Dead-Weight Players NFL Teams Should Cut
The new expanded rosters include active and inactive players, members of the practice squad, exempt and reserve-list players, unsigned draft choices and franchise free agents.
By the time the bulk of free agency has run its course, the draft is in the books and undrafted free agents have been signed, most teams have pared down their rosters, with the majority of the easiest cuts from the year before. But there is still more that can be done prior to training camp.
The expanded rosters allow teams to stash a player or two they might hope make it back from injury or are able to hold off obsolescence for one more season. It doesn’t always happen that way, however.
Here are 10 dead-weight players currently on an NFL roster that teams should cut.
John Carlson, TE, Minnesota Vikings
There is a lot of proof around the NFL that a two-tight end attack on offense can offer profound results. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots have perfected the model and made it a scheme to copy for the rest of the league.
The Cincinnati Bengals added rookie Tyler Eifert to complement Jermaine Gresham, and the San Francisco 49ers added Vance McDonald to play beside Vernon Davis.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 draft and signed John Carlson via free agency in March of 2012. But Carlson’s stock is fading.
Carlson missed the 2011 season because of a shoulder injury and caught just eight passes in 2012. He restructured his contract in March, according to 1500 ESPN Radio, to help out the Vikings’ salary cap situation, and that likely gives him another season to prove he can get back to 2009 form where he caught 51 passes.
But the new contract might also make him easier to cut if he can’t avoid injury or proves though training camp that he’s not the same pass-catching tight end that he used to be. The $5.2 million dead-money hit (Spotrac) would hurt the Vikings, as would losing a much-needed receiver, but Carlson is quickly becoming too expensive to produce very little.
David Diehl, RT, New York Giants
New York Giants right tackle Davis Diehl has already been very busy this offseason trying to save his job. According to The Record, Diehl restructured his contract in March, likely saving his job.
But the fighting for his spot might not be over just yet.
Once minicamp rolls around on June 11, suggests Art Stapleton of The Record, Diehl is going to have fight off first-round pick Justin Pugh and James Brewer for the starting role at right tackle.
Diehl was the Giants' worst pass-blocking tackle last season after allowing four sacks and 30 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), in just 260 snaps.
In addition to taking the pay cut, Diehl also had offseason knee surgery, according to the Star-Ledger. The bad news just continues to pile up.
Diehl still carries a $1 million base salary and a $3.1 million cap hit with just over $2 million in dead money this season (Spotrac). He wouldn’t be fiscally pleasant to part ways with, but there may be too many reasons for the Giants cut him. If he can’t prove his worth as a backup, Diehl may be gone.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders
Terrelle Pryor has to be confused about his worth in the eyes of the Oakland Raiders.
Just prior to the draft, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie named newly acquired quarterback Matt Flynn the starter but offered that Pryor would be given every chance to compete, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Pryor, who started just one game for the Raiders in 2012 as he was biding his time behind Carson Palmer, was likely upset at again being relegated to a backup role, but happy at the same time he was being offered a fighting chance.
Then Oakland went out and used a fourth-round pick on another capable quarterback, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson.
Pryor isn’t a terribly expensive quarterback. He’ll be a $741,517 cap hit in 2013 and just slightly more expensive at $851,517 (Spotrac) next season. But now that he may be looking at a third-string assignment, he may just be dead weight in the eyes of the Raiders.
It all depends on how good Wilson is throughout camp.
Danny Watkins, OG, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins only played 275 pass rush snaps last season and ranked No. 99 in pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
That’s not terrible for a guy my buddy Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report has as the second-string right guard on the Eagles’ post-draft depth chart. The problem for Watkins is that he’s a former first-round pick (2011, No. 23 overall) and should be much more accomplished.
The Philadelphia Inquirer states that it’s too early, but calls the Watkins pick a potential “bust.” Part of the problem is with his age (Watkins turned 28 last season) and partly his inability to stay on the field (he missed considerable time last season with a “chronic” ankle).
The other negative about Watkins—in addition to the fact that he wasn’t able to push Jake Scott aside even when healthy—is the almost $4.7 million cap hit over the next two seasons the Eagles are going to have to suffer through, according to Spotrac, plus the $2.1 million in dead money in 2013.
If Watkins isn’t a first-round talent, he can’t make first-round money. Philadelphia might be better off parting ways and spreading the guaranteed and dead money out over the next two years.
Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City
When tight end Tony Gonzalez was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in 2009, a huge gaping open door was left in Kansas City for the next tight end to fill. Tony Moeaki was drafted by the Chiefs in 2010, and although no one has the ability to make people forget about Gonzalez, Moeaki’s 47 catches eased the pain a bit.
Then the injury bug hit Moeaki.
Moeaki missed the 2011 season with a torn ACL and battled through 2012 with a knee injury that later required another procedure after the season, according to the Kansas City Star.
Since the end of the 2012 season the Chiefs added Anthony Fasano via free agency and drafted Travis Kelce in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Those two moves certainly have the feeling of the Chiefs hedging their bets against Moeaki not being able to make it back from this most recent bout with an injured knee.
Brad Smith, WR, Buffalo Bills
What player on the Buffalo Bills roster has already been a $7.25 million cap hit (Spotrac) over the past two seasons yet has only caught 37 passes and scored three touchdowns on offense?
