4 NFL Free Agents Who Won't Find a Home Until the Regular Season Begins
Today, NFL teams will be forced to cut a substantial portion of their players as they finalize their regular-season rosters. Teams have until 9 p.m. ET tonight to have trimmed their rosters down to 53 players.
In the wake of this necessary step, we will see some notable names leaving clubs and heading for the purgatory that is NFL free agency. Some teams will take advantage of players being cut to pick up a player rather than trading for him. Others will wait for the inevitable injuries to take place, and then sign a replacement from free agency.
The majority of players will not receive phone calls right away for a variety of reasons (talent, injury history, salary demands, etc...). Those that will receive calls will likely have to wait until the regular season begins next week.
Here, we will examine four players who have the talent to make a final roster but will have to be patient if they hope to suit up this season.
Tim Hightower, RB
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Tim Hightower was released today as the Redskins make the first of many difficult cuts, according to The Washington Post. It is not surprising to see a running back being cut in Washington as the backfield was very crowded with Alfred Morris, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. Hightower struggled to come back from a major knee injury and receive significant playing time in the preseason.
Now, Hightower is a free man but will likely not be getting scooped up right away. Hightower spent much of this offseason as a free agent and did not seem to have teams begging for his services. At the same time, I do not believe we have seen the last of this Richmond Spider.
Hightower will likely get a shot at returning to the Redskins at some point this season if he is not signed by another team. Running backs in Shanahan's system are fairly interchangeable, and Roy Helu is far from the picture of health. It may take several weeks, but we will see Hightower return to the gridiron this season.
D.J. Ware, RB
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Similar to Tim Hightower, D.J. Ware is the victim of a crowded backfield. The Giants cut Ware today, according to NFL.com, as part of the necessary cuts taking place across the league. It was not surprising to see a running back leaving the Giants' backfield, but Ware was a bit of a surprise.
Ware received plenty of opportunities throughout the preseason, and although he was never seen as dynamic, he was certainly serviceable. Ware's continuous play this preseason seemed to indicate that he would be making the roster and might be ahead of first-round pick David Wilson on the depth chart.
Now with the power of hindsight, we can see that the Giants were merely giving Ware every opportunity, but he still could not solidify a spot.
Despite this hard news for Ware and his family, there is better news to come. Just as with Hightower, Ware will have the opportunity to play again for some team. Ware is adequate in the run game and can also act as blocking/receiving back on third downs. It may take another back's injury to get Ware back in action, but trust me, you have not seen the last of Ware.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
O.J. Atogwe was regarded as one of the best roaming safeties in the NFL just a few years ago; now, he is just another preseason cut. The former stud signing in Washington has been cut by the Philadelphia Eagles (via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com) for a rash of injury concerns.
Atogwe had been cut by the Redskins earlier this offseason, and now, has failed to make the Eagles' final roster.
Atogwe has struggled to remain healthy and has been bothered by nagging hamstring injuries. Now, the former Ram and Redskin is joining many others on the unemployment line, but he wont' be there for long.
Safety is one of the most depleted positions in the NFL, and most teams are searching for above-average starters. Atogwe is a quality player when he can stay healthy, and teams around the league will be monitoring his health. A few injuries, or more likely, poor play, will have defensive coordinators reaching for Atogwe's number to see if he can pass a physical.
Brian Hoyer, QB
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
In a surprising move, the New England Patriots cut back quarterback Brian Hoyer, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and NFL Network (h/t Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com). Reportedly, the Patriots were looking to either trade or rework Hoyer's contract to make it more salary cap favorable. In the end, the Patriots were unable to get a deal done and were forced to cut Hoyer.
The Patriots can't be happy being forced into this situation as Hoyer was looked at as a potential Matt Cassel-type trade prospect. While Hoyer does not have the same game experience as Cassel had, Hoyer has still been able to show flashes.
Now, we will have to wait and see if a team goes after Hoyer on waivers. NFL.com writers believe there is no chance Hoyer will clear waivers, but that may be a bit hasty.
There are a slew of new rookie quarterbacks occupying positions in the league currently, and there are many potential players to use a waiver selection on. If Hoyer clears waivers, he will likely be signed by a team, but it may take a a week or two, but ultimately, he remains in the NFL.