2013 NFL Free Agents: Predicting Each Team's Best Camp Cut
Each NFL roster is currently comprised of 90 or less players. By August 31, each team will need to cut their roster down to 53, creating inevitable and numerous camp cuts.
As America’s diet for the NFL has increased over the past decade, the roster cut-down deadline has become yet another NFL event. The process is dramatized on HBO’s Hard Knocks, and it is arguably the greatest intrigue of the show. The once anonymous names that land on transaction reports were given a face, personality and background, as the heartbreak of the players transplants directly through the screen to the audience.
By result, NFL fans now follow the positional battles throughout the offseason much more closely, especially once training camp springs into gear.
The process of cutting a roster down to 53 players consists of endless hours of debate and evaluation by the coaching staff. Salaries, potential, playing time, depth, work ethic and intangibles are all considered in the team’s decisions.
Ultimately, some teams will have to release competent players, and a few will land on their feet by ending up with other teams shortly after their release. In 2010, Danny Woodhead was cut by the New York Jets, only to be signed days later by rival New England. Woodhead would go on to become a valued contributor over the next three seasons for the Patriots, and a thorn in the side of the Jets organization.
Certainly, this summer will bring even more notable cuts. Let’s take a glance into the future and predict which player will be each team’s best camp cut this year.
Arizona Cardinals: Darnell Dockett
It seems like an eternity ago that Kurt Warner was rallying the Cardinals from the basement of the NFC West to the Super Bowl. During that same run, Darnell Dockett was an instrumental factor in the Cardinals success as well. In 2010, he was rewarded handsomely with a four-year, $48 million contact.
Dockett is coming off a brutal 2012 season, though. Unless he enters camp rejuvenated this fall, the Cardinals should cut their losses and give some younger players his roster spot. Plus, if Arizona cuts the cord on Dockett this fall, they will save north of $8 million over the next two years. For a rebuilding team, that money could be well utilized.
Atlanta Falcons: Corey Peters
It’s difficult to find potential cut candidates on the Atlanta roster. Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the front office operates efficiently, and the team’s recent success is a direct result of their pragmatic personnel decisions.
That being said, the Falcons would be wise to cut Corey Peters.
A third-round selection in 2010, Peters hasn’t developed the way Atlanta had hoped. In 10 starts last season, the defensive tackle struggled when teams ran towards him. And in an NFC South that features Carolina and Tampa Bay, defending the run is a mandatory skill.
Baltimore Ravens: Vonta Leach
Very similar to the reason for Anquan Boldin’s departure, the NFL’s best fullback will get released to save the Ravens money.
Leach is due $4.3 million this season, and after the team drafted Kyle Juszczyk last month, the price for Leach is simply too high.
The fullback position has been devalued incrementally over the past decade, and when you pay your quarterback $120 million, it becomes difficult to justify paying a fullback $4.3 million.
The silver lining is that whether Leach gets cut or not, he will be starting at fullback for an NFL team in 2013.
Buffalo Bills: Brad Smith
Brad Smith can be utilized in the right system, but that system does not appear to be Buffalo's.
Last season Smith caught just 22 balls for 152 yards and added 116 yards on the ground, culminating in three total touchdowns.
The Bills acquired Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in April’s draft, though, which means a veteran receiver or two will need to go.
T.J. Graham is younger and cheaper than Smith, which is foreboding for No. 16. By releasing Brad Smith, the Bills can shave $2.75 million this season and $3 million next year.
Maybe Smith will get released in time to compete for the Jets quarterback job.
Carolina Panthers: Armanti Edwards
Unfortunately for the Panthers, neither Jonathan Stewart nor DeAngelo Williams can be cut, at least in a financially feasible manner.
So, the next position that can use some trimming is wide receiver. The acquisition of Ted Ginn essentially condemned Armanti Edwards. The Panthers were hoping that the 2010 third-round pick would make a quick transition from quarterback to wide receiver.
In three seasons, Edwards has caught just five balls and has been primarily a special teams contributor while showing some skills as a return man. The Panthers can divvy up Edwards' contributions to second-year wide receiver Joe Adams, who can do things like this.
With a new general manager at the helm, the Panthers need to remove the poor decisions of the past regime from their roster, starting with Edwards.
Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi
If they could, Chicago would cut any offensive lineman that received significant playing time last season.
Gabe Carimi, who foolishly chose to avoid OTAs this year, has not panned out in the NFL.
When Carimi was drafted in 2011, the Bears were hoping that he would stabilize their fluid left tackle positon. A year later, he was moved to right tackle due to insufficient foot speed. Then after starting 10 games in 2012, he was benched out of fear that continuing to play him at tackle could result in the actual death of franchise quarterback Jay Cutler.
Late in 2012, Carimi, started a few games at guard due to a slate of injuries, and he performed slightly better.
In 2013, Carimi will be battling rookie Kyle Long to be the starter at right guard, a battle Long should win.
If Carimi isn’t starting, there is no reason to keep him around. The Bears should just wipe their hands of yet another vestige of Jerry Angelo’s incompetence and cut Carimi, barring monumental improvements whenever he shows up in Chicago.
Cincinatti Bengals: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
If the Bengals hadn’t just re-signed the pass-coverage handicapped Rey Maualuga I would recommend they cut him. But since they did, the Bengals should look to release the Law Firm.
BGE was solid in 2012 crossing the 1,000 yard barrier, but was limited to 3.9 yards-per-carry and lost three fumbles.
With rookies Giovani Bernard and Rex Burkhead coming in, and the much-improved Cedric Peerman returning, the Bengals would be wise to release Green-Ellis. Ostensibly, Cincinnati would save $4.6 million over the next two seasons by cutting Green-Ellis.
Cleveland Browns: David Nelson
The Browns deepest position is wide receiver, which as a result, means a few of those at this position will get cut.
Most teams keep five receivers on their active roster, with a handful of teams keeping six. Typically, teams will keep at least one receiver on the practice squad, so when inevitable injuries occur they have someone to promote with familiarity of the offensive system.
Keeping that in mind, the Browns will likely start Greg Little and Josh Gordon and run Davone Bess, Jordan Norwood and Travis Benjamin in the slot.
That leaves David Nelson and Josh Cooper competing for the sixth spot. Because of Nelson’s experience in the league, he is ineligible for the practice squad, yet Josh Cooper is eligible.
It stands to reason that Cleveland cuts Nelson and keeps Cooper on the practice squad, virtually giving them six receivers.
Dallas Cowboys: Mackenzy Bernadeau
Pass protection was a serious issue for the Cowboys last season.
Part of the issue was a consequence of Jason Garrett’s hatred of the running game, but a healthy chunk of it can be attributed directly to the struggles of Bernadeau.
Starting in all 16 games, Bernadeau allowed seven sacks and 24 hurries. These statistics are particularly alarming when you consider that he plays guard.
By cutting Bernadeau, the cash-strapped Cowboys will save $5 million next season.
Denver Broncos: Willis McGahee
By selecting Montee Ball in the second round of this year’s draft, the Broncos will have to make a decision regarding the future of its current stable running backs.
Based on his complimentary skill-set as a quick-footed third-down back, Ronnie Hillman is safe.
That leaves Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee.
Moreno, a former first-round pick, had been a disappointment for the Broncos until he came on late last season and found success.
The opportunity for Moreno to get playing time, though, came as a result of Willis McGahee suffering a season-ending knee injury. You really have to feel for McGahee, as his recovery from past knee injuries are inspiring.
But the Broncos have got to side with the younger, healthier Moreno and let McGahee go.
Detroit Lions: Jahvid Best
The Lions, like the Broncos with McGahee, are going to have to make a difficult health-based personnel decision.
Jahvid Best hasn’t played since he suffered the fourth concussion of his career in 2011. What's obstructing Best's return is that he hasn’t been medically cleared to play based on neurological consequences from the head traumas.
The Lions have done right by Best. They kept him on the roster last season, which allowed him to become eligible for an NFL pension, as only players that have made rosters three consecutive years are eligible for NFL pensions.
But now with Reggie Bush entering the fold, the Lions should just cut Best and maybe throw him a severance while wishing him the best of luck in the future.
Green Bay Packers: Ryan Pickett
Ryan Pickett is still a very solid 3-4 defensive lineman. The savvy 12-year vet utilizes his size and instincts to place himself in position to affect plays, whether it is against the run or as a pass-rusher. His skills have diminished slightly over the past two seasons, but he remains a competent NFL player.
