Ranking the Biggest Surprises on NFL Cut Day

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIISeptember 1, 2012

Ranking the Biggest Surprises on NFL Cut Day

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    The 9 p.m. ET NFL cut deadline has come and gone, with more than a few familiar faces making the list of newly unemployed players.

    Reducing rosters by 20 players over the course of a few days cannot be the easiest thing in the world for NFL coaches to decide, but rules are rules, as they say. Let's rank the top-10 most surprising names handed a pink slip before the roster-cut deadline on Aug. 31.

10. Matt Simms, QB, New York Jets

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    Alright, so maybe Matt Simms makes this list because his dad is none other than New York Giants quarterback legend Phil Simms, but he was indeed cut by the New York Jets.

    Coming out of Tennessee, Simms was passed over this past NFL draft and was apparently unable to make a lasting impression on Rex Ryan and his coaching staff.

    The rookie didn't exactly blow people away when given opportunities, but one could argue he didn't look much worse than Tim Tebow did at times this preseason.

    Like most of the recently released players, it will be difficult for Simms to find himself a new team.  Considering organizations have just finished cutting a large sum of players, most won't be looking to add new ones for some time.

9. John Kasay, K, New Orleans Saints

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    For the first time since 1995, kicker John Kasay will find himself not playing games against the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints cut Kasay, deciding to go with the leg of Garrett Hartley instead.

    The veteran kicker may be 42 years old now, but this is the same guy who made 25-of-29 attempts in 2010, good for an 86 percent field-goal conversion rate. While 2011 did see two more misses than his 2010 totals, Kasay still made 28 on the year for New Orleans.

    Luckily for Kasay, the NFL kicker carousel is always changing, and he might just have one more season left in him if the right team finds itself in need of a veteran boot.

8. Mike Kafka, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Get ready for some Eagles-heavy releases, starting first with former backup quarterback Mike Kafka. During the time it took for Kafka's hand to heal itself in preseason, both Nick Foles and Trent Edwards impressed enough to leave No. 3 without a job.

    The former Northwestern quarterback played sparingly in 2011, completing a combined 11-of-16 passes for 107 yards against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.

    It isn't so much of a surprise that Kafka was shown the door as it is that Trent Edwards was the guy who showed him to it. The former Buffalo Bills starter wasn't even in the league last season.

7. Joselio Hanson, CB, Philaelphia Eagles

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    I warned you more Eagles were coming. Veteran cornerback Joselio Hanson will join Mike Kafka in the unemployment line, as the eight-year veteran was also released Aug. 31.

    At age 31, Hanson is now on the wrong side of 30, but considering he has been with Philadelphia since 2006, it's surprising to see him cut in favor of younger players.

    The Eagles might not have any use for Hanson anymore, but it wouldn't be a shocker to see him find a new team sometime during the 2012 season.

    That likely won't happen for at least a few weeks into the regular season once injuries begin to pile up, but he still has something to offer teams in need of nickel-coverage help.

6. O.J. Atogwe, S, Philadelphia Eagles

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    As sportswriter Ron Clements reported, Philadelphia has decided to release safety O.J. Atogwe. Clements commented on the player's release via his Twitter account:

    #Eagles released OJ Atogwe @iamblessed21 Return to #Rams possible?

    — Ron Clements (@Ron_Clements) September 1, 2012


    The longtime Rams defensive back spent 2011 with the Redskins, where he intercepted three passes in 13 games played and earned half a sack in the process.

    Like his former teammate, Joselio Hanson, Atogwe is 31 years old and seems to have been cut in favor of the young blood Philly has brought in. All that makes sense for the Eagles, but this is a player who hasn't exactly seen his skills diminish over time, with three or more interceptions in five of his seven NFL seasons.

    Atogwe is a ball hawk that now finds himself out of work more likely due to the Eagles' philosophy right now than his playing ability.

5. Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins

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    Staying in the land of the NFC East, the Washington Redskins raised eyebrows after releasing wide receiver Anthony Armstrong. The team decided to waive the third-year player after a failed attempt to swap him for Steve Slaton with the Miami Dolphins.

    After a fair amount of talk around Armstrong, he was unable to beat out the likes of Aldrick Robinson and Brandon Banks. To be fair to the 2005 undrafted free agent, the Redskins did spend much of the offseason bringing in veteran wideouts.

    Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were signed with Santana Moss still on the roster—not exactly a lot of breathing room for other receivers to make the cut.

    It'll be a tough go for Armstrong in the job hunt, with the likes of Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress still out there attempting to find work as well.

4. D.J. Ware, RB, New York Giants

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    For the first time in D.J. Ware's six-year NFL career, he no longer finds himself a member of the New York Giants. The defending Super Bowl champions parted ways with Ware despite extending his contract with the team in March 2011.

    Former Virginia Tech standout David Wilson did not help Ware's case to stay on the Giants, and other young players stepped up to the plate, ultimately spelling the end of the veteran's days in New York.

    Ware's cut is interesting considering his duration with the team and the departure of Brandon Jacobs to San Francisco in free agency.

    It seemed that everything had fallen into place for the former third-stringer to become the new No. 2 behind Ahmad Bradshaw, but Ware's case goes to show that nothing is guaranteed in this league.

3. Tim Hightower, RB, Washington Redskins

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    After trading with the Arizona Cardinals to bring Tim Hightower to Washington, the Redskins throw another running back curveball by releasing the veteran.

    Hightower opened the 2011 season as the Redskins' starter and actually performed decently before suffering an ACL injury. He had 80 or more yards in three of his five games, with his greatest production coming against Carolina, Arizona and the Giants.

    Head coach Mike Shanahan again confuses the NFL world with his decisions at running back, deciding to enter 2012 with Roy Helu, Evan Royster and rookie Alfred Morris at the position. Hightower was the most NFL-experienced of the four backs, but ultimately, that fact couldn't help him make the cut.

2. Brian Hoyer, QB, New England Patriots

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    Ryan Mallet has won the battle for the backup quarterback position, as Brian Hoyer received his pink slip from the New England Patriots on Aug. 31 after three years with the team.

    Hoyer didn't have the greatest of preseasons this year, but it's not as if Mallet was making leaps and bounds, either. Ultimately, the Patriots decided to go with the third-round draft pick instead of the undrafted free agent, though, and Hoyer now finds himself looking for work.

    Hoyer is a name that has initiated some trade discussions, or at least speculation, in previous years, and teams are always looking for a solid backup quarterback.

    It's hard to judge No. 8 based on preseason play and junk time in the regular season, but he's a better option than the likes of Vince Young and Seneca Wallace, who were also recently cut.

1. Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots

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    Shortly after Donte Stallworth was released by the Patriots, New England also said goodbye to former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.

    Branch has not done a whole lot in his NFL career as of late, but his performance since rejoining the Pats has been night and day in comparison to the years he wasted in Seattle.

    The veteran receiver posted over 700 yards on 51 catches in 2011, which came after a 700-yard year with the team in 2010 as well.

    Branch joins Anthony Armstrong and a whole list of notable wideouts now without work, and it will be hard for the former Patriot to convince teams he's not just a product of New England's system, given his failure with the Seahawks.