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Predicting the Biggest Potential Preseason Roster Cut at Every Position

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2017

Predicting the Biggest Potential Preseason Roster Cut at Every Position

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    We see it every year on Hard Knocks—the surprising cut of a player who we thought had a good shot at making the roster.

    Today, we take a look at some of the players who look safe—but maybe aren't. Some of them are guys you'll think can in no way be cut. Some of them seem obvious. But come the final day of roster cuts, they could all be looking for work.

    Each position is represented here—even punters and kickers.

    Because, as Rich Eisen says, punters are people too.

Quarterback: Kevin Kolb, Buffalo Bills

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    The limb isn't exactly thick this far out on the tree, but let's look at the facts.

    Kevin Kolb hasn't exactly "wowed" the league since he left the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2011, not finishing a season in that two-year stretch and struggling to make use of one of the best receivers in the game, Larry Fitzgerald.

    While his contract is a reasonable two-year, $6.1 million deal, only $1 million is guaranteed, and he'd be a very cheap cut.

    Meanwhile, the Bills took EJ Manuel with the 16th pick of the first round, and you don't often take quarterbacks that high only to sit. He's got a stronger arm, is more athletic and has a ton more upside than Kolb as well.

    The biggest hindrance to Kolb's departure from the team during or after camp is the lack of another solid quarterback to serve as a backup.

    That may save his roster spot, even if it doesn't help him get the starting job.

     

    Other potential cuts 

    Dennis Dixon, Philadelphia Eagles

    While the fourth-string Eagles quarterback says not to forget him, it's unlikely the team keeps more than three quarterbacks. Barring a spectacularly bad camp, they won't cut or move Matt Barkley to the practice squad and are not likely to cut the loser of the Michael Vick/Nick Foles battle for the starter's spot. Which means Dixon's days in the City of Brotherly Love are likely numbered.

     

    Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins

    If Robert Griffin III is healthy—and it looks like he's getting there—and starts Week 1, or near to it, will Rex Grossman have a job? Normally, head coach Mike Shanahan tends to keep just two quarterbacks. Last year Grossman stuck because Shanahan wasn't going to risk having two rookie quarterbacks. Now that Kirk Cousins is seasoned, he may be tempted to go with Cousins and RG3.

Running Back: Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans

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    Sure, Shonn Greene was only signed to a three-year, $10 million contract this past March, but what the Tennessee Titans will discover in camp is the former Jets running back isn't nearly as good as he looked last year. Which, let's be honest, still wasn't that good.

    The signing of Jackie Battle indicates that maybe the team isn't "all in" on him. Battle isn't a great back by any means—he's a straight-line power back with a lot of strength—but he is likely cheaper (contract details are currently undisclosed) and will prove just as effective.

    Greene is supposed to be the backup/short-yardage back, but it won't take long to see he isn't capable of getting tough yards on or near the goal line. The back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons were far more about the offensive line than they were Greene's ability.

    Aside from a great performance in camp, the thing which could save Green's spot is a huge chunk of guaranteed money—$4.15 million.

     

    Other potential cuts 

    Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

    The torch of starting running back in the Buffalo Bills offense has been passed completely to C.J. Spiller. Jackson's injuries (he's missed 12 games over the last two seasons) make it almost impossible to depend on him at this point, and with the money he's costing, it might make sense to move on from him if possible. He does represent $2 million in dead cap space this year, so they might wait a year to part ways.

     

    Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos

    The release of Willis McGahee has definitely bought Moreno some extra time. However, rookie Montee Ball looks destined for the lead-back spot, while Ronnie Hillman is working hard to change that, or at least steal a share of the carries. Lance Ball is good as a kick returner and can run tough, while Jeremiah Johnson has some speed and upside. Where does Moreno fit? How many backs do the Broncos keep? Montee Ball, Hillman and Lance Ball seem like locks—is there room for Moreno?

Wide Receiver: Andre Caldwell, Denver Broncos

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    When he wasn't hurt, Andre Caldwell was just not very good for the Broncos last year. Sure, it's tough to crack the stat sheet when you have two other receivers compiling 1,000-yard seasons (Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas), but a team doesn't bring on a veteran receiver if they're feeling confident you can fill in for the guy leaving (Brandon Stokley). Wes Welker is a pretty good sign that Caldwell's days in the Mile High City are likely numbered.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Mike Thomas, Detroit Lions

    Does anyone actually know why Mike Thomas was acquired by the Detroit Lions last season? Despite no other warm bodies in the offense to catch balls, Thomas saw almost no passes and returned a whopping one punt and one kickoff. There's just about no reason for him to be on the roster now that Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are almost healthy, while Chaz Schilens brings more upside to the table.

