NFL Roster Cuts 2011: New England Patriots and 5 Teams Who May Regret Cuts
With the NFL season only a week away, teams were required to cut their rosters down to the mandatory 53 players by 3:00 PM yesterday.
A time when young players' dreams of achieving in the NFL are put on hold for a little bit longer and veterans are forced to find another team to give them a shot to continue their career.
When looking at the list of players cut, most of them are understandable. Some because of injuries, some because of off-field issues and some because the team knew they could find a cheaper replacement through free agency.
However, every season there are always a couple of head scratchers that make you wonder what the team was thinking when they decided to cut that particular player.
Sometimes it's because there was a more deserving player to be shown the door or that player had somehow shown that he deserved to be on the sidelines come Week 1.
Regardless of the reason, here are six teams that may regret cutting the players that they did this offseason.
1. St. Louis Rams
In the 2008 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams made Houston University wide receiver Donnie Avery the first wide receiver to be taken in the draft.
Avery came into St. Louis and had an impressive rookie season, finishing the year with 674 receiving yards and three touchdowns, as well as one rushing touchdown.
Avery won the Rams' rookie of the year award, just edging out defensive end and first-round pick Chris Long for the honor.
After another season with impressive numbers in his second year, Avery entered his third season ready to take his game to the next level. However, a knee injury in the preseason sidelined the receiver for the entire 2010-2011 season.
Avery returned this preseason, looking to regain not only his 4.3 second speed, but also his spot on the roster. The 27-year-old had to compete with newly acquired receiver Mike Sims-Walker as well as Danario Alexander.
After missing the first preseason game due to knee soreness, Avery returned and impressed, finishing the preseason with 91 receiving yards and a touchdown
However, this was not enough and Saturday the Rams cut ties with the receiver, even though the receiver had one more season under contract. It was reported that the receiver had requested a trade and that the team had attempted to trade him, but could not find a suitor.
One of the main reasons that Avery was cut—other than the injury risk and a trade partner—would be his size. It is clear that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wants bigger receivers for quarterback Sam Bradford.
"Other than Danny Amendola, there is no wideout on the current roster under 6-0 and lighter than 205 pounds. Avery is 5-11, 192."
Size is not everything in the NFL, as there are plenty of examples of smaller receivers being successful in the league—Wes Welker is one that comes to mind.
Where Avery could not keep up in size, he could with speed, which is the main reason that the Rams drafted him in 2008. If Avery was able to return to the speed that brought him to the NFL, he could have still been a threat in St. Louis.
Although Avery was considered an injury risk, he was not the riskiest receiver that was on the roster, according to St. Louis Today:
"The news was better for Danario Alexander, who survived Saturday's cuts despite twice missing practice time in camp because of knee soreness. After five surgeries, his left knee probably isn't going to get any better, but the Rams apparently couldn't turn their backs on the heart and playmaking ability of the former University of Missouri star."
Both the Rams and Avery wanted a fresh start and they have both received their wishes, but with receiver Mark Clayton placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list, the Rams depth at receiver could be an issue.
2. New England Patriots
“It’s been good. Brandon has been out there every day. He’s worked hard. He’s been able to do everything and I think he’s gotten better, worked a lot on his man-to-man coverage. He’s out there practicing like everybody else is.’’
However, as well as Meriweather has played, it was not enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster and the team cut him before the deadline.
The 2007 first-round pick has played well since being drafted, averaging close to 66 tackles over four seasons and playing in both the 2010 and 2011 Pro Bowls.
The 27-year-old also has not missed a game while with the Patriots, starting 40 of 64 regular season contests.
However, Meriweather was known to go away from what play was called at times and was benched several times because of it.
He has also had a lot of disciplinary issues in his playing career, including the on-field brawl that occurred while Meriweather was at Miami (Fl) with Florida International, where he was suspended for stomping on the opposing players.
The Pro Bowler's playing time slowly decreased during the preseason this year and it was assumed that the Miami alumni would be traded or cut.
In the final preseason game against the Giants, Meriweather did not take the field until after half-time.
This was one of more questionable cuts as Meriweather's play has not decreased and the Patriots are slim at the safety position, after releasing James Sanders earlier in the offseason.
It didn't take Meriweather long to find a new place to call home, as the Chicago Bears signed the safety to a one-year deal.
3. Chicago Bears
The release of running back Chester Taylor by the Chicago Bears was one cut that everyone saw coming.