Yet, after drafting Datone Jones in the first round this year, Green Bay would be wise to move on from Pickett. Finances and age are main contributors to this move, as the Packers would save $6.2 million by releasing Pickett.
Also, coach Mike McCarthy has been raving about his new class of rookies, so it stands to reason that he believes Jones is ready to take on a prominent role with the team.
Houston Texans: Derek Newton
Offensively, the Texans depend on the running the football.
It predicates their passing game, and the zone-blocking schemes they employ wear defenses down over the course of a game. In fact, the Texans were just 1-3 in 2012 when Arian Foster was held under 50 yards.
The team’s starting right tackle, Derek Newton, struggles in run blocking. Significantly. ProFootballFocus.com rated Newton's 2012 run blocking performance at a −11.1, which is near the bottom of the league.
Compounding Newton’s struggles, the Texans drafted Brennan Williams in the third round of this year's draft. Houston should release Newton, and look to play Williams at right tackle. In case of injury or a setback with Williams, the team can look to veteran Ryan Harris to fill in.
Indianapolis Colts: Mike McGlynn
The Colts success in the foreseeable future is determinate on keeping Andrew Luck upright.
Mike McGlynn, who started at right guard last season for the Colts, surrendered a staggering 35 hurries and four sacks in 2012, which makes him a deafcon red security threat to Andrew Luck.
With rookie Hugh Thornton and a slew of vets behind McGlynn, the Colts would be better off letting McGlynn go.
After all, the rookie can’t do much worse.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Brad Meester
If you’re expecting to see Justin Blackmon mentioned here, you’re crazy and should probably stop reading. Off-the-field issues or not, Blackmon is the best non-MJD talent the Jaguars have on their roster.
The same can’t be said about Brad Meester.
The 36-year-old veteran struggled last season, both in pass protection and as a run blocker.
With the much younger Mike Brewster waiting in the wings, the Jaguars, who are in the early stages of a rebuilding process, would be much better off releasing Meester and developing the younger player.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tony Moeaki
Since entering the league in 2010, Moeaki has struggled to stay on the field.
After a strong rookie season, Moeaki missed all of 2011 due to injury.
In 2012, he didn’t perform at the same level. In 2010, he had 47 receptions for 556 yards and three touchdowns. In 2012, his numbers dipped to 33 receptions for 453 yards and just one touchdown.
Moeaki is valuable as a pass-blocker, but with rookie Travis Kelce and newcomer Anthony Fasono joining the team, the Chiefs would be wise to move on from Moeaki if he doesn’t improve in camp this year.
Miami Dolphins: Jared Odrick
The transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3 hasn’t been kind to Odrick.
In 2012, he was limited to just 26 tackles and struggled to chase down runners laterally. At 305 pounds, Odrick is simply too big for the position he is playing.
Unless the Dolphins can move him to defensive tackle, they would be better off either cutting or potentially trading Odrick.
By trading up to draft Dion Jordan with the third overall pick in April, the Dolphins have prognosticated their views on Odrick. Not to mention, by releasing Odrick, the Dolphins can save $3.6 million next season.
With an absolute terror in Cameron Wake on the other side of the defense, if Jordan pans out, the Dolphins pass-rush will keep Tom Brady and other opposing quarterbacks awake at night.
Minnesota Vikings: Jerome Simpson
The Vikings were hoping that Jerome Simpson would be a key contributor in their aerial attack when they signed him last offseason.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, Simpson proceeded to haul in 26 balls for 274 yards and no touchdowns. More frightening is the fact that he caught just 51.9 percent of targeted passes.
Now, he might be able to defend such numbers by the lack of talent that quarterback Christian Ponder possesses, but if he couldn’t distinguish himself offensively last season, how is he going to in 2013 with all the improvements made to the Vikings receiving corps?
With the freshly minted Greg Jennings, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright ahead of Simpson on the depth chart, it doesn’t make much sense to keep him around for another year.
Furthering the case for Simpson’s release is the fact that the Vikes can shave $2 million off of their cap by cutting him.
New England Patriots: Michael Jenkins
The Patriots currently have 13 wide receivers on their roster. So let’s play the cutting game.
Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson are guaranteed to make the team, and Donald Jones and Matthew Slater are solid bets because of their schematic fit.
Then comes 2013 fifth-round pick Josh Boyce, last-stop veterans Dont'a Stallworth and Michael Jenkins as well as five guys you’ve never head of.
As mentioned in the Browns slide, the Pats will likely want their sixth receiver to be a practice squad eligible player. That hurts Stallworth's and Jenkins' chances. Stallworth has familiarity in the Patriots system, though, which gives him the inside track on Jenkins.
Both will likely end up getting cut, but Michael Jenkins should be the first of the two to go, as he has the least schematic fit and upside. Furthermore, he is slower and older than Stallworth, which doesn’t bode well for receivers.
New Orleans Saints: Malcolm Jenkins
The Saints handled the Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma contract restructurings beautifully this offseason, as both players will now get paid in accordance to their current production.
The next lopsided contract that jumps off the team’s salary book pages is Roman Harper, but to the credit of Harper's agent, there is little wiggle room for the Saints to part with Harper until next season.
That leaves Malcolm Jenkins.
Both Jenkins and Harper struggled in 2012, but to be fair, almost everyone on the Saints defense struggled in 2012. New Orleans selected safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round this year, though, and they've got to get him on the field.
Financially, releasing Jenkins would be easy for the Saints, as his contract expires at the conclusion of this year.
New York Giants: Terrell Thomas
After Corey Webster’s rough 2012 season, Giants fans might hope to see him on this list, but unfortunately, his contact would be too messy to terminate.
That leaves Terrell Thomas as the next logical cut. Thomas has suffered consecutive ACL injuries and hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010.
It’s tough to cut a player because of injuries, but the NFL isn’t a business for the faint of heart.
New York Jets: Calvin Pace
Mark Sanchez would have found himself on this list, attached to a few scathing paragraphs and one or two butt-fumble jokes, had David Garrard not retired.
However, in a turn of events that is only possible for the Jets, New York actually needs Sanchez now.
So who should they cut?
Just look at these Calvin Pace stats:
Pace is getting on the field more, yet is playing worse. It is time to cut him loose.
Oakland Raiders: Mike Brisiel
Brisiel has been declining over the past few seasons.
He struggles to run block, which, so long as the Raiders have Darren McFadden, is a primary function of their offense. Even worse, Brisiel was the most penalized Raider in 2012.
Need one more negative to be convinced the Raiders should move on from Brisiel? He allowed 26 hurries in 2012.
Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick
Now, before you throw something at your computer Eagles fans, keep in mind that the pretty, high-flying offense you are accustomed to watching Chip Kelly run on Saturdays is not the offense you will see this year on Sundays.
Sure, there might be elements of the read-option and jet-sweeps, but the most significant and translatable component of Kelly’s Oregon offense is the volume of offensive snaps. Similar to how the Patriots run their offense, Philadelphia will try to dominate the pace of games in 2013 by running a blur of plays, lining up in a variety of offensive sets.
To operate an offense with a high volume of possession, the absolute worst thing a quarterback can do is turn the ball over. Which, despite the denial of Vick’s sycophants, is a chronic issue for Michael Vick.
In 10 games last season, Vick turned the ball over 21 times. That isn’t conducive to Kelly’s scheme.
The Eagles already restructured Vick’s contract, so releasing the southpaw won’t be much of a hurdle.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Plaxico Burress
The Steelers lost a lot of recognizable commodities this offseason. They compensated nicely, though, by holding onto Emmanuel Sanders when the Patriots attempted to lure him away.
As a result of those other losses, though, looking for an evident cut on the Steelers roster isn’t as easy as it is with other teams. With so many new starters, depth is essential.
That being said, wide receiver is a position that the Steelers can trim with little consequence. Rarely will an NFL team keep two non-starting veteran receivers, so by result, either Plaxico Burress or Jerricho Cotchery will be cut.
At this stage of Burress’ career, his skill-set is limited to red zone situations, where he can utilize his size to climb up and secure jump balls. Cotchery showed some flashes of success in both the slot and on the outside last season, and he secured 65.4 percent of targeted passes, proving to be a reliable receiver.
When it boils down to it, Cotchery simply does more to contribute to the team than Burress, so the Steelers should let Plax go.
