Which Roster Cuts Should Be on Each NFL Team's Radar?
Yesterday was "Black Friday" for over 700 players around the National Football League. This is when teams had to cut their roster down to 53.
Of course, you can now expect other teams to look through the scrap heap for some under-the-radar talent that might not have made it through the final cuts.
Players such as Deion Branch, Drayton Florence, Joselio Hanson and D.J. Ware come to mind first.
Let's take a look at recently released players that each team should look into as the regular season quickly approaches.
Jacob Hester, Fullback, San Diego Chargers
The Denver Broncos might have a crowded backfield, but there isn't a great amount of bulk in it. Additionally, they might decide to look to upgrade special teams.
Hester has aced both of these roles since being selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft by San Diego.
San Diego Chargers
Chris Carr, Cornerback, Minnesota Vikings
Outside of Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, the San Diego Chargers don't seem to have a whole lot at the cornerback position.
There will be speculation that San Diego could bring back Drayton Florence, who was released by the Denver Broncos on Friday. While that is a strong possibility, I think they go in a different direction.
Chris Carr had a disastrous training camp with Minnesota after signing a free-agent contract in the offseason. The veteran defensive back is one year removed from starting 16 games for the Baltimore Ravens.
Tim Hightower, Running Back, Washington Redskins
People seem to forget that Hightower was just recently an extremely productive running back for the Arizona Cardinals. He gained nearly 2,000 total yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2009 and 2010.
The former fifth-round pick lost his spot on the Washington Redskins roster after failing to fully recover from torn ACL he suffered last season.
Hightower would fit that mold as a dual-threat back.
Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel Muir, Defensive Tackle, Green Bay Packers
Dontari Poe has struggled making an impact in his first training camp and the Kansas City Chiefs are surely going to be looking for another rotational defensive tackle to help out against the run.
Trai Essex, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
We have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with Bryant McKinnie in 2012 after a volatile offseason between the veteran and his team.
With that in mind, it is important that the Baltimore Ravens acquire more depth at the offensive tackle position. While Essex isn't anything more than a backup at this point, he brings experience to a unit that seems to be lacking it.
Kyle DeVan, Guard, Tennessee Titans
Not much more than a backup guard in the NFL, DeVan struggled a great deal as a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles before being released towards the end of the 2011 season.
Following an unfortunate season-ending injury to rookie first-round pick David DeCastro, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for some more depth along the interior of the line.
At the very least, DeVan has some starting experience.
Reggie Smith, Safety, Carolina Panthers
This is what you would call a surprising release. Although inconsistent for the San Francisco 49ers since being selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft, Smith still possesses the necessary talent to be a decent depth player in the league.
It goes without saying that the Cincinnati Bengals need help at the safety position. After all, Taylor Mays leaves a whole heck of a lot to be desired at strong safety.
Marcus Easley, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
You can definitely expect the Cleveland Browns to search for depth and talent at the wide receiver position after final cuts occurred yesterday.
They simply need to give Brandon Weeden more targets on the outside. As always, it is all about wooing free agents, something Cleveland hasn't been able to do in the past.
Clark Haggans, Linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
Do the Houston Texans want to rely on Whitney Mercilus as their primary backup at both outside linebacker positions? I am not too entirely sure about that.
Haggans brings past success and experience in the 3-4 scheme with him. This would be a perfect fit.
Dan Koppen, Center, New England Patriots
Not too often does a center with 120 career NFL starts under his belt hit the open market right before the regular season starts.
Koppen has been a fixture in the Patriots offensive line for the better part of the last decade and would be a great addition to a Tennessee Titans team that lacks talent and depth along the interior of their line.
Dominique Franks, Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons
While Franks has struggled since Atlanta selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft, he does bring a lot to the table in terms of raw potential.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a bunch of unproven youngsters on their roster out of the top three cornerbacks. None of them seem to have the amount of physical talent that we see from Franks.
Jacques Cesaire, Defensive End, San Diego Chargers
This was a surprising cut by San Diego. Cesaire had been a solid rotational end for them over the course of the last nine seasons. He started 66 games and recorded 12.5 sacks while remaining strong against the run during that span.
