Highlighting the Biggest Roster Cut for Every NFL Team
Cut-down day in the NFL is one of the most tragic days of the year for NFL teams, players and fans. Difficult decisions are made in front offices across the league regarding which players will represent their organization going forward.
It is an agonizing day for players on the roster bubble as they anxiously wait for that dreaded phone call. Fans wait in anticipation as well to find out if a personal favorite player is able to stick around on the team that they root for.
For all of these reasons, it is a dreaded day, indeed.
Now, it's here.
As of 6:01 p.m. ET on Saturday, all 32 NFL teams were left with the final 53 men that would compose their 2013 rosters.
Most teams needed to make over 20 cuts to get their rosters down to the appropriate number. Some of these cuts came as expected, but others were a rather shocking surprise.
Which was your team's biggest cut after the dust finally settled?
Arizona Cardinals: DT David Carter
David Carter entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft. He immediately contributed on Arizona's defensive line rotation. During his rookie season, he surpassed expectations for a late-round selection. Carter finished the season with 10 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two passes defensed while playing in all 16 games.
Unfortunately, Carter's production significantly fell off in 2012 which allowed Ronald Talley to attempt to earn a roster spot during the 2013 preseason.
Talley outplayed Carter throughout which led to Carter's dismissal from the team. This is an unfortunate end to what seemed to be a very promising beginning for the defensive tackle out of UCLA.
Atlanta Falcons: LB Brian Banks
Feel-good stories sometimes do not come with a happy ending. That is the unfortunate case of Brian Banks.
Banks served five years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. He never gave up on his dream to play in the NFL, and upon his release, found a spot on the Falcons' roster.
He was a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, but the news of his release still comes as a bit of a shock. Anyone who knows Banks' story has been pulling for him to succeed in the NFL.
Hopefully, this is not the end of the road for the 28-year-old Banks, as he will look to latch on elsewhere.
Baltimore Ravens: TE Matt Furstenburg
The Ravens have had a great amount of difficulty surrounding quarterback Joe Flacco with significant weapons in 2013. The loss of Anquan Boldin over the offseason as well as a season-ending injury to Dennis Pitta and a torn hamstring for Ed Dickson are tough to swallow for the defending Super Bowl champs.
The team did sign two veterans—tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Brandon Stokley—to the roster to help add some depth, but their declining contributions year after year make them iffy signings at best.
This is why it comes as a bit of a shock that the Ravens would elect to release UDFA Matt Furstenburg during final cuts.
Furstenburg was becoming a fan favorite in Baltimore—partly due to his solid preseason, and partly due to his local ties to Maryland.
If Furstenburg does not clear waivers, the Ravens will have to scramble to find a suitable backup tight end for the 2013 season.
Buffalo Bills: CB Crezdon Butler
The Bills have been hampered by injuries at the cornerback position throughout the 2013 preseason. Former first-round selection Stephon Gilmore has missed significant time so far. Also, Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers have been struggling with injuries as well.
This is why the release of Crezdon Butler comes as a surprise.
Many believed that the fourth-year corner would get the start in Week 1 in place of the injured Gilmore. Apparently, the Bills organization thought differently.
Butler spent a significant time on the field in the team's preseason finale and struggled in coverage. At that point it appeared that his roster status was in doubt. However, his release still hurts the depth at a position that continues to be plagued by injuries.
Carolina Panthers: CB Drayton Florence
The Panthers signed cornerback Drayton Florence to a one-year, $1 million deal over the offseason to help them bolster their struggling secondary. The 32-year old was in line to start opposite Captain Munnerlyn.
Apparently, the Panthers felt that Florence may have lost a step, and subsequently released the veteran during final cuts.
This is a rather surprising move after signing him only months prior. However, it seems as though the Panthers are willing to allow second-year player Josh Norman to take on the starting role in 2013.
Expect Florence to catch on with another team in need of depth and a veteran presence in the secondary.
Chicago Bears: OT J'Marcus Webb
The Bears have decided to release offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb. According to the Chicago Tribune, Webb—a veteran tackle who has started 44 games over the last three seasons for the Bears—did not impress the new regime led by Marc Trestman this preseason.
