Tracking the Top Available Free Agents from NFL Roster Cuts

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystAugust 31, 2012

Tracking the Top Available Free Agents from NFL Roster Cuts

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    It's cutdown day across the National Football League.

    "The Turk" is going to be a very busy man on Friday, as teams across the league pare their rosters down to 53 in advance of next Wednesday's season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

    It's going to leave a lot of players looking for work, so here's a look at some of the more prominent pros in search of a team, including some insight into where those players might land.

25. Gary Guyton, ILB

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    It's a "Hard Knocks" life, as the Miami Dolphins somewhat surprisingly released inside linebacker Gary Guyton on Friday.

    The fifth-year pro has 32 career starts, including starting all 16 games and racking up 85 tackles for the New England Patriots in 2009.

    Guyton's far from an elite talent, but he's a serviceable pro that shouldn't be on the street long given the injuries that have stricken the linebacker position this year.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see a team like the Indianapolis Colts take a look at him with Pat Angerer on the shelf.

24. Andre Gurode, G/C

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    Guard/Center Andre Gurode is a 10-year veteran with a very accomplished resume, having been named to five Pro Bowls.

    At 34 years old, Gurode's best days are long behind him, but the Dallas Cowboys, for whom Gurode played nine years, have been linked to him recently given the numerous injuries that have befallen their centers.

23. Terrell Owens, WR

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    You know all there is to know about wide receiver Terrell Owens. Almost 16,000 career receiving yards, over 150 touchdowns and twice as many headaches.

    Issues with dropping passes led to Owens' release by the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month, and at this point, it's unsure if T.O.'s last chance in the NFL really was his last chance in the NFL.

22. Jeremy Shockey, TE

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    With over 6,000 career receiving yards and four Pro Bowl nods, it's a little surprising that tight end Jeremy Shockey remains unsigned, even at 32 years old and with a reputation as a bigmouth.

    Shockey caught 37 passes for over 400 yards and four scores last year for the Carolina Panthers as well, so he's shown that he can still be somewhat productive.

    However, it's that big mouth that may well be the issue, as NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp fingered Shockey earlier this year as the "snitch" in the New Orleans Saints "bountygate" scandal, according to Pro Football Talk.

21. Chad Johnson, WR

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    It is Johnson now, right?

    Wide receiver Chad Johnson tried to resurrect his career with the Miami Dolphins this year, but after his arrest for domestic violence, head coach Joe Philbin had seen enough, letting the 12-year veteran go in one of the more riveting moments from this year's edition of Hard Knocks.

    Much like Terrell Owens, this may well be it for the artist formerly known as Ochocinco.

    His production on the field just isn't worth the grief off of it.

20. Gary Brackett, MLB

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    Middle linebacker Gary Brackett was a very productive NFL defender for several seasons, and as recently as 2009, the 32-year-old tallied 99 tackles for the Indianapolis Colts.

    However, after missing 19 games the past two seasons, the Colts let Brackett go in the offseason, and outside of a few whispers regarding a return to Indy after Pat Angerer went down, the market for the nine-year veteran has been non-existent.

    However, if Brackett can show he's healthy, that may change, with linebackers dropping like flies across the NFL.

19. Matt Roth, DE/OLB

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    This is another one that's a bit puzzling, as defensive end Matt Roth is only 29 years old and has shown both the versatility to play both defensive end in the 4-3 and outside linebacker in the 3-4, along with the ability to be a serviceable pro.

    Roth had 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, and my guess would be that—like many of the players on this list—the issue must be a health one.

    There are any number of NFL teams in need of depth along the defensive front (including Roth's old haunts in Miami and Cleveland), so even if it's not until after the season begins, the guess here is that Roth's phone rings at some point.

18. Shaun Smith, DL

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    Defensive tackle Shaun Smith was one of the more recent cuts on this list, having been released by the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 22 after accruing 25 tackles and a sack for the team in 2011.

    However, if recent reports are any indication, the nine-year pro may not be out of work long, as Bill Williamson of ESPN reports that the Kansas City Chiefs had Smith in for a tryout on Tuesday.