     

    Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Plaxico Burress was only briefly back in the Steelers' fold last season and didn't do much when he was. So how much he has left in the tank is a bit up in the air. Yet, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Markus Wheaton will likely leave little reason for Plaxico to remain in the fold. If those three struggle, his size may be a fallback in the red zone for the offense, though.

Tight End: Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs

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    The new coaching staff has made it clear that Tony Moeaki has to produce this preseason or he might not get the chance next year. Bringing in Anthony Fasano to help the run blocking and drafting Travis Kelce in the third round means this team is thinking it's had enough waiting around for him to recover the form he had his rookie season.

    An injury in 2011 derailed that season and it seems like he never got back on track. He'll get no loyalty from the coaching staff, and being as this team hasn't targeted the tight end position all that much since Tony Gonzalez left, it may go with youth and better run blocking at the position.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Kellen Winslow Jr., New York Jets

    Yes, Kellen Winslow Jr. is excited and shooting for 100 catches as a New York Jet, but what are the chances that his bad knees are going to hold up through all of camp—forget a whole season. He played just one game last year (with the New England Patriots), and while he might have been cleared medically by the Jets, this is the same medical staff which cleared David Garrard. How did that turn out? What might save Winslow's roster spot is a hurt Santonio Holmes and an uninspiring Jeff Cumberland, but don't hold your breath.

     

    Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos

    There were high hopes for Julius Thomas when he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, but so far he's been more than uninspiring. He had a good showing in OTAs, and reports by Cecil Lammey of ESPN Denver from Dove Valley have him involved in practice so far, but it's a long way from being a sure thing he'll be on the roster.

    Especially with Von Miller suspended and a glut of running backs—they may need his roster spot.

Offensive Line: Derek Sherrod, Green Bay Packers

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    When Getty Images only has one picture of you since you've joined the NFL, that's a bad sign.

    After Derek Sherrod's rookie season, cut short by a broken leg, the young tackle hasn't seen the field. Worse, he's been placed on the PUP list to start training camp, according to Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

    That's not good, especially not a year-and-a-half after the initial injury.

    As decimated as the Packers offensive line was again last year, if he was even remotely healthy he would have played. That he's either still being handled with kid gloves (best-case scenario) or still too hurt to practice (worst-case scenario) is alarming and a bad sign.

    It's safe to assume if he doesn't see the field in camp, he may see an injury settlement and the waiver wire.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Chris Williams, St. Louis Rams

    Man, the Rams seem desperate. Former first-round bust Chris Williams played all right for the Rams in the few games he was around for last season, but so far in his career he hasn't done much but struggle. They brought him back on a one-year contract with only $451,154 guaranteed, so he's absolutely someone they can afford to cut if—or for the cynics in the audience, WHEN—he struggles.

     

    Danny Watkins, Philadelphia Eagles

     

Defensive Line: Lawrence Jackson, Minnesota Vikings

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    It's taken Lawrence Jackson quite a while to get up to speed—even though that speed isn't exactly all that tremendous. The Vikings must have seen something they liked in the former Detroit Lion, and with Jared Allen getting on in years they are definitely looking to the future. 

    Last season, though, they successfully moved Everson Griffen to defensive end, while Brian Robinson looks permanently entrenched as a starter.

    Lo-Jack's one-year deal doesn't cost all that much, so that might keep him around. On the other hand, there are a lot of players who could be worth a roster spot over Jackson.

     

    Other potential cuts 

    Israel Idonije, Detroit Lions

    With Willie Young and rookie Ziggy Ansah most likely starting at defensive end, Idonije is going to have to work hard to prove he deserves a roster spot. Another guy on a one-year "try me out" contract, Idonije isn't expensive, but it's a numbers game and the Lions could need his spot for a player in a more cloudy position.

     

    Aaron Maybin, Cincinnati Bengals

    Let's be honest—Maybin has been a pretty big bust thus far. And even on the cheap, he has a long way to go to make a roster with Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt on it.

    Also, you'd have to not be a bad player.

     

Linebacker: Erik Walden, Indianapolis Colts

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    Any moment, the Colts are going to wake up (or sober up) and realize they paid $16 million dollars, $8 guaranteed, for Erik Walden. That's the only reason I can think of that they wouldn't cut him, once they realize he just wasn't all that good with the Packers—certainly not to the tune of that many dollar signs.