St. Louis Rams: Kellen Clemens
The Rams defense, as a whole, was possibly the most improved unit in all of football last season. The Jeff Fisher effect was evident as the Rams finished the season at 7-8-1.
This offseason, St. Louis has continued to improve, as they added a wealth of talent in the draft and a few notable free agent signings. When you scan over the Rams roster, you will notice that the team is littered with young players, many of which are without any significant professional experience.
A roster such as this makes it difficult to find a player to let loose. With that preface, the best cut I can find would be Kellen Clemens.
Much is made about the importance of having a veteran to help young starting quarterbacks with film study, but Sam Bradford can’t exactly be considered young anymore, can he? With 42 starts under his belt, Bradford should be able to handle film study on his own, and Clemens has showed nothing over his career that would make an organization confident in case Bradford gets hurt.
The Rams should cut Clemens and let the youngster Austin Davis take the backup duties.
San Diego Chargers: Robert Meachem
A year removed from the New Orleans Saints, Robert Meachem is starting to appear to be a product of their system, rather than a solid receiver.
In 2011 with the Saints, Meachem caught 65.3 percent of targeted passes. In 2012 with San Diego, he caught just 43.8 percent. Philip Rivers had a down year last season, but he certainly wasn’t bad enough to excuse such a low percentage.
The Chargers drafted Keenan Allen and saw Danario Alexander emerge in the second half of last season. They should feel comfortable in letting Meachem go.
San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Williams
San Francisco is tough to read.
Last season, LaMichael James didn’t appear in a game until Week 14, only to become a significant contributor in the postseason.
So how do we evaluate A.J. Jenkins? Jenkins was a first-round selection in 2012, yet he only saw one target last season. Is that an indictment as him as a player, or is just Harbaugh being sly?
I’m going to side with Harbaugh, and I think Jenkins will make the team. To cut down to an appropriate number of receivers, though, San Francisco will have to release Kyle Williams.
Seattle Seahawks: Red Bryant
If Pete Carroll has taught us anything about his style of management, it is that he gives little credence to salaries when organizing his depth charts.
The proof lies in the Seahawks paying Matt Flynn $4 million dollars this season to compete for a starting job in Oakland.
Bryant struggled last season, and even though releasing him would cause some financial migraines, it would be for the betterment of the team.
This offseason, the Seahawks added Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and drafted Jordan Hill. Throw in the return of Chris Clemons on top of that, and Bryant is fighting for playing time. Don’t be surprised if the Seahawks bite the financial bullet and cut him this summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kevin Ogletree
Tampa Bay wisely addressed their despicable secondary this offseason.
On the opposite side of the field, they will need to make a decision at wide receiver in order to get down to 53 players. Kevin Ogletree and the other Steve Smith will be competing for a backup slot role come training camp.
Neither had incredible seasons a year ago, but of the two, Smith is a better option because of his consistency and cheaper salary.
After exploding onto the scene in Week 1 last season with eight receptions, 114 yards and two touchdowns, Ogletree’s production dipped significantly. Over the next 15 games, he had just 24 receptions, 322 yards and two touchdowns.
Tampa should cut Ogletree and keep Smith.
Tennesee Titans: Kevin Walter
The Titans will be an intriguing team in 2013. They made significant improvements to their offensive line, which will allow Tennessee to fully evaluate both Jake Locker and Chris Johnson without the splinter of poor line play.
Despite the addition of Bernard Pollard and George Wilson, the Titans are stuck with Michael Griffin and his inflated contract.
So to trim the roster, the Titans will look toward wide receiver. The arrival of Justin Hunter will force Kevin Walter and Damian Williams to battle for a roster spot.
Williams gets the slight nod because of youth and his improved play in 2012.
Washington Redskins: Tyler Polumbus
By now, we have all seen the video of Robert Griffin III injuring himself against the Seahawks as often as we have seen the AT&T girl passionately argue her preference for more.
The Redskins pass protection was inconsistent a season ago, and a major perpetrator in their protection failures was Polumbus.
He allowed 46 hurries and surrendered eight sacks. With a fragile quarterback, that can’t happen. By cutting Polumbus now, the Redskins can save $1 million in cap space this season, as well as in 2014.