The Best Player Who Could Be Cut from Every NFL Roster This Offseason
While the majority of player transactions this offseason have already occurred, there are always a number of twists and turns thrown our way throughout the summer in the form of surprising player cuts. It's time to project the best player who could be released from every NFL roster over the remainder of the offseason.
Players made this list for a number of reasons. Some carry a high salary-cup number that is likely too rich for a backup. Others are coming off poor performances in 2013. And many will face a roster crunch at their particular position, where an influx of young (and cheaper) players provides teams with an alternative to overpriced veterans.
If released, the vast majority of players on this list would find work elsewhere, so they are worth keeping an eye on as the calendar moves toward training camp.
Here is a list of the best players who could be cut from every NFL roster this offseason.
Arizona Cardinals: TE Rob Housler
When discussing the current plight of Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler, the following must be taken into account: Housler is primarily a pass-catcher, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians prefers his tight ends to be of the blocking variety.
So it should come as no surprise that Housler could find himself on the chopping block at some point this offseason.
The Cardinals drafted former Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas in the second round, re-signed Jake Ballard and inked John Carlson, and all three are adept blockers. That could leave Housler on the outside looking in.
Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com agrees, writing that Housler will have to "work hard to stay up on the depth chart."
Expect the Cardinals to try and deal Housler during training camp, and if they don't find any suitors, they could offer him his outright release.
Atlanta Falcons: RB Steven Jackson
Last season, Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson had his worst year since 2004, only rushing for 543 yards in 12 games. And with Jackson set to turn 31 in July, it's fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank, and if he'll be a Falcon come September.
The Falcons drafted former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman in the fourth round, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff lavished him with praise, saying via ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure:
He's a versatile back. He has the ability to tote the rock as a lead back. He's a strong guy. He runs with some authority and some anger to his running style. He can catch the ball well. And for us, we thought he was just a real versatile addition to our running back group.
The most noteworthy nugget from that quote is when Dimitroff refers to Freeman as a potential lead back, which could be bad news for Jackson, who is set to make $4 million this season.
It's not extremely likely that Jackson will be cut, but if Freeman emerges and fellow running back Jacquizz Rodgers can impress, it could be a possibility.
Baltimore Ravens: C Gino Gradkowski
2013 was not a good year for Baltimore Ravens center Gino Gradkowski.
He finished the season rated as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 35th-best center, and only 35 were ranked. For the mathematically challenged, that means PFF graded Gradkowski as the worst center in football.
The Ravens have already upgraded the position this offseason, trading for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers interior lineman Jeremy Zuttah. And with center A.Q. Shipley also on the roster, Gradkowski is expendable.
Buffalo Bills: K Dan Carpenter
In last year's NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills spent a sixth-round pick on kicker Dustin Hopkins. But a groin injury forced him to miss the entire 2013 season, and Dan Carpenter filled in ably in his stead, converting 33 of 36 field-goal attempts.
Given that the club drafted Hopkins, it's safe to assume that he'll be given every opportunity to win the job. Plus, Carpenter is set to make $2.48 million in 2014, as compared to Hopkins, who will make $568,000.
Unless Hopkins gets hurt or can't hit the broadside of a barn, expect him to be the Bills' kicker come September.
Carolina Panthers: RB Kenjon Barner
The Carolina Panthers have a crowded backfield that includes running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert, and there are only so many carries to go around. That could mean last year's sixth-round draft pick, running back Kenjon Barner, might not make the final 53-man roster.
The Panthers also selected Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney in the sixth round of this year's draft, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Gaffney took Barner's roster spot.
That's an opinion shared by B/R's Charles Edwards, who projects Barner to not make the club's Week 1 roster.
Chicago Bears: C Roberto Garza
Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza has been extremely durable since signing with the club prior to the 2005 season, starting at least 14 games in each of the nine campaigns.