In fact, Webb took a 50 percent pay cut earlier in the preseason in an attempt to save his roster spot. One would think that would be enough to secure his spot as a backup.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall. Still, the Bears have struggled keeping quarterback Jay Cutler upright over the past few seasons, and the release of Webb could potentially hurt the depth and veteran presence on the offensive line.
With Webb cut, tackles Eben Britton and Jonathan Scott will have to step up in his place.
Cincinnati Bengals: FB John Conner
Bengals fullback John Conner was one of the highlights during HBO's Hard Knocks this year. He always seemed to have a knack of finding his assignment and laying a big hit to clear a hole for his running back.
Despite his solid preseason, the Bengals have elected to cut Conner as they opted for the versatility of H-back Orson Charles instead.
This comes as a surprise due to the inconsistency of Charles as a blocker.
Conner has been one of the best fullbacks in the league of late—Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him as the second-best fullback during the 2013 preseason.
He should not have trouble latching on with another team this year.
Cleveland Browns: WR David Nelson
David Nelson—a 6'5" receiving threat—was a bit of a surprise release from the Browns. The former Bills receiver had a sub-par preseason after battling with a rash of injuries.
Nelson showed promise in 2011, catching 61 passes for 658 yards and five touchdowns for the Bills. A torn ACL and shattered knee kept him out for the duration of the 2012 season.
His recovery was slowed due to a bone bruise suffered in training camp this year. His history of injuries and the emergence of Davone Bess to take over the slot position made Nelson expendable.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Anthony Armstrong
The Cowboys made somewhat of a surprise move and cut veteran wide receiver Anthony Armstrong on Saturday. Like many players involved in positional battles, the wide receiver fell victim to a numbers game.
Armstrong has had tremendous upside since joining the league—he racked up 44 receptions for 871 yards and three scores during his rookie season in 2010.
Since then, he has not been much of a factor offensively but has always been a solid contributor on special teams.
Given the amount of upside that Armstrong still possesses, he should not have a difficult time latching on with another team this season.
Denver Broncos: RB Lance Ball
The running back corps in Denver became crowded over the offseason, paving the way for the release of veteran running back Lance Ball.
Ball had been with the Broncos since 2010 and was a reliable situational player. Obviously, the club thinks very highly of rookie running back C.J. Anderson, who now takes over Ball's position on the roster.
Going into the season, the Broncos look to give Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball the majority of the work at running back while spelling them out with the now healthy Knowshon Moreno.
Having an abundance of running backs is a good scenario for Denver, but the release of Ball is surprising considering the lack of a veteran presence at the position.
Detroit Lions: CB Ron Bartell
Nine-year veteran and former second-round cornerback Ron Bartell was among the surprising releases by the Lions on Saturday.
Bartell joined the Lions in 2012 after spending most of his career with the Rams. At the start of the 2013 preseason, Bartell was penciled in as the starter at cornerback for the Lions opposite Chris Houston.
Later on, Bartell was moved to a backup role in Detroit—not because of his poor play, but because of the emergence of Darius Slay.
It appears that the Lions are making a youth movement in the defensive secondary which leaves Bartell on the outside looking in.
The veteran should be able to link up with another team looking to add depth in the secondary.
Green Bay Packers: QB Vince Young
In one of the most surprising moves on cut-down day, the Packers decided to part ways with Vince Young—a veteran quarterback looking to rekindle his NFL career.
Young fell short and was released by Green Bay on Saturday in a rather bizarre move.
When the Packers initially cut their roster down to 75 players, former backup quarterback Graham Harrell was released. It seemed at the time that Young played well enough to secure the backup position.
Not so fast.
Young was then released during final cuts which would leave rookie seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman as the backup to Aaron Rodgers for the 2013 season.
That is not a great scenario for the Packers, and one would think that they may look to the waiver wire to secure a veteran to back up their franchise quarterback.
Houston Texans: RB Deji Karim
The writing on the wall was already there for Deji Karim. The fourth-year running back was forced to sit back and watch as UDFA Cierre Wood stole the show in the Texans' final preseason game against the Cowboys.
Wood racked up 107 yards on 19 carries, which apparently was all that head coach Gary Kubiak needed to see.
Karim was released by the Texans on Saturday.
