By the time Roger Goodell was done announcing names in the draft, at least 32 players had been put on notice that they had better show and prove in 2013.
Good players get cut every year in the NFL.
For one reason or another—be it poorly structured contracts, declining play, coaching changes, incoming draft picks or some combination of those factors—teams are forced to make tough decisions to trim the fat from their rosters every offseason.
Now that the NFL draft is in the books, several players have been put on unofficial notice that they'll be part of a competition for roster spots this coming season.
Here's one player on each roster that could be feeling the squeeze.
Note: All salary and cap info comes from Spotrac unless otherwise noted.
A lot has changed since Ryan Williams last played for the Arizona Cardinals: a new head coach in Bruce Arians, a new offensive system, new teammates and new competition at his position in free-agent signee Rashard Mendenhall and draft picks Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. Not everyone is going to get their turn, though, and Arians admitted as much:
"Backs by committee, one of them gets hurt you've lost half your committee or a third of your committee," Arians said according to AzCardinals.com. "I like guys who can play every down."
It's fair to wonder if Williams is capable of handling such a role considering his propensity for injury—a knee injury landed him on injured reserve in 2011 and a shoulder injury landed him on the IR in 2012. The same could be said of former Arians protégé Mendenhall, but considering the link between them, if the Cardinals are going to take a chance on one injury-prone back, it's probably going to be Mendenhall over Williams.
Corey Peters has started 38 games for the Falcons over the first three years of his career, but how many pass-rushing defensive tackles do the Falcons plan on carrying this year?
They only have one true run-stuffing defensive tackle on the roster in Peria Jerry. Peters, Jonathan Babineaux and Travian Robertson are all better pass-rushers than they are run-stuffers. If Peters is released, it may just be due to a case of positional overload.
Peters' salary is scheduled to be $1.5 million this season, and releasing him would result in $191,750 in dead money, so the savings-to-dead-money ratio would be fairly high. Regardless, Peters will almost certainly be competing for a roster spot at a loaded position.
Wait, what? Would the Ravens really part ways with one of their two 2012 All-Pro selections?
Maybe, maybe not, but after drafting Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk with the 130th overall selection, the Ravens created a little controversy in that respect. Make no mistake, if the Ravens want to hang onto Juszczyk, they'll have to have him on their 53-man roster. A trip to the waiver wire likely won't end in a return trip to the Ravens practice squad, as there was significant interest in Juszczyk prior to the draft.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller alluded to Leach's job security when Juszczyk was drafted, and although he mentioned the switch may happen in 2014, don't be shocked if the shrewd Ravens make the move sooner than later. They are open to keeping two fullbacks, but don't count me among those who think it would be a wise decision.
Just one year after drafting undersized track star T.J. Graham to play wide receiver, the Bills drafted another undersized track star in Marquise Goodwin this year.
Doug Marrone has worked magic with such players in the past, and he made good use of Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson when the two were together in New Orleans. How many undersized speed demons are the Bills going to put on the field at the same time, though? Is that role so important that it requires having a backup?
Graham caught 31 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season, and although he wasn't used to the best of his strengths, he also had the second-highest drop rate in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com, dropping seven of 38 catchable passes (18.4 percent).
Cutting a third-round pick one year into his NFL career may seem unwise, but it's happened before, and it could happen again if Graham doesn't come to camp ready to prove himself worthy of a role in the Bills offense.
The Panthers have invested a ton of money in the running back position, but they simply can't find a way to get everyone involved. At 30 years old, DeAngelo Williams is at that magic age where it all starts to go downhill in a hurry. It's not guaranteed to happen—this is the same Williams who bounced back from an ACL injury in 2010 to average 5.4 yards per carry and rush for seven touchdowns the next year.
With Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and the recent addition of former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner in the draft, this position looks to be awfully loaded, yet again.
Cutting Williams would be a big hit to the Panthers' checkbook. Williams counts for $8.2 million against the cap, but if the Panthers cut him, he counts for $9.6 million in dead money. The Panthers have had to make a lot of moves to get out of salary cap jail over the past few months, and this could be another step in that direction.
The most electric return man the NFL has ever seen could be cut this offseason.
Devin Hester was vocally displeased with the departure of head coach Lovie Smith, and considered retirement, but elected to come back. Now, he has made it clear that he'd like to play in 2013, but head coach Marc Trestman has made it clear that Hester will only be used as a return specialist.