But that streak could soon come to an end, as the Bears signed former New Orleans Saints center Brian de la Puente this offseason. While Garza is believed to currently be atop the depth chart, it's entirely possible that de la Puente, who is six years younger than Garza (de la Puente is 29, Garza is 35), will beat him out for the starting gig.
If that happens, Garza could be a candidate for release. Even though he's set to earn only $1.5 million this season, the Bears could decide to jettison a 35-year-old backup center if it means keeping a younger player with more upside.
Cincinnati Bengals: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
The writing appears to be on the wall for Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Green-Ellis, the club's leading rusher in each of the last two seasons, is currently listed as third on the depth chart behind fellow running backs Gio Bernard and second-round draft pick Jeremy Hill. At the club's recent OTAs, both Bernard and Hill took snaps before Green-Ellis, per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com (h/t Brent Sobleski of USA Today).
Expect Green-Ellis to be in a different uniform by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Cleveland Browns: FB Chris Ogbonnaya
Last season, Cleveland Browns fullback Chris Ogbonnaya was the team's most effective rusher, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Of course, that speaks more to the futility of the Browns' rushing attack than it does to Ogbonnaya's brilliance.
The Browns brought in former Houston Texans rusher Ben Tate in free agency and drafted Towson's Terrance West in the fourth round. Former Philadelphia Eagles back Dion Lewis is also on the roster. And with the team adding Southern Illinois fullback Ray Agnew after the draft, it's possible that 2013 was Ogbonnaya's swan song in the Dawg Pound.
Dallas Cowboys: S Jeff Heath
Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath was thrust into action as a rookie in 2013, and he didn't play all that well, finishing the year ranked as Pro Football Focus' 62nd-best safety.
With J.J. Wilcox expected to take over as starting strong safety, Heath will shift into a backup role and might have to continue to excel on special teams in order to make the final 53-man roster.
He will battle with Matt Johnson, rookies Ahmad Dixon and Ryan Smith and second-year player Jakar Hamilton for reps at backup safety and is no lock to make the team.
Denver Broncos: TE Joel Dreessen
The Denver Broncos possess an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions, including tight end, where Julius Thomas is the clear-cut No. 1 option and Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green serve as backups.
While tight end Joel Dreessen has been an adequate player throughout his career, it probably won't be enough to save his roster spot.
Look for Dreessen to be the odd man out in the Broncos tight end corps.
Detroit Lions: RB Mikel Leshoure
Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure has failed to impress. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal, meaning it's now or never for him in Motown, and he's in a crowded backfield that includes Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick.
To his credit, Leshoure has been pleased with the opportunity he's received under new coach Jim Caldwell, saying via Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com:
Right now coach is giving me the opportunity to get more carries. Theo (Riddick) is getting a few more reps, too (with Joique Bell rehabbing his knee injury), and we’re here to take full advantage of it. We weren’t out there a lot last year, so to get our opportunities, whether it’s OTAs or minicamp, training camp or whatever it is, you have to take advantage of it.
That's a nice quote to read in May, but it doesn't necessarily translate to on-field success.
If Leshoure doesn't dazzle throughout the summer, he could find himself playing elsewhere this season.
Green Bay Packers: OT Derek Sherrod
The inclusion of Green Bay Packers tackle Derek Sherrod on this list shouldn't surprise anyone, as the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option for 2015.
Sherrod has never started a game in Green Bay after being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and he carries a cap charge of $2.1 million this season.
With the club already possessing a number of talented tackles in David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and Don Barclay, it's feasible that the team could choose to cut ties with the injury-prone Sherrod before the season even begins.
Houston Texans: QB T.J. Yates
2011 seems like a lifetime ago for Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates.
That season, Yates came on in relief of injured signal-callers Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart and guided the team to its first playoff victory in franchise history. And in doing so, he looked like he'd be a part of the organization for years to come.
But Yates has only attempted 32 passes over the past two seasons, throwing zero touchdown passes against three interceptions. Now the team has a new head coach in Bill O'Brien, and he's currently carrying four quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, fourth-round draft pick Tom Savage and Yates.
