For approximately 704* NFL hopefuls, the days of Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 will lead to their livelihood being put in grave jeopardy.
NFL teams have until 6 p.m. ET Saturday to pare their rosters down to the 53 men they'll take into Week 1. While last week's round of cuts brought rosters down to 75 players and thus made the overall scope of pink-slippage lesser, Saturday's round of cuts will still see the equivalent of 13.28 full NFL rosters shown the door.
Among them, an overwhelming majority will be semi-anonymous. They'll be the types of players who came into camp knowing that a practice squad invite was probably the best they were going to do. The disappointment still rings the same, but the average fan probably wouldn't be able to do better than 70 percent on a "real name or fake name" test among the cuts.
For others, though, these rounds of cuts have been shocking. Every year it seems for whatever reason—too much depth, personality issues, monetary reasons, etc.—there are a few cuts that even shock the NFL literati. These are usually veteran players, ones with track records of Sunday success who may or may not have pushed past the 30 barrier.
But unlike those droves of anonymous names, these notables usually get a second chance to continue their careers. Nothing makes an NFL team more excited than thinking they're getting one over on the 31 other franchises.
Who are these notables who won't be without a job for long? Here's a quick few that stand out among the early cuts.
(*22 x 32 = 704, where 22 is the number of players teams have to cut to get down from 75 to 53. Obviously some teams were carrying fewer players than that; hence "approximately.")
CB Marcus Trufant
Much like running back, being a veteran cornerback is a thankless job. Once that first-step quickness starts to fade even the slightest, teams are ready to move on to bigger and better things. Trufant spent the first decade of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, parlaying a successful career at Washington State into staying pretty much right at home.
Seattle expressed little to no interest in bringing Trufant back for an 11th season. From their perspective, though, it was an understandable stance. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have formed arguably the best corner tandem in the league, and the Seahawks' depth chart is littered with talented secondary players.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' decision to release the 32-year-old veteran is a little more confusing. ESPN's Michael DiRocco broke down Jacksonville's bevy of cuts, which were announced Friday afternoon. While it's possible that the Jaguars simply wanted to move on and test out young players—understandable considering the unlikelihood they make any playoff noise this season—Trufant is still an effective veteran presence who could have been an excellent mentor.
Of course, Jacksonville will rely on new signee Will Blackmon to handle a lot of those duties now. Blackmon was signed earlier this week after being let go by Trufant's former team, ostensibly holding down the "veteran cornerback" slot Gus Bradley had allotted.
That said, Trufant shouldn't be forced into early retirement. He acquitted himself last season after missing 12 games in 2011, taking his new secondary assignment in stride. Pro Football Focus still measured him as a net positive against the run, and his slight downtick against the run could be partially attributed to adjusting to his new role.
Teams don't think they need veteran corners heading into Week 1. But once the real games start and the newbies blow a few seam routes, guys like Trufant tend to become hot commodities. I'd be shocked to not see him on a roster unless he decides to call it a career on his own volition.
OT J'Marcus Webb
Of the Bears' 17 cuts they announced Friday (h/t Chicago Tribune), Webb's release elicited the strongest reaction—most of which was positive. The 2010 seventh-round pick had become one of the most polarizing players on the roster in Chicago since defying all odds to become a starter as a rookie.
Since his arrival in Chicago, Jay Cutler has been subject to a what feels like a montage of knockdowns. Few quarterbacks in the league have been under pressure on a higher percentage of their snaps, and Webb had become the embodiment of that over the past two seasons.
It's not an unfair assessment. Since taking over as the starting left tackle in 2011, Webb has committed 20 penalties totaling 146.5 yards. Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking metrics placed him tied for 36th among the 52 tackles who were in on 50 percent or more passing downs last season. In 2011, he was tied for 48th.
With Jermon Bushrod signing a five-year deal this offseason to take over at left tackle and fifth-rounder Jordan Mills having an excellent camp, Webb became immanently expendable.
While each of the 31 other teams across the league know of Webb's struggles, there is one unalienable rule about offensive linemen: There's never enough of them. Injuries ravage teams up front on almost a weekly basis. You can get through a full season without seeing a skill position player suffering a multi-week injury (though you're extremely lucky to do so).
The same cannot be said—rare exceptions aside—about the offensive line.
Say what you will about Webb, but he has 44 NFL starts under his belt in three seasons. Thirty-two of those came at left tackle, arguably the most important non-quarterback position on an offense.
Who's to say that Webb wouldn't be far more effective on the right side? His protection metrics haven't been great in any of his three seasons, but they have improved every 16-game campaign. Webb went from a borderline human atrocity (-35.0 PFF rating) as a rookie to a mere turnstile in Year 2 (-16.2)
Make no mistake, these are big strides. For a kid who was drafted in the seventh round for his overwhelming physical tools (6'7", 335 pounds, athletic) rather than his polish, can you say it's impossible that Webb develops into a replacement-level starter? Of course not. That's especially the case if a team tosses him over on the right side of the line, where his pass-protecting onus will be lessened and his skills as a run blocker would be better served.
None of this is to say Webb is a guaranteed breakout guy; just that at least one team is having this exact conversation now.
FB Michael Robinson
Talk about bad timing. If NFL rosters were comprised merely of the 53 most talented players possible, there's no question Michael Robinson would still be a Seattle Seahawk.
He's morphed from Penn State star quarterback to one of the league's most reliable fullbacks over a seven-year career spent entirely in the NFC West. Robinson made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and remained an effective blocker for Marshawn Lynch and a solid short-yardage runner in his limited carries.
But, as is often the case in today's NFL, circumstance reared its ugly head. Robinson was due a base salary of $2.5 million, a rather exorbitant for a player with such a limited role. While the Seahawks aren't having any cap issues and their win-now emphasis makes that salary perfectly fine in the grand scheme, paying $2.5 million for a guy who might not see the field for weeks proved a final straw.
Robinson missed the preseason's final two games and hadn't practiced in nearly two weeks while dealing with a mysterious stomach virus. The Seattle Times reported that Robinson's absence may last multiple weeks into the 2013 season. With sixth-round pick Spencer Ware and second-year fullback Derrick Coleman being younger, cheaper options, Seattle chose to move on rather than pay the veteran premium.
But Robinson, illness or not, shouldn't be out of work long. He's a willing run blocker who has helped Lynch to consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the first time in his career, which isn't a small deal. It's easy to forget now that he's certified Beast Mode, but Lynch was considered a bust upon arrival in Seattle. While the presence of Russell Wilson (and his running ability) helped Lynch a ton in 2012, it's impossible to discount Robinson's blocking ability—especially on stretch plays.
Where Robinson truly makes his bones, though, is with his versatility. He's a brilliant pass-catcher out of the backfield, ranking first in DYAR last season among running backs who caught between 10 and 24 passes.
As the traditional fullback becomes less a part of today's NFL by the minute, guys like Robinson are the ones who can subsist. It may take a week or two for his health to get checked out, but there's no way 2013 will go by without him on a roster.
(Note: Antoine Winfield would be included in this list, however, no official word has come down. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Seahawks were planning on releasing the 36-year-old corner if they were unable to find a trade partner.)
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