Hester is entering the final year of a four-year deal that he signed back in 2010, and his $2.94 million cap hit is a heavy price for a return specialist. It would only cost $833,335 in dead money to cut him.
Jamaal Anderson was placed on injured reserve after tearing his quadriceps muscle in Week 2 last season, and he will be part of a pretty deep battle for roster spots at defensive end this year.
The Bengals brought back defensive end Robert Geathers on a three-year, $9.5 million contract earlier this offseason, and he's been a favorite of head coach Marvin Lewis throughout his entire career. They put the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson and also drafted SMU defensive end Margus Hunt. It wouldn't be surprising for Anderson to get lost in the shuffle.
He signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract in 2012, and it would not count against the salary cap if he is released this offseason, making it all the more probable that he gets released before the season begins.
Just because a player was signed this offseason doesn't mean he'll be around come September.
Nelson left the Bills as a restricted free agent this offseason. It would have been incredibly easy for them to retain him (it likely would have been a second-round tender for one-year, $2 million), but they let him walk anyway. It took awhile for the market to develop for him, but the Browns finally signed him on April 8. His rehab from a torn ACL didn't permit his participation in voluntary workouts in mid-April, but he should be ready to go by June.
However, during the draft, the Browns traded for Dolphins receiver Davone Bess, who has been a highly productive slot receiver for Miami in recent years. Since Nelson is also primarily a slot receiver, his job may be in jeopardy before he even suits up in practice.
Is Travis Frederick insurance for Phil Costa, or is Costa insurance for Frederick?
That's the question everyone's bound to be asking over the next few months while we wait for training camp to kick off.
There's a lot of uncertainty considering that Costa's 2012 season ended on injured reserve when he dislocated his ankle. The Cowboys recently signed Costa to a two-year, $2.7 million contract after owner Jerry Jones said in February that he could see Costa as the starting center for "several years."
After giving eight-figure contracts to guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings last offseason, the Cowboys aren't likely to ship either of them off. That makes a position change for either Frederick or Costa far less likely.
The Cowboys definitely put Costa on notice with their first-round selection.
Just two days prior to the draft, Broncos GM John Elway gave Willis McGahee a vote of confidence and said, "With McGahee, he's our big back right now. ...We look at Willis as being that big back for us right now, and then we'll see what happens in the draft."
What happened in the draft? The Broncos selected Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who just happens to be a "big back" himself at 5'10" and 214 pounds. That's not quite the beefy size of McGahee's 6'0", 235-pound frame, but let's consider some other circumstances around McGahee:
- He'll be 32 years old at the start of next season
- He's coming off a torn MCL/broken leg
- He's owed a $2.5 million non-guaranteed base salary for 2013
Former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno played well for the Broncos in the playing time he earned in McGahee's stead, and with Ball added in the draft, McGahee may not get a chance to earn his playing time back.
At 26 years old, it would seem that Louis Delmas' best years are ahead of him.
That can only be the case if he stays on the field, though, as the Lions safety has missed 13 games over the past two seasons combined.
The Lions did not draft a safety this year, but they have added safeties Tyrell Johnson and Glover Quin via free agency since December. Couple that with the presence of Amari Spievey already on the roster, and there are a few options to choose from if Delmas' health is of too much concern for the Lions.
Delmas is set to count for $2.09 million against the cap this year, and he would count for only $1 million in dead money if he is cut.
The Packers were actively shopping linebacker Desmond Bishop during the draft, but the trade talks never got off the ground because of the asking price.
While that may be a testament to how highly they think of Bishop and his value, the fact that no teams were willing to take them up on it may be a testament to the shaky territory of Bishop's return from a ruptured hamstring.
The Packers are scheduled for a $4.764 million cap hit with Bishop on the roster, but they would still have to take a $1.6 million cap hit if they cut him.
The Texans coaching staff regarded Danieal Manning highly enough that he earned 98.5 percent of the team's snaps last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
He'll be 31 years old by the beginning of the 2013 season, though. Are the Texans going to feel comfortable with so much age floating around on the back end of their secondary? Pair him with Ed Reed and the combined age of the team's starting safeties next season will be 66.
Manning is very limited in coverage. He was targeted 47 times and allowed 34 completions (72.3 percent) along with five touchdowns. Not to mention, the Texans drafted talented South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger in the second round, and although he is listed as a free safety, he has great positional versatility.
