NFL Free Agents: Released Players Who Will Be Scooped Up by Opportunistic Teams

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2013

TE Jake Ballard
TE Jake BallardMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cut day is perhaps the toughest event on the NFL calendar as dozens of players have their dreams dashed after coming so close to making a roster. While cut day marks the end of the line for some players, it is actually a new beginning for others as there are plenty of potential moves left to be made before the start of the preseason.

There is often a misconception that players get released because they aren't good enough, but that isn't always the case. Oftentimes, a team has a vast amount of depth at a certain position or the player doesn't fit into its system, so it decides to move on. Just because a player doesn't gel with one team, it doesn't mean that he can't contribute to another.

Here are three players who failed to make a 53-man roster prior to Aug. 31, but will sign elsewhere and be in position to play by the time Week 1 rolls around.


Jake Ballard

Just two seasons ago, tight end Jake Ballard was an absolute revelation for the New York Giants. As an undrafted player out of Ohio State, Ballard didn't enter the NFL with especially high expectations surrounding him, but he soon became a key cog in the Giants' passing attack.

In 2011, Ballard was one of Eli Manning's favorite targets as he caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season. He wasn't as noticeable of a presence in the playoffs, but it's unlikely that the G-Men would have won the Super Bowl without him.

Since then, however, things have been tough for Ballard. He tore his ACL in Super Bowl XLVI, which prompted the Giants to place him on injured reserve during the ensuing offseason. This resulted in him being placed on waivers, which allowed the New England Patriots to claim him.

Ballard sat out the entire 2012 campaign, but he was expected to contribute this season, especially with Rob Gronkowski nursing injuries and Aaron Hernandez no longer in the picture. Despite that, the Pats decided to cut ties with Ballard, according to The Boston Globe.

Ballard received a taste of his own medicine as he was beat out by an undrafted free agent in the form of Zach Sudfeld. It was a numbers game in New England at the tight end position, and Ballard was on the wrong end of it.

Nevertheless, tight end has become such an important position that it's difficult to imagine Ballard lasting very long on the free-agent market. He may not be quite the same player he was prior to the knee injury, but some team is going to take a chance on him in hopes that he can return to form.


Marcus Trufant

Marcus Trufant was once considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but at 32 years of age, there is no question that his skills have declined to a certain extent. Even so, veteran defensive backs definitely have a place in the league.

After spending a decade with the Seattle Seahawks, Trufant hoped to lock down a starting job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they decided to go in a different, younger direction as they released him, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

The move was somewhat surprising due to the fact that the Jags boast one of the worst defensive backfields in the entire NFL. Not only could Trufant have potentially contributed on the field, but he could have been a great mentor for the younger players as well.

Getting cut may have been the best thing for Trufant, though, as he will likely now have his pick of the litter on the free-agent market since there is no shortage of teams looking for quality corners.

The former first-round pick has 21 career interceptions to his credit, and he was both a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 2007 when he picked off seven passes. Trufant hasn't had more than two interceptions in a season since then, but he is a savvy corner who excels in coverage. He is also a very strong tackler, so he is bound to catch on somewhere as a nickel or dime corner at the very least.


Fernando Velasco

It isn't often that a 16-game starter on the offensive line is released, but that is precisely what happened on Saturday. Fernando Velasco started every game at center for the Tennessee Titans last season, and he has the versatility to play guard as well. With so many new additions to the offensive line this offseason, however, Tennessee decided to let Velasco go, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Despite the fact that the Titans signed Andy Levitre and drafted Chance Warmack to fortify the offensive line, the release came as a pretty big surprise. Not only was Velasco beaten out by Rob Turner for the starting center spot, but he was beaten out in his bid to be a backup interior lineman as well. Offensive linemen with starting experience and versatility aren't exactly a dime a dozen in the NFL, so it is only a matter of time before Velasco finds a new job.

Velasco wasn't highly-touted coming out of Georgia as an undrafted free agent, but hard work and dedication allowed him to stick on the Titans' roster for four years. Velasco didn't play much in 2009, but he was on the team when running back Chris Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards, so he has been a part of some great things at the NFL level. He has to be disappointed in the way his tenure with the Titans ended, but Velasco shouldn't have much of an issue landing on his feet.


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