Fitzpatrick is the likely starter; he isn't going anywhere. Keenum might not be starting material, but he proved last season that he can hold down the fort in case of injury. And Savage could be the team's passer of the future.
All of this means that Yates is likely finished in Houston.
But hey, he'll always have 2011.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Da'Rick Rogers
The Indianapolis Colts are loaded at the receiver position, which means at least one player currently on the roster won't make the final cut.
Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks are locks, while Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and third-round pick Donte Moncrief will battle for the other two-three spots.
Rogers possesses outstanding physical attributes, but it's worth noting that he had character issues at the collegiate level at Tennessee, and while he's been squeaky clean in Indianapolis, it's something that could potentially work against him if problems creep up.
One would assume Moncrief would make the roster, and then it'll be up to Rogers to beat out Brazill and Whalen. If he doesn't, there's no question that another NFL club would take a chance on him.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Justin Blackmon
It's been a major fall from grace for Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon, who was the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft.
Blackmon is serving his indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and the club has given away his locker, per Mark Long of The Associated Press. That move comes after general manager David Caldwell told Long that he isn't "counting on" Blackmon being with the team in 2014.
The Jaguars also selected a pair of receivers in the second round of the draft: USC's Marqise Lee and Penn State's Allen Robinson.
It's quite possible that the team won't wait until after the season to cut bait with the talented yet mercurial Blackmon. He'll likely have to attempt to resurrect his career somewhere other than Duval.
Kansas City Chiefs: CB Brandon Flowers
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is perhaps the most surprising name on this entire list given how well he's played over the course of his six-year career.
But it's worth noting that B/R's Dan Pompei reported before the draft that the club was interested in potentially dealing Flowers for picks. A trade didn't materialize, but the Chiefs did select a cornerback, Rice's Philip Gaines, in the third round.
Flowers fell off in 2013, finishing the year ranked as Pro Football Focus' 87th-best cornerback, and cutting him would save the Chiefs $3.5 million.
He would be a hot commodity if he were to hit the market, and as of right now, that looks like a possibility.
Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas
Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas hasn't sparkled since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, only averaging 3.6 yards per carry in his three-year career.
And he was shifted down the depth chart when the Dolphins signed free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno, who will form a committee with fellow rusher Lamar Miller. The Dolphins also have Mike Gillislee on the roster.
Given that Thomas has failed to impress coach Joe Philbin, it's possible that he's played his last down of competitive football in South Beach.
Minnesota Vikings: QB Christian Ponder
Three years after the fact, it's hard to believe that quarterback Christian Ponder was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 12th pick of the 2011 draft. To say that Ponder has underwhelmed would be like saying Mila Kunis is average looking. He's 14-20-1 as the team's starter and has thrown 38 touchdown passes against 34 interceptions.
Earlier this month, the Vikings clearly moved on from Ponder by trading up to select former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the bottom of the first round. The club also re-signed signal-caller Matt Cassel.
Ponder is set to earn $1.76 million in base salary this year, which is a pretty penny to pay for a third-string quarterback. If the team is unable to find a trade partner, he could definitely be a candidate for release.
New England Patriots: RB Brandon Bolden
Last season, the New England Patriots used a variety of running backs, including Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 271 yards and three touchdowns. But with the team possessing a glut of players at the position, Bolden could be on the roster bubble.
The Patriots have Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and both men are already ahead of Bolden on the depth chart. And with their fourth-round selection in this month's draft, the Pats drafted Wisconsin running back James White.
If White impresses this summer, Bolden could be the victim of the team's numbers game in the backfield.
New Orleans Saints: WR Robert Meachem
Wide receiver Robert Meachem began his second tour with the New Orleans Saints last year, catching 16 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, 2013 could have been the end of his second Saints tenure, as the club is stacked at the position.
