Every year the NFL roster cuts have some surprises and starting-caliber players. This year was no different with quite a few starting-caliber guys ending up in the free-agency pool.
The most notable cuts this year were Deion Branch of the Patriots, Lydon Murtha of the Dolphins and Ovie Mughelli of the Rams.
Deion Branch, former New England Patriot and Seattle Seahawk
Position: Wide Receiver
Deion Branch has proven to be one of the most underrated receivers during his 11-year NFL career. He's able to find soft spots in zones and has proven to be a great fit for any West Coast Offense-based play designs. He got cut due to a logjam at the receiver position in New England but could provide a lot to a young team.
The Cleveland Browns have a lot of raw talent on their receiving corps. However, they need a veteran mentor similar to what Deion Branch could provide them. Branch would be the only receiver 30 or older on the roster. He could also play some slot receiver while they teach Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon the nuances of the offense.
The Jets didn't even score a touchdown until garbage time in the fourth game this preseason. Rookie second-round pick Stephen Hill has earned a spot and so has Holmes, but they could use someone in the slot. Branch is a great fit there and could be a veteran, mature presence that is missing in that entire locker room.
In being blunt, the Miami Dolphins have the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. Their starters are Legadu Naanee and Davone Bess. Both players would be fringe No. 3 guys on any other team. Branch may fit into the same category at this point, but he is also someone who could teach the young group of receivers how to be successful in the NFL.
Lydon Murtha, former Miami Dolphin
Position: Offensive Tackle
Lydon Murtha has been an excellent swing tackle for the Dolphins in his first three years in the league. The main issue that led to him being cut has been his injuries. Murtha would be perfect as someone to stash on injured reserve for half the season under the new rules so that he could start once he gets healthy.
The Cardinals could use him as a starting tackle on either side since Levi Brown is out for the season and neither D'Anthony Batiste nor D.J. Young look like they should start. Murtha could play as the blind-side protector and would be at least an average NFL player there.
Jacksonville has issues at right tackle with Eben Britton never panning out, Cameron Bradford looking suspect and Guy Whimper turning into a literal revolving door against competition. Murtha could step in and stabilize that line once he is healthy.
Then, there are the Jets. They have the worst right-tackle situation in the NFL and after trading for Jason Smith, it never got better. Murtha could give the Jets someone who already knows the division and can be the road grader they want their right tackle to be.
Ovie Mughelli, former Atlanta Falcon, Baltimore Raven and St. Louis Ram
Ovie Mughelli has had a great career so far with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons as a road-grading fullback. Despite an injury in 2011, the Falcons were planning on keeping him if he wasn't carrying a $3.83 million price tag for this season.
He has looked healthy this preseason and should be able to earn a spot with someone once injuries start to deplete teams around the league.
The Broncos make sense as they have just Chris Gronkowski at fullback. Their lack of talent at the position and veteran presence in the backfield outside of Peyton Manning could make Mughelli a great addition for the Broncos as he would provide both to the team.
The Kansas City Chiefs are just a five-hour drive from the Rams, where Mughelli played this offseason. However, they are miles away in terms of fullback talent. Patrick DeMarco is just a street free agent who could be replaced easily by the former Pro Bowler.
The final option here makes a lot of sense, too. The Falcons just cut Mike Cox for Lousaka Polite, but Mughelli is a fan favorite and a great locker room and off-the-field presence. If Polite gets injured at all during the season and the Falcons don't sign Mughelli, it will be shocking.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist and Trends and Traffic Writer for Bleacher Report. As a Featured Columnist, he covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.
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