The Indianapolis Colts have built a strong front seven in their newly installed 3-4 defense. That being said, Cory Redding and Fili Moala could use some depth behind them. Cesaire brings that.
New England Patriots
Drayton Florence, Cornerback, Denver Broncos
While the New England Patriots did address their defense in the offseason, they largely ignored the secondary.
The combination of Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dawling and Sterling Moore leave a lot to be desired in terms of both experience and talent outside of the Patriots No. 1 corner Devin McCourty.
Florence would bring a ton of experience after starting 96 games in nine NFL seasons.
New York Jets
Evan Moore, Tight End, Cleveland Browns
It came as a pretty big surprise that Cleveland released Moore on Friday. He seemed to be on an upward trajectory after nabbing a career-high 34 receptions in his third NFL season.
Without many consistent receiving threats, the New York Jets tight end position has been rattled by injuries as of late. Additionally, Dustin Keller could use some help between the hashes.
Jabar Gaffney, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
The Buffalo Bills released five wide receivers on Friday. You got that right, five. This left them short-handed at that position, which seems to indicate that they are going to sign a veteran or two off the street.
What better route to go than taking the "leftovers" from the division rival New England Patriots?
The former second-round pick from Florida has recorded 187 receptions for 2,554 yards over the course of the last three seasons.
Chris Owusu, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
If it wasn't for a history of concussions, there is no doubt in my mind that Owusu would have been a mid-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Unfortunate circumstances in regards to these concerns as well as joining a stacked 49ers' wide receiver group left the Stanford product out in the cold.
Needless to say, the Miami Dolphins need to upgrade a wide receiver unit that seems to be lacking in terms of both talent and depth.
San Francisco 49ers
Oshiomogho Atogwe, Safety, Philadelphia Eagles
One area that the San Francisco 49ers cannot be considered deep at is safety. Their only backups at this position are C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson and Darcel McBath. All of whom leave a great deal to be desired on defense.
While Atogwe is nowhere near the player we saw a few seasons ago with the St. Louis Rams, he would provide experience and depth here.
Brian Hoyer, Quarterback, New England Patriots
The Patriots never fail to surprise. Huh?
By cutting Hoyer loose, they have given other teams a golden nugget of sorts in which to work towards on the open market. This young quarterback seemed to be destined to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady, but things obviously didn't go according to plan.
Expect a team like the Arizona Cardinals to jump all over him. After all, he could be considered an upgrade over what they currently have.
Seneca Wallace, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Could we be looking at a reunion of sorts here? Wallace started 14 games in five seasons for his original team from 2005 to 2009. In the process he threw 25 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions and compiled a respectable 83.1 quarterback rating.
With Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn entrenched in as the Seattle Seahawks top two quarterbacks, Wallace wouldn't be anything more than a No. 3 in the Pacific Northwest.
Not a bad safety valve should something go awry in Seattle.
St. Louis Rams
Josh Johnson, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
He was extremely impressive in limited duty with the 49ers during preseason, but that wasn't enough for Johnson to beat out Scott Tolzien for the No. 3 quarterback position in San Francisco.
By no means does this indicate Johnson won't be picked up on the open market. He is more than a capable backup quarterback in the NFL.
After releasing Kellen Clemons, the St. Louis Rams are left with rookie free agent Austin Davis as a backup to Sam Bradford.
Not too much to see there.
Green Bay Packers
D.J. Ware, Running Back, New York Giants
Cedric Benson might have been a good addition to the Green Bay Packers, but he struggled holding on to the ball during the preseason. James Starks was actually on the roster bubble prior to final cuts, but ended up making the 53.
In short, Green Bay is hurting at running back.
Ware was a surprise cut of the defending champions. While the former Georgia standout hasn't been incredibly productive during the regular season, he has impressed a great deal in practice and during preseason games.
He would just add to the running back-by-committee mantra with the Packers.
Joselio Hanson, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
I was surprised to see Hansen's name among those veterans cut on Friday. He seems to be a valuable slot corner, something that many team around the National Football League just don't have.
Hanson has started 19 games and recorded 45 passes defended in seven NFL seasons.