Manning is due to count for $5.5 million against the salary cap in 2013, and he would count for $3 million in dead money if he is cut. With just $4 million in cap space, the Texans can't rule anything out when it comes to creating some flexibility against the cap.
The Colts obviously trusted Mike McGlynn a great deal in 2012. After all, he started every game at right guard and played all but one snap during the season.
Will he still be the best option to start there in 2013, though?
The Colts signed offensive guard Donald Thomas to a four-year, $14 million contract earlier this offseason, and they also drafted Illinois guard Hugh Thornton in the third round.
McGlynn was one of the league's worst-rated guards in 2012 by ProFootballFocus.com. He allowed 49 total pressures on quarterback Andrew Luck.
That being said, he has one thing going for him: versatility. He was the Eagles' starting center in 2010, and played 97.3 percent of the team's snaps. Even at center, though, he played poorly and allowed 29 total pressures.
McGlynn counts for $1.9 million against the cap and absolutely nothing in dead money in 2013.
Mohamed Massaquoi never lived up to his billing as a second-round pick for the Browns, maxing out at numbers that would make him, at best, a No. 3 receiver (36 receptions in 2010; 624 yards and three touchdowns in 2009). He was not seen as important enough to the future of the team to be brought back in free agency.
The Jaguars do not boast an ultra-talented group of pass-catchers, but it is a group that has a lot of potential. Jordan Shipley could be a great slot receiver for them. The recent news that Justin Blackmon has been suspended for four games could bode well for Massaquoi, but he'll still be battling for time.
He counts for $772,500 against the cap in 2013, but he would count for just $65,000 in dead money against the cap if cut.
Things have changed mighty quickly for Tony Moeaki. He started off well in 2010 in the team's first year without Tony Gonzalez, but Moeaki has spent the past two years battling through injuries and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the 2012 season.
In the month-and-a-half since the end of the season, the Chiefs have gone on to add two tight ends: Anthony Fasano in free agency and Travis Kelce via the draft. They are also changing head coaches, and therefore, changing offensive schemes as well.
If Moeaki has one thing going for him, it's that tight ends have always been a favorite target of Alex Smith—just ask 49ers tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
Will the Chiefs be willing to keep three well-compensated tight ends on the roster, though? That's the question that could determine Moeaki's short- and long-term future with the team.
The Dolphins drafted Michael Egnew in the third round of the 2012 draft after the pass-catching tight end put up 140 receptions for 1,285 yards and eight touchdowns in his final two years at Missouri.
It didn't take long for him to start burning up his goodwill, however, as the coaching staff quickly got on his case during training camp in front of the Hard Knocks cameras last offseason. He played just two regular-season games and didn't record any statistics in 2012.
The Dolphins got aggressive at the position this offseason. For instance, they signed tight end Dustin Keller in free agency and added Michigan State tight end Dion Sims in the draft. With Egnew and Charles Clay already on the roster, it's fair to wonder how many tight ends they will keep for the 2013 season.
Just one year after entering the league, Egnew could be the odd man out in Miami.
Three of the Vikings' five leaders in receptions were wide receivers, and Jerome Simpson is the only one of those three receivers that remains on the roster (Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins were the other two). For familiarity purposes alone, keeping him around makes sense. That being said, do the Vikings feel better about other younger options on the roster?
Look at the stat lines of Simpson and Jarius Wright side-by-side:
- Simpson: 12 games, 26 receptions, 274 yards (10.5 YPR), 33-yard long
- Wright: seven games, 22 receptions, 310 yards (14.1 YPR), 2 touchdowns, 65-yard long
Wright has a ton of potential, and should be in the Vikings plans for 2013. They also added former Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of this year's draft.
The Vikings signed Simpson to a one-year, $2.1 million contract for 2013, but they would only be responsible for $500,000 in dead money if they cut him.
Ras-I Dowling has a few things working against him, aside from Bill Belichick's obvious affinity for any and every Rutgers defensive back available. Dowling started the very first two games of his NFL career, and he looked good in that limited time. But since then, he has spent the majority of his time on injured reserve. In fact, he has played in just eight of 32 possible games in the past two seasons.
To be fair, the Patriots knew they were getting an injury case when they drafted Dowling in the second round of the 2011 draft, but he's done nothing to prove otherwise since then.
The Patriots drafted Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan in the third round this year, and although Dowling fits the size profile of a solid outside cornerback and has shown that ability when he's played, it's fair to wonder if the Patriots will continue to reserve a roster spot for a player who has so frequently been injured in his career.