With injury scares to Arian Foster and a shaky injury history of backup Ben Tate, the move to release Karim in favor of an undrafted rookie seems odd.
There is a possibility that the third back will see some work this season, and Karim would have been able to provide experience in the running back corps.
Releasing Wood and signing him to the practice squad after clearing waivers would seem to be more of a logical choice, though Kubiak may have felt that the rookie would not have made it back to the team.
Indianapolis Colts: OT Ben Ijalana
The Colts released 2011 second-round selection Ben Ijalana, an offensive tackle from Bill Polian's final draft with the team.
The new brass in Indianapolis has cleared out most of the remnants from the former regime, and Ijalana fell victim to that trend.
This is a rather interesting move considering that Ijalana had a very solid preseason. In fact, he was ranked 15th out of an eligible 157 offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Colts seem content keeping Bradley Sowell as their backup left tackle for the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Marcus Trufant
The Jaguars decided to release veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant on Saturday. The move was somewhat expected after the team signed former Seahawks corner Will Blackmon earlier in the week.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator in Seattle while Trufant and Blackmon played for the team.
It seemed that the 32-year-old Trufant would stick with the team due to his relationship with the coach. However, the Jaguars opted to go with youth and signed Blackmon, a six-year veteran.
Trufant was originally brought in to bolster a defensive secondary that ranked 24th in the league in pass coverage in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Now that he has been released, it may be difficult for Trufant to keep his NFL career intact and sign with another team.
Kansas City Chiefs: RB Shaun Draughn
In a surprising turn of events, the Chiefs third-string running back Shaun Draughn was surpassed on the depth chart by Cyrus Gray late in the preseason which has now led to Draughn's release.
Draughn entered the league as an UDFA in 2011 but surfaced in 2012 carrying the ball 59 times for 233 yards and scoring twice. He showed a good amount of reliability as a third option at the running back position.
However, Gray's 13-carry, 72-yard performance in the Chiefs' final preseason game appears to have been enough for the 2012 sixth-round selection to claim Draughn's spot on the 2013 roster.
It should not take long for Draughn to find a home with another team.
Miami Dolphins: WR Brian Tyms
The Dolphins decided to release wide receiver Brian Tyms during their final cuts made on Saturday. Tyms was in a tight battle with several other receivers for one of the final two positions on the 53-man roster.
A sentimental favorite, Tyms is a local from the Fort Lauderdale area and Florida A&M University. He grew up in foster care and spent four months homeless, living in his car.
Tyms led the Dolphins receivers with 11 receptions for 106 yards in the preseason. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be enough for the 2012 UDFA.
His Cinderella story is not over as the Dolphins are expected to make an attempt to sign him to the practice squad once he clears waivers.
Minnesota Vikings: WR Stephen Burton
Third-year wide receiver Stephen Burton was released by the Vikings after losing a roster battle against Joe Webb.
After a terrible stint as a quarterback, Webb made the transition to wide receiver this year and shined late in the preseason. Burton, on the other hand, started strongly but struggled with consistency down the stretch.
The team likely made the decision to keep Webb because he can still serve as a backup quarterback as well as a receiver. He is also a special teams contributor.
This is a rough cut for Burton—a 2011 seventh-round pick. Last season, he played in 12 games, catching five passes for 35 yards and a score. The 6'1", 224-pound receiver has flashed a good skill set and should be able to develop elsewhere.
New England Patriots: P Zoltan Mesko
While plenty of members of the media are focusing on the release of a certain third-string quarterback from this team, there was a release that could have a significantly larger impact this season.
In a bit of a surprising move, the Patriots have decided to part ways with veteran punter Zoltan Mesko in favor of UDFA Ryan Allen.
Mesko did not have a very solid 2012 campaign as he finished towards the middle of the pack according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). This led to the signing of Allen to compete with Mesko during the preseason.
Allen was a long shot to win the starting role, but sometimes long shots pay off. Pro Football Focus ranked Mesko a mere 45th out of 49 eligible punters in the 2013 preseason—compared to Allen's 11-overall ranking.
The Patriots are banking that Allen can continue this performance over the course of the regular season. If not, the lack of a veteran punter on the roster could turn out to be devastating.