17. Donte Stallworth, WR

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    Wide receiver Donte Stallworth is another on the list of veteran wideouts included here trying to salvage a once-promising-but-now-floundering NFL career.

    The 31-year-old hasn't been a factor in the NFL since catching 46 passes for the New England Patriots in 2007, before Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami and his career went into a death spiral.

    With that said, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Stallworth, as a Miami Dolphins team desperately in need of a vertical passing threat had the 10-year pro in for a look earlier this week.

16. Plaxico Burress, WR

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    Speaking of veteran wide receivers, trouble with the law and floundering careers...

    Oh, Plaxico!

    The New York Jets allowed wide receiver Plaxico Burress to walk in the offseason despite scoring eight touchdowns for Gang Green a year ago.

    Burress had a tryout with the Patriots earlier in August, and given the number of teams with a need at wide receiver in the NFL (Miami, Cleveland, those same Jets) and Burress' ability as a red-zone threat, the 35-year-old may well get one more shot once teams trim the fat from their rosters.

15. Danario Alexander, WR

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    From an old wideout to a young one.

    Wide receiver Danario Alexander has shown the ability to run like a deer in his two-year career, averaging 16 yards per reception for the St. Louis Rams.

    Unfortunately, Alexander has also shown the durability of a deer that's been hit by a van, and nagging leg injuries led to his release Monday.

    Still, there are any number of NFL clubs who could use a player with Alexander's game-breaking ability, and at only 24 years old, a team like the aforementioned Miami Dolphins (who desperately need wideout help) would be silly not to at least kick the tires.

14. Jake Scott, OL

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    Offensive guard Jake Scott started every game for the past seven seasons for the Tennessee Titans, and at the relatively young age of 31, Scott should still have at least a couple of years left in the tank.

    Scott visited a number of teams in free agency, but there were no takers. However, with teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers all banged up inside, it doesn't appear that Scott will be on the street much longer.

13. E.J. Henderson, MLB

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    Linebacker E.J. Henderson has been a fixture in the Minnesota defense for the past eight seasons, and just last year, the 32-year-old racked up 109 total tackles for the Vikings.

    Henderson is yet another player that suffered from a woefully weak free-agent market for middle linebackers, but with Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs just the latest prominent player at the position to go down, the Chiefs would be well-served to at least consider adding the capable veteran.

12. Joseph Addai, RB

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    Granted, no one is going to confuse running back Joseph Addai with Barry Sanders anytime soon, but the 29-year-old is a decent runner, capable receiver and serviceable pass-blocker who amassed three seasons of over 1,000 total yards during his time with the Indianapolis Colts.

    The New England Patriots cut Addai loose in July amid rumors that he "quit" during his conditioning test, but with teams like the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions in desperate need of depth in the backfield, it remains surprising that some team hasn't taken a flier on Addai.

11. Jonathan Fanene, DE

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    Jonathan Fanene's recent release by the New England Patriots came as a significant surprise, especially in light of the fact that that release cost the Patriots nearly $4 million in guaranteed money.

    However, Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that the team will attempt to recoup that bonus by claiming that Fanene did not disclose his potentially arthritic knee condition.

    The knee will likely require surgery and will keep the 30-year-old from cracking the top 10 here, but the versatile Fanene is capable of playing both defensive end and tackle. And if he can get healthy, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him reunited with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent most of his professional career.

10. Mike Sims-Walker, WR

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    It's hard to know what to make of wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker.

    After an impressive 2009, when he caught 63 passes for 869 yards, it appeared that Sims-Walker was well on his way to becoming a star in the NFL, but the 27-year-old never took the "next step," fell out of favor in Jacksonville and St. Louis and now finds himself looking for work.

    With that said, Sims-Walker has certainly shown flashes of considerable talent, and the Miami Dolphins thought enough of those flashes to bring him in for a tryout earlier this week.

9. Deion Branch, WR

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    Man, it's hard being a veteran wide receiver in the NFL.

    Among the New England Patriots' final roster cuts Friday was the rather surprising release of Deion Branch, who spent six of his 11 NFL seasons in Foxborough.