Joining incumbents Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and Joseph Morgan is rookie first-round pick Brandin Cooks. Meachem will have significant competition at the end of the depth chart, and that generally doesn't bode well for a soon-to-be 30-year-old receiver.
One thing working in Meachem's favor his his rapport with quarterback Drew Brees, but that won't be enough to save his roster spot if he's outperformed in camp.
New York Giants: RB Peyton Hillis
Running back Peyton Hillis proved to be a godsend for the New York Giants last year, coming in and toting the rock when the team's rushing corps turned into a veritable MASH unit. But even though the Giants re-signed him this offseason, he's not guaranteed a roster spot.
The Giants also signed former Oakland Raiders running back Rashad Jennings and drafted Boston College rusher Andre Williams in the fourth round; both men are locks to make the roster. Plus, while the future of 2012 first-round pick David Wilson is up in the air after he underwent neck surgery, he can't be counted out.
That means Hillis will battle with 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Cox and Da'Rel Scott to remain on the roster, and it's possible that he won't be a Giant by the time September rolls around.
New York Jets: WR Stephen Hill
Since being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, New York Jets receiver Stephen Hill has been a colossal disappointment, only hauling in four touchdown receptions and generally looking like his hands are made of stone, which is a problem when your job is to catch the football.
And with the team having reloaded at the receiver position, Hill's roster spot could be in jeopardy.
The Jets signed free-agent receiver Eric Decker and also drafted a pair of pass-catchers in Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders. Jeremy Kerley returns as the presumptive slot receiver, and David Nelson is back as well.
Hill is set to earn $1.2 million this year, so he wouldn't be terribly expensive to keep, but the club could choose to move on in the wake of his underwhelming first two seasons if Evans and Saunders emerge over the summer.
Oakland Raiders: LB Kevin Burnett
Last season, Kevin Burnett started all 16 games for the Oakland Raiders at weak-side linebacker and finished the year ranked as Pro Football Focus' 24th-best 4-3 OLB.
But his playing time is set to diminish in a major way, as the club drafted Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick in this month's draft, and Burnett was a no-show Tuesday at the Raiders' voluntary OTAs.
Speaking of Burnett's absence, coach Dennis Allen said this, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:
I’ve had communication with Kevin this whole time and, again, this is a voluntary camp. Players can make their own decisions and they’ve got families and things in their personal lives that they’ve got to make sure that they take care of so I’m not concerned about that at all.
While Allen says he isn't concerned, he surely isn't happy with Burnett's decision to not show up.
And with Burnett set to count $4 million toward the cap, he could easily end up an ex-Raider by September.
Philadelphia Eagles: LB Brandon Graham
While it would be surprising if the Philadelphia Eagles released linebacker Brandon Graham, it's not outside the realm of possibility. He has ultimately disappointed in Philadelphia since being selected in the first round of the 2010 draft, only accumulating 11.5 sacks in four seasons.
Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com reported in April that the team was "open" to dealing Graham, but the draft came and went and he remained on the roster. Still, the Eagles did spend their first-round pick on Louisville pass-rusher Marcus Smith, which means Graham will be fighting for a roster spot.
Graham is due to make $3.3 million in 2014.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
This offseason, in an effort to help retool the wide receiver position, the Pittsburgh Steelers inked former Raiders and Cots receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a one-year deal. But Heyward-Bey faces an uphill battle to make the club's roster. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Justin Brown and rookie Martavis Bryant are all currently ahead of him on the depth chart.
Plus, Heyward-Bey finished 2013 ranked as Pro Football Focus' 107th-best receiver, and only 111 were rated. That's not good.
He could easily be released before the season starts.
San Diego Chargers: LB Larry English
Since being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, San Diego Chargers linebacker Larry English has only garnered 11.5 sacks and is very close to being a flat-out bust. He's currently buried on the team's depth chart behind linebackers Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson and wouldn't play ahead of Melvin Ingram, either.
In his projected 53-man roster for the Chargers, B/R's Marcelo Villa leaves English off the linebacking corps, meaning Villa believes he will be released.