The answer is wide receiver Brad Smith.
What player on the Buffalo Bills roster is slated to be a $7.75 million cap hit over the next two years but likely won’t make it to the Week 1 roster in 2013?
The answer is also Smith.
When the Bills drafted wide receiver Robert Woods in the second round and Marquise Goodwin in the third, Smith scooted so far down the depth chart he’s going to need multiple ladders to climb back up. The problem is the Bills shouldn’t let him.
Smith has been a “do everything” type of player in Buffalo. He’s caught passes, returned kicks, ran the football and was even listed on the depth chart as a quarterback. What he hasn’t done is made his mark on any one aspect of the team in a manner that requires the Bills to maintain his employment.
Jonathan Goodwin, C, San Francisco 49ers
The great thing about San Francisco 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin is his ability to stay on the field. He played 1,184 snaps in 2011 (only Mike Iupati played more at 1,188, according to Pro Football Focus) and 1,202 snaps last season, fourth on the offensive line behind Anthony Davis (1,229), Alex Boone (1,226) and Iupati (1,204), according to Pro Football Focus.
As durable as Goodwin is and as much of a play-calling force he is on the offensive line, the 49ers may not be willing to pay Goodwin’s going rate.
Goodwin is going to be a $5.02 million cap hit to San Francisco this season, according to Spotrac, and he has two guys—Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney—pestering him for playing time that are only going to cost the 49ers $1.18 million combined.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area believes that Goodwin's position in the middle of the offensive line might be up for grabs in 2013. Kilgore and Looney may be bucking to replace Goodwin, and the 49ers would be well off to let that competition play out. Since Goodwin is such a salary cap hog, the 49ers may even be rooting for one of the younger players.
Dan Carpenter, K, Miami Dolphins
When the Miami Dolphins called out the name of place-kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft, one family was extremely happy.
On the flip side of that coin, current Dolphins place-kicker Dan Carpenter and his family probably hated the pick.
Carpenter should see the writing on the wall. His days in Miami are numbered.
As long as Sturgis doesn’t trip over a hash mark during training camp and break a bone or throw up on head coach Joe Philbin, the job of extra points and field goals will belong to Sturgis in 2013.
And Carpenter has no one to blame but himself.
Carpenter ranked No. 24 with an 81.5 percent success rate on his 27 field-goal attempts last season. At his scheduled $3.01 million cap hit for 2013 (Spotrac), Carpenter is way too expensive to keep around as long as Sturgis becomes a viable option.
And by viable, I mean breathing.
Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Let’s take a look at who the Arizona Cardinals have added in the offseason at running back. And yes, this is just over the months of March and April.
Rashard Mendenhall was signed by the Cardinals on March 13, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Then on the final day of the draft on April 27, Arizona selected Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor in the fifth round and Clemson’s Andre Ellington in the sixth round.
Taylor and Ellington combined in 2012 in college to rush for 2,611 yards and score 21 rushing touchdowns. Mendenhall, while injured for most of the year, gained 182 yards on 51 carries.
Ryan Williams, who is the only running back on the top four of the depth chart that was on Arizona’s roster last year, also fought injuries and gained just 164 yards on 58 carries.
Darren Urban, of the Cardinals’ official team website, believes Mendenhall will be the starter at running back, and you’d better believe both Taylor and Ellington will find ways on this roster too.
That makes Williams expendable. Williams’ $1.37 million cap hit really should hammer home the point that he’s dead weight; even with the dead money he carries ($1.6 million over the next two seasons, according to Spotrac).
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Forget about his upside, finances—both in the form of salary, carried costs and dead money—and his GQ good looks. The only thing you need to know about current New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is that he’s best known as the wrong half of the “butt fumble.”
Check out ESPN’s Not Top 10 on Jan. 25 and look at the Worst of the Worst (move forward to the 3:05 mark for all you instant-gratification folks). Yes, it’s Sanchez’ butt fumble.
You could also see Sanchez on Worst of the Worst in February, March, April and May and so on and so on. JetsInsider forum The Landing Strip is calling for the butt fumble to sneak away into obscurity, but the popularity of the miscue is so huge, even t-shirts are being hocked.
Really, instead of the video fading away into obscurity, it’s Sanchez that needs to go.
Yes, the Jets would absolutely be crushed by the financial repercussions (Spotrac) of letting Sanchez go. But the team has to do it.
The Jets drafted quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of April’s NFL draft and picked up David Garrard via free agency. How long will the team stick with Sanchez and his sub-60 percent completion rate and constant mistakes?
Garrard told SiriusXM NFL Radio he was retiring on Thursday as his knee is never going to get back 10 100 percent.
With Garrard retiring Sanchez may have a bit of a reprieve. But, the Jets might want to seek a veteran, free-agent quarterback and bring him in as Smith's backup in case Smith isn't quite ready for NFL action. There aren't a ton of top-notch options available, but wouldn't a free-agent quarterback backing up Smith greatly lessen the circus-like atmosphere that having Smith and Sanchez in training camp together battling would cause?
That way, the Jets can send Sanchez packing to be the butt of everyone’s joke elsewhere.