Last week, Taylor had been told by Bears head coach Lovie Smith that he was not part of the Bears plans. Taylor believed that to mean that the team had cut him and he left the training facility.
What no one told Taylor was that Smith was talking of the team's plans for the upcoming game against the Tennessee Titans, a game in which Taylor did not play in.
Taylor would return to the team the following day and played in the team's final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
Unfortunately for Taylor, he still was not part of the Bears future plans and he was cut yesterday.
Taylor did not play well last season as Matt Forte's backup and his stats proved it. Of course, Taylor cannot be handed all the blame for his stats as the offensive line for the Bears was dreadful last season. That said, Taylor is clearly not the same player as he was in Minnesota.
The only reason the Bears may regret cutting Taylor is the injury risk that comes with newly acquired running back Marion Barber.
Barber has been known for a bruiser type running style, choosing to barrel through defenders instead of jukes and spin moves. This type of play can lead to a very short career for a running back and even though Barber is only 28 years old, his body has taken some punishment.
Last season with the Cowboys, Barber struggled and his numbers diminished and he also struggled with a calf injury the entire season. A year after getting close to the 1,000-yard rushing mark (932), Barber finished last season with only 374 yards and was unable to get past 60 yards in any game.
Although Taylor has struggled, if Barber goes down with another injury, the Bears do not have much depth behind Barber and Forte.
Taylor is a very durable back and can be a reliable backup. He will get to show that with his new team, the Arizona Cardinals, who signed him quickly after he was cut to help fill the void left by rookie running back Ryan Williams, who tore his patella tendon in the preseason and was lost for the year.
4. Arizona Cardinals
Pictured above is cornerback Fred Bennett. You may be asking yourself, "Why did he put a picture of a Houston Texan player in an Arizona Cardinal slide?"
Well, that is because Bennett was signed by the Cardinals and was part of the team for a whopping five days, but no one took any photos for proof.
In 2007, the South Carolina Gamecock was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans and was used to fill in for injured corner Dunta Robinson.
Bennett played well in his rookie season, recording 62 tackles and three interceptions. He stayed with the Texans until 2010 when he was waived before the start of the 2010 season.
Bennett then signed with the San Diego Chargers and was there for the first four games before he was cut. The Cincinnati Bengals would later sign Bennett to replace injured cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Which brings us to present day, when the Bengals released him on August 27th. The Cardinals signed him to add depth to a young secondary, but like mentioned earlier, cut him only five days later.
This is not saying at all that the Cardinals will regret cutting Bennett because of his skill, but they may regret going into this season with only four corners.
Having a starter and one backup on both sides of the field leaves little room for error or injury and no one should know that more than the Cardinals this preseason, as they lost their projected starting running back Ryan Williams to injury.
The secondary took a huge hit this offseason when they traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia in exchange for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Now the team will put their faith in rookie corner Patrick Peterson, who the team drafted with the fifth overall pick in this year's draft. Putting that much faith and hope into a rookie can be very risky.
There is no doubt that Peterson is skilled at his position, but there has been plenty of history of rookie busts in the NFL. If Peterson struggles out of the gate, the Cardinals secondary, especially their cornerbacks, could be in trouble.
Maybe they should have kept Bennett for two or three more weeks to make sure they were set at the position.
5. Tennessee Titans
With a new coaching staff coming into Tennessee, it was assumed that certain changes would be made on the Titans roster.
One of those changes was the release of wide receiver Justin Gage.
Gage spent four years with the Titans, with his most impressive year coming in his second season, where he recorded 34 catches for 651 yards and six touchdowns in only 12 games.
However, since then Gage's numbers have decreased in catches (28 in 2009-2010 and 20 last season), yards (383 and 266), and touchdowns (three in 2009-2010 and just one last season).
Although Gage has struggled in the past few seasons, he still has tremendous size at 6'4" and could be a good target for newly acquired quarterback Matt Hasselback.
The Titans are clearly trying to get younger at the wide receiver position and 30-year-old Gage is not in the team's future plans.
Tennessee was able to add former Pittsburgh Steeler Nate Washington and combined with young Kenny Britt, the youth movement is heading in the right direction. However, after those two, the team has two unproven receivers in Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins.
If they had kept Gage, the receiving core would have been able to spread out the field more for Hasselback as he tries to show the Seattle Seahawks they made a bad move in letting him walk.
Gage will now have to look to continue his career elsewhere, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top from this move between the 30-year-old and the Titans.