English is set to earn $2.4 million this season, which certainly doesn't help his cause.
San Francisco 49ers: C Daniel Kilgore
The San Francisco 49ers appeared set at center with Daniel Kilgore, but that all changed during this month's NFL draft. The club selected former USC center Marcus Martin in the third round, and it's very possible that Martin could end up usurping Kilgore and become the 49ers' starting center.
If that happens, Kilgore could be cut, as the 49ers have oodles of young talent throughout the roster that they could be more apt to keep.
For more on this impending battle, check out what B/R's Alex Miglio wrote about Kilgore's potential future in San Francisco.
Seattle Seahawks: WR Sidney Rice
While seeing the name of wide receiver Sidney Rice on this list probably stuns Seattle Seahawks fans, it shouldn't. Even though the club re-signed him to a one-year, $1.4 million contract, only $150,000 is guaranteed, and the team already has a glut of talented pass-catchers.
Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kease are locks to make the roster, and the club invested draft picks in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Ricardo Lockette is also on the depth chart.
If Rice's surgically repaired knees don't hold up, the Seahawks could easily cut ties with him. He'd surely find work elsewhere and be a low-risk, high-reward investment.
St. Louis Rams: RB Isaiah Pead
The St. Louis Rams have already jettisoned one running back this offseason with the release of Daryl Richardson, so we know coach Jeff Fisher isn't afraid to shake things up at the position. That nugget of information doesn't bode well for rusher Isaiah Pead, the club's second-round pick in 2012.
Pead is clearly behind both Zac Stacy and 2014 third-round pick Tre Mason on the depth chart, and he also has to deal with Benny Cunningham.
Something working against him is the fact that he was suspended for the 2013 season opener, which he never recovered from, as he fell behind both Richardson and Stacy.
It's not outside the realm of possibility that Pead's time in St. Louis could be drawing to a close.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Bobby Rainey
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 4-12 last season, one bright spot on the team was the production from the running back position, as Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey all impressed when given the opportunity.
But now, it looks like one of those three men won't make the roster, as the Bucs drafted former West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round and signed Jeff Demps as a free agent.
Martin is a lock to make the team, as is Sims, and coach Lovie Smith seems enamored with the speedy Demps. That means James and Rainey will likely battle for the final spot on the roster.
James gets the nod here because he's younger than Rainey (23 compared to 26) and because he averaged a full yard more per carry (4.9 compared to 3.9) last season.
That means Rainey might find himself playing elsewhere in 2014.
Tennessee Titans: RB Shonn Greene
While this one might come as a surprise, Tennessee Titans fans should prepare themselves for the potential release of running back Shonn Greene.
Before the draft, he was the top option on the depth chart, but that changed when the club selected former Washington running back Bishop Sankey in the second round.
Now, Greene could be fighting for his roster spot, as noted here by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Greene has had two knee surgeries over the last nine months and only averaged 3.8 yards per carry last season. He's set to earn $2.3 million in base salary this season.
The Titans already have a bruising back in Jackie Battle, and the team also signed former Chiefs scatback Dexter McCluster.
So, despite appearing to be a lock to make the roster earlier this offseason, Greene could very well be an ex-Titan by the end of the summer.
Washington Redskins: WR Leonard Hankerson
The Washington Redskins are absolutely loaded at the receiver position. That's good news for quarterback Robert Griffin III, but bad news for some of the names at the end of the depth chart.
And it's particularly sour for receiver Leonard Hankerson, who could find himself hitting the waiver wire come training camp.
The Redskins are locked into the following receivers: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and rookie Ryan Grant. Veteran Santana Moss is likely to make the club barring injury, as he just signed a new deal this offseason. That leaves Aldrick Robinson and Hankerson to battle for the final receiving spot on the roster.
Hankerson has ultimately disappointed since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, and if he can't outplay Robinson in training camp, he could be done in our nation's capital.