15 NFL Roster Cuts That Never Should Have Happened
With two days remaining until the kickoff of the 2012 NFL season, every NFL team had to finalize their 53-man squads by making critical roster moves that could ultimately affect them down the road.
There is always an abundance of surprising roster cuts made before the beginning of each season. Many tenured veterans are left without jobs, and rookies are not guaranteed any new opportunities moving forward.
Which roster cuts shouldn't have occurred this weekend? Here are 15 moves that front offices might regret this season.
15. Tim Hightower
From Mike Shanahan's point of view, the idea of parting ways with Tim Hightower does not come as a surprise due to his past injury history.
However, it's a risk to put a crucial component of the offense in the hands of Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris. Despite quality preseason performances, the success cannot be judged based on opportunities against borderline roster players.
Regardless of Hightower's health at the time, he could have been a factor late in the season—if given the opportunity to recover 100 percent—and played an important role in the Redskins running back by committee.
14. Drayton Florence
Drayton Florence was released by the Denver Broncos after losing out on a starting job with the veteran Broncos secondary. In reality, the move also served to save a bit of money after the Broncos overpaid Florence at two years and $4.5 million.
Florence could have been an ideal playmaker in the Broncos secondary and would likely be on the roster had the Broncos made better decisions financially.
It didn't take long for Florence to find work, though, as he has since agreed to a contract with the Detroit Lions. A veteran cornerback is always an asset to a contending team.
13. James Ihedigbo
The New England Patriots made quite a few surprising cuts this weekend, with veteran safety James Ihedigbo being the most recognizable from last year's defense.
Granted, the Patriots struggled against opposing quarterbacks and Ihedigbo was not always the best option when defending against the pass.
He joins another veteran defense that was in need of depth at the safety position.
12. O.J. Atogwe
O.J. Atogwe hit the open market this weekend after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Certainly, it's one of the few intriguing transactions that the Eagles made. Atogwe may not be highly regarded as an elite safety, but he could have benefited from playing in a strong Eagles secondary highlighted by Nnamdi Asomugha.
Could this be the end of the road for Atogwe? If Atogwe signs with a team that is in need of depth within the secondary, he could make an impact if he is put in a situation to succeed this upcoming year.
11. Terrence Ganaway
Here is a fun fact about the New York Jets from the preseason: They released the only player who scored a touchdown for this troubling offense.
Terrence Ganaway is among the multiple 2012 draft picks that the Jets released this past weekend. Although he wasn't regarded as a major contributor, he could have proved to be a formidable weapon in a Jets backfield that has severely declined since the beginning of the Rex Ryan era.
10. Chris Cooley
It was unfortunate to see Chris Cooley's career in a Redskins uniform come to an end. It's also a questionable move on the part of Mike Shanahan.
Cooley was a stand-up player during his time in Washington and was content with being the primary backup behind Fred Davis.
In the NFL, you can never have enough quality veterans who are leaders in the locker room. They won't be able to replace the leadership that Cooley brought to the field each week.
9. Mike Kafka
One of the more surprising cuts this past weekend was former Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka, who was beat out for the third spot on the depth chart by journeyman Trent Edwards.
This was an interesting development, especially since Edwards could potentially have an opportunity to play in the regular season when taking Michael Vick's questionable health into consideration.
Kafka began making the adjustments to be an effective quarterback in the NFL and has the physical tools and attributes to be a quality backup moving forward.
8. Dan Koppen
The New England Patriots are sending a clear message to the rest of the league by releasing quality veterans and focusing on the team's youth.
Dan Koppen is one of the few experienced Patriots who didn't make the cut this past weekend, which comes off as a surprise. The offensive line is much younger, with the recent array of moves this offseason, but how does it affect their title chances?
It's not always the proper solution to hold onto a veteran lineman, even one with experience playing on the biggest stage time and time again. Koppen was an ideal veteran player who was comfortable with his role in New England.
7. Vernon Gholston
Vernon Gholston finds himself without a job once again after a short stint with the St. Louis Rams.
This comes as a surprise because Jeff Fisher is the coach who can make the most out of Gholston's qualities.
Fisher believes in the idea of having plenty of depth across the defensive front, a strategy that worked well during his time in Tennessee.
Gholson was drafted among the Top 10 back in 2008 for a reason. He was worth a roster spot on a team that continues a massive rebuilding plan in the NFC West.
6. Amobi Okoye
Amobi Okoye is another disappointing first-round pick who continues finding opportunities with other teams around the league.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision to release the former Texans and Bears defensive lineman is questionable to say the least.
The Bucs are already thin on the defensive front, with Da'Quan Bowers and Gerald McCoy facing uphill battles to consistently perform each week.
In an improved NFC South, the Buccaneers will ultimately suffer due to the lack of pressure their defensive line can put on the top-flight quarterbacks.
5. Dwan Edwards
The Buffalo Bills decided to part ways with former Ravens defensive end Dwan Edwards due to the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, along with his expensive price tag.
However, the Bills could have greatly benefited from another pass-rusher that they were impressed with and would have added plenty of depth to an improved defensive front.
Injuries have affected the Bills in the past, and the loss of a quality defensive lineman could impact this defense heading into December.
4. Kellen Winslow
The Seattle Seahawks released a former Pro Bowl offensive threat, as Kellen Winslow became jobless once again this weekend.
Although he is no longer capable of playing at an elite level, Winslow could have been a notable offensive presence on a Seahawks team that lacks consistency at their wide-receiver and tight-end positions.
They are also putting more pressure on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who will face elite defenses without a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the roster.
3. Sage Rosenfels
Sage Rosenfels was the most surprising backup quarterback who was cut this past weekend, leaving the Minnesota Vikings without a veteran backup on the roster.
Joe Webb is highly regarded within the organization, which is why he still remains with a job and is No. 2 on the depth chart.
However, Rosenfels was solid in the preseason and did the best job he could despite the lack of good protection and offensive talent on the field.
2. Trai Essex
As the Pittsburgh Steelers enter the season with continuing concerns about the offensive line, they cut a valuable veteran who took advantage of his opportunities to play on a weekly basis.
Trai Essex was very reliable for the Steelers in 2011, playing multiple positions on the offensive line throughout the season.
They released Essex despite knowing that David DeCastro will miss the majority of the upcoming season. He would have been a valuable asset on a decimated offensive line that will have to turn to Mike Adams and other inexperienced players.
The Steelers may be in for a rude awakening with the offensive line in flux to begin the year.
1. Deion Branch
The New England Patriots made another difficult decision when deciding to release veteran receiver Deion Branch.
Branch emerged as the team's most lethal downfield threat since returning to the Patriots a couple of years ago, but with the addition of Brandon Lloyd, Branch became expendable.
However, was it an ideal move to release a receiver who has built great chemistry with Tom Brady over the course of his career? It would have made sense to hold onto Branch and make a complicated offense more difficult to stop.
Instead, Branch could make an impact with another team in the AFC and cause problems for the Patriots in 2012.