It's probably not a coincidence that the Saints signed Jim Leonhard after having signed Rob Ryan to be their defensive coordinator. Leonhard has extensive experience with Rex Ryan's defense, having played in that system in both Baltimore (2008) and New York (2009-2011).
He suffered leg injuries in 2010 and 2011 and went unsigned for a long time in the 2012 offseason before landing with the Broncos in a part-time role. He played just 289 defensive snaps for the team last season, almost exclusively in pass coverage (210 snaps). He logged two interceptions on the season and was only targeted eight times, but the Broncos didn't feel the need to keep him around, even as a backup.
The Saints signed Leonhard to a one-year deal worth $840,000 in base salary. Now that they have drafted Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, chances are that Leonhard won't factor into the plans very strongly in 2013.
The New York Daily News reported a while ago that David Diehl could be cut if he didn't take a pay cut. Well, he did just that, dipping his salary all the way from $4.475 million to just $1 million for 2013. Unfortunately, his generosity may not grant him impunity, and, if anything, it may just make him easier to cut if and when the time comes.
Diehl has been a consummate professional in his time with the Giants, having started at every spot along the offensive line but center. That versatility could be his ticket to job security. Recent knee surgery and the first-round selection of Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh are both working against Diehl's future with the team.
It's entirely possible Pugh starts at guard and Diehl starts at tackle next season, but it's easy to connect the dots and see that Diehl's future with the team is shaky at best.
Calvin Pace has been in a sharp decline over the past three years. After logging eight sacks in his first season with the Jets, he has combined for 13 sacks in the past three seasons. For reference, 13 different players have logged 13 or more sacks in a single season (17 times total) in the those same three years.
The Jets have already parted ways with Pace once this offseason, but roughly a week before the draft, they re-signed him to a one-year deal.
The Jets simply don't have many better options, and they didn't add to their linebacking corps in the draft, so it's entirely likely that Pace could end up as a starter once again. At 32 years old, though, it might be wiser for the Jets to look at younger options as they build for the future.
When the Raiders made the trade for quarterback Matt Flynn, it was reported by the Contra Costa Times that he and Terrelle Pyror would be in a competition for the starting job. Now that the Raiders also drafted Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, it's pretty clear that they are looking for a pocket quarterback. Pryor has never been a pocket passer, either in college or the pros.
Pryor started just one game for the Raiders in 2012, and his career stat line reads like a scrambling quarterback: 30 career pass attempts, 46.7 completion percentage, 5.2 yards per pass attempt, 10 rushes, 5.1 yards per rush attempt.
Now, obviously, that doesn't mean Pryor could never be a pocket passer, but he hasn't shown the ability to be a quality one yet. Will the Raiders carry three quarterbacks in hopes that Pryor may one day become the quarterback they hoped he could be when they took him in the supplemental draft? I'd say those chances are about 50-50.
The Raiders would lose just $293,034 in dead money if they were to cut him.
One of the dangers in drafting Danny Watkins in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft was his age. He entered the draft at 26 years old, and he will turn 29 during the 2013 regular season.
Thus, the clock is already ticking for Watkins to show up and prove himself.
He was sidelined in 2012 with a "chronic" ankle injury, which former head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles claimed to have known about before they drafted him in the first round. Even when he got healthy, he was kept off the field in favor of Jake Scott.
Regardless of all those concerns, he simply hasn't played very well, and he gave up 16 combined pressures in the first six games of last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Although the Eagles would be on the hook for $2.14 million if they choose to release him before the season, it's fair to wonder what Watkins' future role will be.
Interestingly enough, B/R's Matt Miller compared Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell to Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer weeks ago. Then, this weekend, the Steelers drafted Bell in the second round.
You know it's not looking good when your team essentially drafts your clone.
Also, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah reported that the Steelers are trying to trade Dwyer. If they're unable to get anything for him, he could be cut by the end of training camp. There was also a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Steelers don't view him as a starter for 2013.
Dwyer was brought back on an unrestricted free-agent tender of $1.323 million for the 2013 season, and cutting him would result in no dead money against the cap. The Steelers stuck by him as their starter for part of the 2012 season, but they sent him a message, loud and clear, when they selected Bell in the second round this year: step up or step off the field.
The Chargers inexplicably signed Eddie Royal to a three-year, $13.5 million contract in 2012, and they only got 10 games out of him last season, as he battled through groin and hamstring injuries. This was after a 2011 season in which he missed time with a groin injury and a concussion.