New Orleans Saints: WR Courtney Roby
The Saints have decided to go in a different direction as they have decided to release longtime special teams contributor and captain Courtney Roby.
Roby joined the Saints in 2008 and became their primary return man the next season. Lately, he has been involved more with coverage units on kickoffs and punts.
It appears as though the Saints are looking at players like Rafael Bush and Andy Tanner due to Bush's explosiveness and Tanner's abilities as a wide receiver.
The 30-year-old Roby still has a solid chance to make another team's roster and continue his contributions on special teams.
New York Giants: QB David Carr
Another conspicuous roster cut was made by the Giants on Saturday when they released Eli Manning's backup for the last five years, David Carr.
New York decided to release the 34-year-old veteran in favor of journeyman Curtis Painter. Head coach Tom Coughlin had this to say about the decision:
We simply based it on the preseason. From the standpoint of all the evaluations, it pointed to the fact that Painter had a better preseason.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Coughlin was not exactly correct in his assessment. Carr was ranked better than both Painter and rookie Ryan Nassib in their 2013 preseason quarterback rankings.
The Giants will save a little cash with the move—Painter will make $630,000 this year while Carr was set to make $1.05 million.
New York Jets: WR Mohamed Massaquoi
The Jets released veteran wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi only nine days after signing him. The receiver was released by the Jaguars earlier during the preseason. Once the Jets signed Massaquoi, Braylon Edwards was released—seemingly locking in Massaquoi's roster spot.
Not so fast.
The team decided that the former second-round, 26-year-old receiver was not worthy of a roster spot. This is a rather inauspicious decision considering the lack of depth and experience at the position.
Massaquoi found success during his first four years in Cleveland, but he'll have to wait for his chance to prove himself somewhere other than New York in 2013.
Oakland Raiders: DE Andre Carter
Possibly one of the more shocking releases of cut-down day came in the form of Andre Carter's departure from the Raiders.
The 34-year-old veteran defensive end was one of the only experienced pass-rushers on the Raiders' roster—he amassed 78.5 sacks since entering the league in 2001.
Clearly the Raiders are in rebuild mode and are looking to acquire as much youth as possible. Still, having a veteran presence at such an important position as defensive end could only help those younger players on the roster.
Carter fell victim to a numbers game that includes keeping four quarterbacks and two punters on a final 53-man roster.
Philadelphia Eagles: TE Clay Harbor
It seems odd that the Eagles would release a pass-catching tight end like Clay Harbor. The new up-tempo offense that Chip Kelly brought to Philadelphia seems very tight-end friendly. Harbor sticking on the roster as the fourth player at the position would make sense.
That will not be the case.
Even with injuries and inexperience at the wide receiver and tight end positions, keeping Harbor was not a priority to the new Eagles regime.
This fourth-year pro will now have to continue his career elsewhere—something that should be very easy for him to do.
This cut alludes to the fact that the Eagles offense will remain a mystery leading up to opening day.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Jonathan Dwyer
The Steelers' move to cut veteran running back Jonathan Dwyer may not be entirely surprising, but it is very noteworthy.
Dwyer seemed to be set to be the fourth running back on the roster this year behind starter Isaac Redman, rookie Le'Veon Bell and third-down specialist LaRod Stephens-Howling.
However, the late arrival of Felix Jones after being cut by the Eagles made Dwyer expendable. Jones caught on quickly in Pittsburgh's scheme and seemed comfortable in the offense. Meanwhile, Dwyer was struggling throughout the preseason.
Dwyer was ranked a dismal 113th of 120 eligible running backs during the 2013 preseason by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Spending his first three years with Pittsburgh after being drafted in the sixth round back in 2010, Dwyer will look to continue his career elsewhere.
San Diego Chargers: OT Max Starks
Veteran offensive tackle Max Starks was in a position battle with King Dunlap throughout the preseason. The winner would earn the right to protect quarterback Philip Rivers' blind side in 2013.
Dunlap was a rather surprising victor of the battle—neither player had a fantastic preseason. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), both players received negative grades.
Cutting Starks in favor of Dunlap could be part of a youth movement for the new regime in San Diego—Dunlap is four years younger than Starks.
