million, so he is reasonably affordable. But the bigger issue is his health.

    If he continues to get concussions, the Titans are really rolling the dice with his long-term health.

    We have seen what concussions can lead to, so it would be a surprise if the Titans don't excuse Ball or have him sit out an extended amount of time to get his health back in order.

     


Washington Redskins

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    The Washington Redskins' hardest roster decision will be what to do with tight end Chris Cooley.

    Cooley has been a great player for the Washington Redskins over the years, but you would really need to have your head buried in the sand to ignore that his production has been going downhill.

    In the 2011 season, Cooley was ranked as the No. 14 receiver on the Redskins. He managed only eight receptions for 65 yards and no touchdowns, averaging just 8.1 yards per catch.

    Nobody is doubting that Cooley can't be a good leader or is good for the locker room, but we are talking about a player that is set to earn $3.8 million in 2012.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has turned up the heat on Washington's room to operate under the salary cap this year and next with the fine he levied upon Daniel Snyder.

    And the Redskins really aren't in a position to carry many veterans that are earning close to $4 million and aren't producing a thing.

     

    Thanks for checking out the presentation.