Even if he had played the entire 2012 season, he was only on pace for 37 catches, 374 yards and two touchdowns—hardly the kind of production you'd expect from someone making over $4 million per year.
There are some reasons for hope with Royal. New Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was Royal's offensive coordinator with the Broncos, so if there's someone who knows how to utilize him correctly, it's McCoy. The Chargers would be on the hook for $3 million in dead money against the cap if they were to cut Royal, and with around $6.5 million in cap space, the resources may not be there to handle his release.
That being said, with nine receivers on the current roster and with the recent draft selection of California receiver Keenan Allen, Royal will have to battle to prove that he can stay healthy and be productive.
The 49ers wouldn't really move on from the anchor of their offensive line, would they—the same guy who has played all but 34 of his team's offensive snaps over the past two seasons?
Well, at 34 years old, it's not crazy to think that they might want to get younger at the position and start thinking about the future.
CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco agrees, saying, "The 49ers love to promote competition, and Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney might get a shot to replace the veteran."
In the final year of his deal, he accounts for just a shade over $5 million against the cap and would only count for $666,668 in dead money. For a cap-strapped 49ers team that has just $1.99 million to work with, this is one move that the 49ers could consider to create some flexibility.
Breno Giacomini struggled mightily in his first season as the Seahawks starting right tackle. Only six offensive tackles allowed their quarterback to be pressured as much as Giacomini did. As a run-blocker, he graded out among the 32 worst offensive tackles in the NFL (according to ProFootballFocus.com).
For his struggles, he will be paid handsomely in 2013 with a cap hit of $4.25 million. That's simply too much money to pay a struggling offensive tackle.
The Seahawks did not act with urgency to replace him this offseason, and their only two additions on the offensive line came in the seventh round of the draft. Paul McQuistan has played all over the offensive line, and although he played guard last year, he might be able to make the move to tackle if the Seahawks want to simultaneously improve and save money by moving on from Giacomini.
Offensive linemen seem to age slower than the rest of the NFL population, and it's not unprecedented for someone like Harvey Dahl to be effective until the end of his career.
Dahl will be 32 years old by the start of the 2013 season. Coming off a torn biceps that forced him onto injured reserve, how much punch does he have left? Before the injury, he was the eighth-best pass-blocking guard in football, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and the three-month timeline for recovery puts him back on the field well before the season.
However, if Dahl doesn't heal fully and isn't the same, his $4 million against the cap could look pretty heavy. With no guaranteed money, there's no penalty if the Rams decide to move on from him.
It has been a long, hard fall from grace for Cody Grimm. The former Virginia Tech safety came into the NFL as a seventh-round pick in 2010 but was able to earn a starting job at safety for the Buccaneers in his rookie season. He ended the season on injured reserve with a broken fibula.
He bounced back to be ready for training camp in 2011 and once again was named the team's starter. That lasted three weeks, until he was once again carted off the field and was subsequently placed on IR with a torn meniscus and a torn MCL.
He was healthy for much of the 2012 season but was only active in nine games and played just four snaps on defense while contributing primarily on special teams.
He already took a pay cut from $1.2 million all the way to $500,000 this offseason, but he will not be guaranteed a roster spot for his kindness.
Being overpaid in the NFL is never a good thing. But when you are overpaid, get injured and your replacement does a better job than you, things really aren't looking good.
That's exactly how it's gone down for Eugene Amano. He went down with a torn triceps and missed the entire 2012 season, at which point his backup Fernando Velasco came in and played very well. He graded out as the seventh-best center in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The Tennesseean reported in early March and again after the draft that Amano, who is scheduled to count for $6 million against the cap in 2013, is expected to be released by the Titans at some point. For all the above reasons, it's clear why.
Would the Redskins really get rid of "Big Bang Clock" Brandon Meriweather?
Well, after drafting safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, of this year's draft, it's not crazy to think that the clock is nearing midnight for Meriweather.
He played just 44 snaps on defense in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus, and 2013 is the final year on his contract with the Redskins before an option kicks in that would allow the Redskins to move on penalty-free.
With around $2.8 million in cap space, the Redskins may not be able to afford his cap hit, which might save him from the chopping block. It's not out of the question for the Redskins to restructure a few contracts between now and training camp, thereby creating some cap space to give themselves more room to make moves like releasing Meriweather.