However, it is still a surprising cut due to the amount of experience that Starks could bring to the Chargers offensive line—even as a backup.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Austin Collie
This is a rather interesting cut. Not because Austin Collie is a well-known name or because he performed poorly in the preseason but because of the lack of experience and depth currently on the 49ers roster.
Aside from Anquan Boldin, the 49ers do not have savvy veteran wide receivers at Colin Kaepernick's disposal. The young quarterback would benefit greatly by being surrounded by more experienced players.
Collie has been in the NFL since 2009. He has had a troublesome past due to injuries—he has only played two full seasons in his four-year career—but he has not shown any current sign of regression.
He did struggle through the preseason, catching only five passes for 51 yards, but his experience and past success at the wide receiver position should be enough to warrant keeping him for depth going forward.
Since Collie was cut, expect the 49ers to continue making moves at wide receiver before the season begins.
Seattle Seahawks: CB Antoine Winfield
Quite possibly the most surprising move on cut-down day was the release of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield from the Seahawks.
Winfield signed a one-year deal in April to play in Seattle and was expected to take the role as the starting slot corner. The youth of the Seahawks' secondary made strides over the preseason that made the 36-year-old corner expendable.
After his release, a new development surfaced: Winfield announced his retirement from the NFL (via CBS Sports).
It was an interesting decision since Winfield is still a very strong corner and could upgrade plenty of NFL teams. In fact, in 2012, Winfield was Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) highest-rated cornerback.
St. Louis Rams: LB Josh Hull
The Rams made an interesting decision to release one of their better special teams contributors in linebacker Josh Hull.
The former seventh-round selection in 2010 out of Penn State played in all 16 games last season and made himself known on special teams while racking up eight tackles (seven solo).
Hull became expendable due to some solid play by incoming rookies and his inexperience at the linebacker position at the NFL level.
Head coach Jeff Fisher made things clear during an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I thought we saw improvement out of the young linebackers, so I think that obviously has increased their chances, especially on special teams.
Now, the Rams need consistent play from these unproven rookies to be confident that they can take the place of the sure-tackling Hull.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Cody Grimm
The Buccaneers released fourth-year safety and special teams contributor Cody Grimm during its final cuts on Saturday.
Grimm was a seventh-round pick in 2010 and played all three seasons with the Bucs, playing in 23 total games and compiling 73 tackles.
In 2013, Grimm would have played the role of backup to Mark Barron at the strong safety position. He would also continue his role on special teams.
Perhaps an arrest over the offseason for public intoxication put a bad taste in head coach Greg Schiano's mouth and could have served as a catalyst for his release. Schiano had this to say regarding the arrest according to Pro Football Talk:
Our players know our expectations on and off the field and we take these matters very seriously. When we feel we have obtained all the necessary information, we will act accordingly.
The writing could have already been on the wall.
Tennessee Titans: C Fernando Velasco
It is clear that the Titans are rebuilding their offensive line from scratch—this was evident with the additions of guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack over the offseason.
However, they made a very surprising move and cut last year's starting center Fernando Velasco.
As of now, Rob Turner is slated to start at center, and versatile rookie Brian Schwenke is set to back him up. The move to cut ties with Velasco still remains a mystery. Not only is the veteran lineman a solid option at center, but he can play guard as well.
Holding on to Velasco would have been a smart move to keep a solid amount of depth and experience on the offensive line. It's not as though they cut the center due to age—he is only entering his fourth season.
As of now, depth could be a slight concern as the Titans are only carrying three true guards on the roster.
Washington Redskins: S DeJon Gomes
The Redskins decided to part ways with former starting safety DeJon Gomes on cut-down day. This move was made to pave the way for UDFA Jose Gumbs to earn a roster spot.
Granted, Gomes did not have a spectacular 2012 season. In fact, he was ranked a mere 65th out of an eligible 88 safeties last season by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Despite his sub-par play in 2012, Gomes is still only 23 years old and capable of contributing as a backup and on special teams. Instead, the Redskins opted for an unproven player in Gumbs to take his place—an interesting decision, to say the least.
Gomes played in 30 games, compiling 75 tackles and one interception during his two-year tenure with the Redskins. He should not have trouble finding himself on another team this season.