Even though excitement for the 2014 NFL season is reaching a fever pitch with the regular season starting on September 4, it is also an excruciating time for many players who have been trying to make a 53-man roster this preseason.
Saturday at 4 p.m. ET is the deadline for all 32 teams to have their final rosters set, meaning that a lot of players are in position to be cut and left looking for work with just days to go before games start.
While a lot of the cuts have been expected for some time, it's still surprising to see some of the names on the market because they aren't that far removed from being valuable contributors. With so much information coming out, we've got predictions for the top players who are trying to find somewhere they can stick.
|Nate Burleson||WR||Cleveland Browns|
|Mikel Leshoure||RB||Detroit Lions|
|Stephen Hill||WR||New York Jets|
|Alex Henery||K||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Jerel Worthy||DT||New England Patriots|
|Kenjon Barner||RB||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Terrelle Pryor||QB||Seattle Seahawks|
|Connor Barth||K||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Mike Brewster||C||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Landon Cohen||DT||Buffalo Bills|
Predictions For Cut Players
Terrelle Pryor, QB
Terrelle Pryor, who started nine games last season for the Oakland Raiders before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks in April, seemed like a safe bet to be the Seahawks' backup quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson and B.J. Daniels as his main competition.
Instead, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Seahawks decided to cut Pryor before Saturday's deadline:
The #Seahawks have released QB Terrelle Pryor, source says— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 30, 2014
While Pryor is never going to be a traditional dropback passer in the NFL, his skill set is good enough to keep him around for a long time with more teams looking for a dynamic, change-of-pace guy at quarterback.
One situation that's just screaming for Pryor is St. Louis, which lost its starter Sam Bradford to a torn ACL and is going with journeyman veteran Shaun Hill to start the year. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reports the Rams are indeed going to "look" at Pryor for their roster:
Am told Rams will take a look at released QB Terrelle Pryor. Doesn't mean they'll claim or sign but will evaluate and discuss.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) August 30, 2014
Which released player will be the first to find a new home?
That's not exactly a sign that Jeff Fisher is going to beg Pryor, but it does make a lot of sense. The Rams can incorporate packages that suit the 25-year-old's skills, which are basically as a Wildcat option, taking a page from NFC West rivals Seattle and San Francisco.
Another reason for the Rams to look at Pryor is to get inside information on Seattle's playbook. Pryor had four months to study Pete Carroll's offense and was in practice with the team all summer, so he can give the coaching staff notes on different formations and what plays are coming.
Sure, it's not exactly the best use of a roster spot to have someone just providing notes, but the Rams have so little margin for error in that division that if they want to make the postseason, every advantage helps.
Prediction: Pryor signs with Rams
Nate Burleson, WR
Everything you need to know about Nate Burleson's brief tenure with the Cleveland Browns is the team didn't have enough confidence in his ability to contribute in a meaningful way despite losing Josh Gordon for the season to a suspension.
The 33-year-old Burleson hasn't been healthy this preseason, playing in just one game and dealing with a hamstring issue that had him on the chopping block as recently as August 26, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.
Cabot would then break the news about Burleson's release on Friday:
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com speculated that the Miami Dolphins could have interest in Burleson:
With the Browns informing Nate Burleson of his release today, wonder if the Dolphins, who wanted him in the off-season, re-emerge for him— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 30, 2014
The Dolphins could use another slot receiver with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline on the outside, but Burleson has only been able to play in 15 games the last two years, so how much does he really bring to the table?
At his age and lacking durability, Burleson will struggle to find work. Another possible scenario, thrown out by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, is a media career.
Those are two extreme scenarios for Burleson, but if we are putting money on it, the latter seems more likely because of where he's at physically.
Prediction: Burleson retires
Stephen Hill, WR
Unlike Burleson, Stephen Hill has age on his side. He's just 23 years old and was a second-round pick in 2012, but his inability to translate raw skills into anything substantial on the field made him a hot-button issue.
The New York Jets, who signed Eric Decker this offseason, released Hill, according to Bob Glauber of Newsday:
No trade for Jets WR Stephen Hill. Team has released him, per source. 2012 second-round pick down the drain.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) August 30, 2014
While Hill still has a lot left to prove before anyone thinks he's a starting wide receiver in the NFL, Judy Battista of NFL.com speculated that another team in need of help on the outside could come calling:
I guess we'll find out soon enough what Mike Pettine thought of Stephen Hill in the one year they overlapped with the Jets. Browns need WR.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) August 30, 2014
The Browns make sense for a player like Hill. He's not going to cost a lot of money, doesn't have to be guaranteed a roster spot and fills a gaping hole for the team. Even if it's just a look in practice one day, head coach Mike Pettine should take advantage of it.
Hill's got big-play capability with his combination of size (6'4") and speed. If he can figure out how to run a route and avoid the dropsies, the Browns will get a great bargain for the 2014 season.
Prediction: Hill signs with Browns
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