The Detroit Lions are left with a bunch of marginal defensive backs after releasing Alphonso Smith yesterday and failing to really upgrade the unit in the offseason.
Hanson would immediately take over as their "starting" nickel guy.
Ryan Harris, Offensive Tackle, Denver Broncos
It was just a couple seasons ago that Harris was considered an up-and-coming offensive tackle in the National Football League. He started 16 games for the Broncos in 2008 and was solid in pass protection.
How times have changed. Battling various injuries, Harris has been unable to stick with a couple different clubs over the course of the last calendar year.
If healthy, he can still play.
Needless to say, the Chicago Bears need help at the offensive tackle position. At the very least, there isn't any harm in adding depth.
Aaron Francisco, Safety, Tennessee Titans
This veteran defensive back hasn't been exactly the most stout performer on defense, but he brings a lot in terms of depth and is a solid special-teams performer.
Francisco started 12 games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 before missing last season.
Considering that the Minnesota Vikings are lacking experience at safety, an addition like this seems to make a whole lot of sense.
New Orleans Saints
Greg Jones, Linebacker, New York Giants
Another surprise release of the Giants, Jones will be a consistently solid depth player as long as he is able to stay on the field.
The Michigan State product started five games as a rookie for New York last season and is an exceptional tackler.
More importantly, New Orleans could use some depth behind David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton.
Gary Guyton, Linebacker, Miami Dolphins
Again, it is all about depth here. While Guyton isn't a starting-caliber linebacker in the NFL, he could come in on a whim and contribute.
Atlanta just doesn't seem to have capable backups that could step up if one of their starters went down.
Guyton has started 30 games for the New England Patriots over the course of the last three seasons, but he couldn't make the cut in Miami this summer.
Alphonso Smith, Cornerback, Detroit Lions
As big of a fan as I am of cornerback Josh Norman, it is unrealistic that the small-school product will be able to contribute on a consistent basis as a nickel guy in his rookie season.
Carolina let both R.J. Sanford and Darius Butler go on Friday, which indicates they could use some veteran leadership.
Smith might not be the most consistent cornerback in the world, but he adds value in terms of playmaking ability. The Wake Forest product has intercepted eight passes over the last two seasons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rock Cartwright, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
This special-teams ace was a victim of the numbers game in San Francisco. He had an incredibly impressive camp and brings a whole lot to the table.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be able to use Cartwright in a myriad of different ways. He can come in and contribute as a running back and is one of the best special-teams players in the entire National Football League.
New York Giants
Everette Brown, Defensive End, Detroit Lions
Brown has been considered a bust since being selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers.
That being said, he had a solid training camp with the Detroit Lions and should latch on with some team in the not so distant future.
Considering the issues that the New York Giants have had in terms of health along the interior of their defensive line, it makes sense for them to bulk up the end position with one of the best players left on the market here.
Mario Henderson, Offensive Tackle, San Diego Chargers
As one of the deepest teams in the National Football League, the Philadelphia Eagles don't have many holes. Sure they could use depth at wide receiver, linebacker and the secondary, but those aren't huge issues heading into the season.
Instead, I have them looking at a reserve offensive tackle with starting experience.
Henderson has started 28 games since the start of the 2008 season and could be a good flex tackle moving forward. This is all dependent on him actually being determined to shake off a rather unflattering conditioning image.
Deion Branch, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
With nagging injuries to both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to hit the open market to nab a veteran wide receiver. Simply put, they don't have much depth or experience outside of those two talented players.
Branch was a surprise cut of the Patriots on Friday and still has a nice amount to give on the football field.
He has recorded over 500 career receptions in 11 NFL seasons. While he might be slowing down a bit, the former Super Bowl MVP would be an upgrade in the slot for Dallas.
Troy Nolan, Safety, Houston Texans
One of the few surprise cuts yesterday, Nolan has been a fixture in the Texans defense as a reserve for the last two seasons. He has accumulated nine passes defended and over 70 tackles in 30 career appearances.
Needless to say, the Washington Redskins are in a tough spot at safety.
Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and Washington is extremely weak after that.