    Granted, at 33, Branch is no spring chicken, but as his 51 catches for 702 yards and five scores a year ago show, he is still capable of contributing to an NFL team. And unlike many of the other old warhorses listed here, he can also keep his mouth shut.

8. Bryant McFadden, CB

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    As recently as 2010, cornerback Bryant McFadden was a key contributor on a Super Bowl team, racking up 81 tackles for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    However, high tackle totals are also indicative of a corner being targeted a lot, and McFadden's role decreased significantly in 2011 before the 30-year-old was allowed to walk in the offseason.

    With that said, any cornerback who can walk has value in today's pass-wacky NFL, and a team such as the Detroit Lions, who were already hurting at cornerback before being hit by injuries, would be well-served to give the seven-year veteran a look.

7. Tim Hightower, RB

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    The only thing keeping running back Tim Hightower from being near the top of this list is the ACL tear he suffered late last season.

    That knee injury may also have sealed Hightower's fate with the Washington Redskins, as after experiencing soreness in the knee following Washington's third preseason game, Hightower was let go by the team Friday.

    The 26-year-old gained nearly 900 total yards for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, and as an excellent receiver and pass-blocker, Hightower would be a fantastic fit for a team like the Detroit Lions if he can show that the knee is anywhere close to 100 percent.

    Maybe if the Lions keep stockpiling dinged-up backs, they can combine them all into one healthy one.

6. Chris Cooley, TE

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    With Fred Davis emerging as the top tight end in the nation's capital and due a $4 million salary in 2012, it's not surprising that the Washington Redskins showed tight end Chris Cooley the door.

    The $64 question regarding Cooley's future lies with his balky knee.

    If the 30-year-old can show that the knee's better and that he can approach his 80-catch Pro Bowl form from 2008, then Cooley should have no problem finding a new home.

    However, if that same knee that cost Cooley 20 games over the past three seasons still hampers him significantly, then even with a number of teams hurting at tight end, Cooley's prospects aren't especially good.

5. Kareem McKenzie, OT

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    Offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie has been a staple of offensive lines in the Big Apple for over a decade, manning the tackle position for both the Giants and Jets over his 11-year career.

    Sure, at 33 years old, McKenzie is over the hill, but how have the Jets not brought him back?

    Do they watch their own games?

    Have they seen their offensive line?

4. Jabar Gaffney, WR

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    One of the most startling recent cuts was the New England Patriots' release of wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, as not long ago, Gaffney appeared to have the inside track to becoming the third wideout for Tom Brady and company.

    The 31-year-old is also coming off a career year, hauling in 68 passes for 947 yards and five touchdowns for the Washington Redskins in 2011.

    Why the Cleveland Browns, a team that badly needs a veteran presence at wide receiver, haven't pursued Gaffney boggles my mind.

    Of course, as a Browns fan, most of their recent personnel decisions boggle my mind.

3. Ryan Grant, RB

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    A few months ago, it appeared that running back Ryan Grant, who topped 800 total yards for the Green Bay Packers in 2011, was destined to sign with the Detroit Lions.

    However, disagreements over compensation nixed the deal, and since then, Grant's been twisting in the wind.

    The 29-year-old could easily still wind up in the Motor City, especially now that Jahvid Best will spend at least the season's first six games on the PUP list.

2. Vince Young, QB

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    The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, so it's hardly surprising to see one this high on the list.

    Granted, Vince Young has come nowhere close to fulfilling his potential as the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, and counting his cup of coffee with the Buffalo Bills, Young's next team will be his fourth.

    However, Young's athleticism still gives him considerable value as a backup quarterback, and there are several NFL teams who could stand to upgrade at that position, including the Green Bay Packers.

    Stop laughing.

1. Andre Carter, DE

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    Were it not for the quadriceps injury that cut defensive end Andre Carter's 2011 season short, the New England Patriots probably would have re-signed the 33-year-old after a season in which he racked up 10 sacks.

    However, that injury and the emergence of rookie Chandler Jones killed the Patriots' interest in Carter, and to this point, no other teams have come calling, either.

    The St. Louis Rams had Carter in for a visit last week before signing Vernon Gholston, and with Gholston now cut, it may be on to plan B in the Gateway City.