Early Roster Cuts Who Still Have a Chance to Make an NFL Team This Season
With the league's first round of preseason roster cuts now in the books (teams had to trim rosters down to 75 by Tuesday afternoon), roughly 480 NFL hopefuls have found themselves in the unemployment line.
Many of these players won't be heard from again, at least not in NFL circles. Others, however, will find their way back into the mix either with a different organization, stashed somewhere on a practice squad or as a potential injury replacement down the road.
Even the most promising of these players remain long shots to make an impact on the NFL this season, especially with another round of roster cuts (down to 53) due Saturday.
Yet there are some who have shown enough this preseason or—in the case of veteran players—over the course of their careers to earn another opportunity sooner than later, including:
WR Cordell Roberson
Released by the Cleveland Browns, Roberson has both the measurables and the collegiate production to earn another look with an NFL team at the receiver position.
Stephen F. Austin's all-time receiving leader, Roberson racked up 3,136 yards and 38 touchdowns during his four-year college career with a solid 14.4 yards per reception average.
According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, the talented wideout measured in at 6'3" and 205 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at Stephen F. Austin's pro day back in March. This combination of size and quickness should allow Roberson to play on the outside at the pro level, where he will be able to attack downfield and provide a big-bodied target for his quarterback.
During three preseason games with the Browns, Roberson managed to haul in four passes for 79 yards and a touchdown while averaging 19.75 yards per catch.
K Havard Rugland
You might better know Rugland by the creative nickname "Kickalicious" thanks to the popular YouTube video which landed him a shot in the NFL in the first place.
The Norwegian place-kicker had never played football before coming to America in 2012. However, his immense leg power and pinpoint accuracy earned him a tryout with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, who signed him to a contract during the offseason.
During his three-game stint with Detroit, Rugland showed the ability to handle kickoff duties while going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, including long kicks from 49 and 50 yards.
Though the Lions opted to go with the "safer" option in longtime veteran David Akers, don't be surprised if another team is willing to take a risk with the unpolished but talented Rugland. His potential upside will be enticing to a team looking to fill a need at the place-kicker position, either due to injury or inconsistency.
SS Tom Zbikowski
Over the past five years, Zbikowski has made a name for himself as both a hard-hitting NFL safety and as a professional boxer (he currently holds a 4-0 fight record).
Originally a third-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, he has appeared in 69 games with 25 starts (including 11 last season with the Indianapolis Colts) and has amassed 126 combined tackles with nine passes defended and three interceptions.
Though he proved to be a poor fit with a retooling Chicago Bears team this preseason, chances are good that Zbikowski will reemerge with another team at some point during in 2013.
The 5'11", 200-pound former Notre Dame star is an experienced defensive back who can step in and provide solid depth or even a starting presence for a team in need of aid in the secondary.
RB Bradley Randle
An undrafted free agent out of UNLV, Randle was a long shot to make the Minnesota Vikings' final roster from the beginning, thanks to the presence of Toby Gerhart and some guy named Adrian Peterson.
However, the undersized (5'7", 193 pounds) yet speedy (he clocked in at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at UNLV's pro day) runner has a lot to offer a team with less impressive backfield depth, especially as a change-of-pace option.
Though Randle rushed for just 635 yards with the Rebels in 2012, he did so with a solid 4.6 yards per carry average while adding 80 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns. In three preseason games with the Vikings, Randle carried the ball seven times for 30 yards with a solid 4.3 yards per carry average.
Randle has a chance to catch on with a team in need of running back depth, and his speed and compact frame make him a perfect candidate for special teams duty.
OT Barry Richardson
Contrary to popular belief, starting-caliber offensive tackles do not grow on trees and will always be in demand in the NFL.
While Richardson wasn't able to stick with the Tennessee Titans and their rebuilt offensive line, he has proven over the last few years that he has the ability to play at a high, albeit non-elite, level.
Before coming to Tennessee as a free agent during the offseason, Richardson started 48 consecutive games, including all 16 at right tackle for the St. Louis Rams in 2012.
The mammoth 6'6", 319-pound tackle may have to wait until injuries begin to mount in the regular season before he receives another opportunity. However, he is likely to find a home at some point in 2013 as either a depth player or injury-replacement starter.
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