Final roster cuts for NFL teams bring arguably the toughest decisions for coaches to make, and they often leave veteran players and former standouts looking for a new team after the preseason.
Although coaches love the chance to bring in 90 players for the start of training camp, those initial cuts to 75 can prove tough after a few preseason games. But you won't really hear of many notable players being cut until the final 53, which are coming down over the weekend as all 32 teams prepare for the regular season.
Oftentimes, it's just a matter of numbers for a position on a team, and players are quickly picked up by another organization looking for extra help. In other cases, the player has simply regressed, and he'll likely give it a go in another location. But either way, getting released a week before the season opener puts you far behind the eight ball—even if you do land somewhere and make a 53-man roster.
Here is a look at the most notable players to be released.
Note: Up-to-date roster cuts can be found at NFL.com.
Nate Burleson, WR, Cleveland Browns
The first three NFL stops for Nate Burleson's career involved him being an integral part of the offense, but his fourth was short-lived.
Burleson was cut by the Cleveland Browns on Saturday as the team gets down to 53 players, according to ESPN.com.
The Browns signed Burleson in April as one of numerous signings to address a weak receiving core that was bracing for Josh Gordon's suspension. However, the 33-year-old strained a hamstring August 6 and was sidelined for almost all of the preseason.
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey thinks Cleveland should have realized what a difference-maker a healthy Burleson would've been:
I can understand that Burleson may have struggled with health/explosiveness, but think he would’ve been invaluable for Browns in game.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) August 30, 2014
Burleson has made a career of showing up when he’s been asked & overachieving his physical talent, there’s still something in the tank.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) August 30, 2014
Burlesontalked about the struggles of sitting out despite his spot with the team being in limbo to The Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot:
As a player, you've always got to be worried (about making the team). That's the nature of the business. Hopefully I've put enough film on tape at practice to convince them that I'm a guy they need on this squad. But for me, it's just getting healthy. I would love to force the issue and go out here and do something, but I've got to be smart.
It certainly seems like a matter of poor timing for Burleson. He arrived in a new place that he needed to establish himself in to prove more worthy than younger, higher-potential receivers, and he wasn't healthy enough to give it a full go.
Even without Gordon in the fold, the Browns do have some young talent out wide worth holding onto. But it's hard to argue that they are better off giving up the chance to bring a healthy Burleson back midseason on a team that doesn't have too many standout receivers.
Pat Angerer, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Pat Angerer was leading his team in tackles a few seasons ago, but he is now looking for a new home.
The 27-year-old was released by the Atlanta Falcons on Friday as the team cuts down to 53 players, meaning that his second stint with an NFL team lasted a little more than a month.
He thanked Atlanta with this tweet:
Enjoyed my time in ATL, unfortunately it's come to an end here. First class org and first class people. They gave me a chance when no1 would— Pat Angerer (@PAngererUSA) August 29, 2014
Of course, Angerer immediately made a name for himself after the Indianapolis Colts drafted him out of Iowa in the second round of the 2010 draft. After a whopping 36 tackles in his first four preseason games, he emerged as an impact player for the defense and led the team with 148 tackles in 2011.
Injuries kept Angerer off the field for much of 2012, but he started nine games last season before the Colts opted not to re-sign him, and he landed with the Falcons shortly before training camp.
Angerer's case shows just how fast a player's stock can soar—and then plummet—in the NFL. Two years ago, Indianapolis was bracing for him to be its presumed quarterback of the defense, and now he's looking for a landing spot before the season.
But if Angerer can stay healthy and replicate the style of play that he arrived in Indianapolis with, he'll be back atop a depth chart soon enough.
Jordan Palmer, QB, Buffalo Bills
Jordan Palmer was in Buffalo for less than a week before his plans changed again.
The Bills signed Palmer earlier in the week with the hopes that he could be the team's backup, but a few days of practice and one preseason game were enough for Buffalo to decide he isn't the guy.
The team posted its initial cuts, which also included veteran punter Brian Moorman:
The 30-year-old Palmer had spent the offseason with the Chicago Bears before landing in Buffalo, where EJ Manuel needs a veteran presence to back him up and serve as a security blanket for a quarterback who had injury troubles last year. But instead of giving that job to Palmer, it looks like Kyle Orton will be taking the duties, per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal.
It's unclear why the Bills didn't just sign Orton in the first place and not Palmer, but as they say, it's better late than never.
Plus, perhaps Bills coaches learned some invaluable information from Palmer about their Week 1 opponent and his former team, the Bears.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
It's a young man's league, and the Cincinnati Bengals are exercising that concept in their backfield.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been released by the Bengals. In a little over a season, he's gone from being the No. 1 running back on the team to being expendable. However, you can argue that it's through little to no fault of his own.
Last year, the Bengals nabbed Giovani Bernard early in the draft. After he emerged, the Bengals weren't done, as they selected Jeremy Hill in the second round of this year's draft.
But even with those two young studs ahead of him, there was a third spot on the roster carved out for Green-Ellis, right? Well, it proves his contract was too much to make him such an option over a promising youngster like James Wilder Jr., per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Former #Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis was due $2.3M this year, which proved too much considering the youth there. $700K in dead money.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2014
Green-Ellis didn't have a great year in 2013, but the 29-year-old is more than capable of shouldering a big load in the backfield. Any team that doesn't feel too hot about its top two backs will have to be excited to see his name crop up on the waiver wire.
The shelf life for running backs is alarmingly short, but Green-Ellis still has plenty left in the tank. He might not be the impact player he was early in his career, but he's worth a spot in a two-back system.
Kevin Vickerson, DT, Denver Broncos
Kevin Vickerson was released by the Broncos on Saturday during their final cuts, per ESPN's Jeff Legwold and Adam Schefter, but it may have been the toughest cut for Denver to make.
Vickerson started 11 games for the team last season and was a strong interior presence, but he went on injured reserve in November after a season-ending hip injury. The same injury kept him limited in parts of camp.
He was healthy Thursday night and got his opportunity, playing 39 snaps against the Dallas Cowboys. The defensive tackle spoke afterward about his hopes of making the roster.
"I'm just trying to play hard and show that I still got it," Vickerson said, per Legwold and Schefter. "I'm showing that I can still play this game at a high level. I'm just trying to seize the moment. They asked me to play, so I played. I'm just doing what's asked of me. We'll see what happens."
The Broncos are noticeably deep at defensive tackle, and proof of that lies in the fact that they had to cut a player who started a vast majority of the team's games last year. But that just means that it won't be long before Vickerson finds a new home somewhere that needs the help more than last year's AFC champions do.