    Of course, all they needed to do was look at tape of him from the game against the San Francisco 49ers during the playoffs last year—when he was totally out of position on many plays—and know the signing was a bad one.

    Unfortunately, they didn't, and apparently they didn't look at anything else he did last year either. It's not that he's awful—he's just not all that good.

    Maybe this is really a long-shot call here, but Walden is going to be a signing which might haunt this defense.

    They should rip the Band-Aid off quickly and get the pain over with. 

     

    Other potential cuts

    Casey Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

    The Eagles took Casey Matthews in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft and he's barely been worth that much investment. The team thought it was getting Clay Matthews part II but apparently the genetics fairy was sick the day Casey was born.

    So far he's been pretty uninspiring for the Eagles, and now reports are that he'll have to fight for his spot with Jamar Chaney, according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer—the winner most likely showing some special teams ability, which he hasn't.

     

    Kaluka Maiava, Oakland Raiders

    There was very little that was special about Kaluka Maiava's time in Cleveland, and he faces an uphill battle even with a rebuilding Raiders team. Miles Burris and Kevin Burnett will both be starting, with rookie Sio Moore motivated by his drop to Round 3 of the 2013 NFL draft. Maiava might stick for depth, but the Raiders are more likely to fill his roster spot at a shallower position.

Defensive Back: Taylor Mays, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Acquired last year for a 2013 seventh-round pick, Taylor Mays didn't do much to provide even that much value. He was demoted from the starting lineup after Week 1 and was only on the field for a quarter of the defensive snaps during the year.

    During six games, he didn't even get on the field.

    Mays fancies himself a big-hitting enforcer, but thus far he's only enforcing a bench spot.

    He will find himself on the unemployment line soon enough.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Andrew Sendejo, Minnesota Vikings

    With Harrison Smith coming off a tremendous rookie year and solid play from Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo's days might be numbered.

    Now, I made this call last year and was wrong, but this season the safety position is more crowded, and while Sendejo is a solid special teams player, roster spots may be too limited to keep him around just for that.

    As Bleacher Report and Daily Norseman Vikings writer Arif Hasan noted in his recent article on players on the roster bubble:

    The Vikings would have to decide to keep five safeties on the roster for Sendejo to make the team solely on his play on kickoff and punt units. That could be asking a lot, given how much depth the Vikings are trying to develop elsewhere.

     

    Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions

    How long can you keep a guy around for upside when he's usually too hurt to ever get on the field?

    That's the question the Lions have to be asking themselves about Delmas, who missed eight games last season and 13 over the last two.

    Delmas is very talented, but he's also very fragile. Can they risk another season where they only have his services some of the time? The contract they signed him to is very reasonable, so that helps, but is it worth hanging on to him when you may need another three or four safeties for when he's down?

Kicker: Billy Cundiff, New York Jets

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    Billy Cundiff vs. Nick Folk in Thunderdome: Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves.

    More than likely, that's Cundiff. Folk had a decent season last year, while Cundiff struggled—and has struggled for the last few years overall.

    The Jets brought Cundiff in to push Folk and he will, before packing his stuff up and moving on to the next team.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Havard Rugland, Detroit Lions

    As a gimmick, Havard Rugland is a lot of fun. However, trick kicks aside, he just doesn't have it over a guy like longtime vet David Akers. The Lions want a guy they can count on under pressure, and Rugland just isn't that.

     

    Brandon Bogatay, Cleveland Browns

    Shayne Graham bounced around the last few years before having a solid season in Houston last season. The Browns will be more likely to hold on to him than former Georgia kicker Brandon Bogatay, who, while serviceable, isn't going to be more reliable than Graham.

    This is a team which needs to make field goals and cannot afford to break in a rookie kicker.

Punters: Ryan Allen, New England Patriots

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    Former Louisiana Tech kicker Ryan Allen was brought in by the New England Patriots to push incumbent Zoltan Mesko a bit, but it won't signal a change at the position. When crunch time comes, Mesko is solid and while the Patriots dump veterans all the time for cheaper (but effective) players, this isn't one of those times.

    Field position isn't everything, but with the issues at tight end and wide receiver, they'll want to make sure to pin teams back if at all possible when they can't score.

     

    Other potential cuts

    Robert Malone, New York Jets

    Robert Malone is OK but doesn't get too many punts past the opposing 20-yard line. Part of that is the fact that the Jets offense rarely sees the opposite side of the field, but it's also his average leg. The Jets, never quite happy with their special teams, signed Ryan Quigley, who is a journeyman with a bigger foot and more upside.

     

    Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

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