James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather: Not all roster cuts are equal
Not all roster cuts are equal.
Some benefit the player, releasing him to free agency from a toxic contract situation early to allow him the freedom to pursue options elsewhere.
Some really, really don't benefit the player.
Here's a list of players who fit the second category, guys whose latest cut signals the end of their career, or whose cut gives them a significantly damaged base on which to start contract negotiations with a new team, or just one or two cuts that don't seem fair.
Meriweather's tenure in New England wasn't as long as his hair
Brandon Meriweather is a mercurial sort.
Two Pro Bowls to his credit, one Super Bowl appearance, 250-plus tackles, two sacks, 12 picks.
Also to his credit: two shootings, other college incidents, and now, one glaring "cut" on his transaction summary.
To most people this is a surprise, but to a New England Patriots fan, not so much.
Meriweather had developed a reputation for wandering away from his assignments, taking awful routes to the ball, selling out solid tackles to make hits and generally blowing as many plays as he managed turnovers.
As late as last week he was making radio appearances saying how he loved "trying new things" in the the secondary, and head coach Bill Belichick took a leaf from Meriweather's book and decided to try new things in the secondary, too.
Meriweather was subsequently picked up by the Bears, but only as far as a one-year contract. The Bears have depth issues at safety and can afford to use him as a high-impact player without relying on him much.
However, he's really got a black mark on his name, as a guy whom Belichick didn't trust to stay on the roster and whom Belichick didn't even test the value of in trade.
Kyle DeVan's crime at the Colts?
Not being named "Mike Pollak."
His appeal to Colts fans?
Not being named "Mike Pollak."
DeVan was promptly picked up by the Eagles, but at this moment he's now known as "the guy that got cut from a woeful Colts offensive line featuring three rookies."
Whether he'll stick to the Eagles is a moot point, because he's unlikely to be as a starter, and many thought he had the inside running to win a starting gig at the Colts.
Now he's on the back foot, and that's not a good place for an offensive lineman.
Itty-bitty with massive college production - Ahmad Black
Ahmad Black was given no chance in the National Football League.
Too slow (4.70 second 40-yard dash).
Too small (5'10" on a good day).
Too light (184 pounds).
Yet he had a lot of ridiculously good college gametape and a phenomenal amount of college production under his belt.
It was not the greatest surprise when one team took a punt on him in the fifth round, specifically, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Those who root for the underdog were hoping he'd catch on and become the Buccaneers' defensive version of Wes Welker of the New England Patriots.
Instead he became the Wes Welker of the San Diego Chargers: cut as a rookie and with no idea where to go now as a player who is apparently still too slow, too small and too light to cut it in the NFL.
Larry Johnson in a Dolphins uniform didn't last long.
End of the line, Larry.
The 2010 version of Larry Johnson got past the initial roster cut-downs, staying on Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins roster to Sept. 21, 2010.
The 2010 version?
Couldn't even make it past roster cutbacks on a team with only three genuine running backs, the most experienced of whom is Reggie Bush.
Tommie Harris: Will beg for job.
Tommie Harris was drafted ahead of some pretty talented players, including New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
Harris himself showed some real talent, making three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro berth.
Now he can't even make the Indianapolis Colts' defensive line.
What went wrong with the Colts isn't entirely clear, but some reports suggested it was an attitude issue, that Harris didn't quite gel with the vision of the Colts management.
Either way, he's the guy who got cut when such highly rated luminaries as Eric Foster and Antonio Johnson kept their jobs.
That can't be good for the free-agency ratings.
Record breaker last season, in a horrible, horrible way.
Chester Taylor has the unfortunate honor of hitting free agency as the only running back with more than 100 carries in a season at a yard-per-carry rate of under 2.4.
Yes, 100-plus carries at 2.4 yards per carry.
It's almost a surprise he was picked up in free agency at this point, but once you look at his contract you can see how he was punished for the complete inability of the run game last year.
He's currently the beneficiary of a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, as a stop-gap measure to replace rookie Ryan Matthews, who is now on injured reserve.
Taylor's effectively living on borrowed time in Arizona, and if Beanie Wells evolves into an every-down running back, he might not even have borrowed that much.
He's got one meager chance to resurrect his name, not that long after he signed a big-money contract with the Bears. That's quite a fall from grace.
An Eagle, once a Saint, and now a pauper.
The Eagles have enough healthy defensive tackles to cut one?
And no, Cullen Jenkins doesn't count—he was best as a sub-package pass rusher.
The Eagles either know something about Mike Patterson's cerebral arteriovenous malformation and subsequent seizures, or they just really didn't like Hargrove.
Either way, it's not the most shining endorsement for the guy.
Bit of a stumble for Desmond Clark.
Desmond Clark is a talent—or he was, two years ago.
Clark is a receiving tight end of the ilk of Dallas Clark or Aaron Hernandez—or he should be.
Instead, with new Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz in place, Clark saw his production diminish and then drop off the radar.
Only one year ago, Bill Belichick apparently offered the Bears a second-round draft pick in exchange for Clark (the one he used on Rob Gronkowski, by all accounts), and the Bears said no.
Now they have cut Clark for no gain, and seemingly without testing the trade waters first.
That's a pretty sad indication of the relative value of Desmond Clark at this moment.
Not even worth a 2013 seventh-round conditional draft pick or something? Painful.
No game photos. Wonder why?
Brandon Ghee was a third-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010.
However, that didn't quite destine him for great things, as he didn't get on the field to make any contributions.
That form continued into 2011, as the Bengals—after having lost Johnathan Joseph in free agency and Pacman Jones to injury—couldn't find room for Ghee, who was cut in the last rolldown of roster spots.
Ghee found himself on the Bengals practice squad, which is a good thing, right?
Well, it does mean that every single NFL team had a shot at picking him up off waivers, and that none bit.
So basically, Ghee was cut by the Bengals, and every other team said "no."
Thirty-two nos. Ouch.
At least now he can work for Dr Frankenstein now.
Igor Olshansky had signed an $18 million dollar contract only two years ago, and he supposedly had an extra two years left of the pact.
He'd already been paid his $8 million guarantee, so the Cowboys were effectively happy to give up $4 million in dead money just to get Olshansky off the books.
What's worse is that he wasn't picked up in the wave of post-cut signings, where other experienced free agents were snaffled within a day or two.
Even more baffling, he's an experienced 3-4 defensive end in a league teeming with new 3-4 defenses (cough, Houston), and he still can't catch a break.
The little Gronkowski. For a varying degree of 'little'
Chris Gronkowski may have settled his own fate on Oct. 25, 2010, when he whiffed on a block of a player who scooted through and blew up Tony Romo's clavicle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he found himself ousted this year by the Cowboys, who showed their preference for an ex-Jet with four games and one seven-yard reception to his credit.
Now he's been picked up by the Colts, without a clear role considering the H-back seems to be filled by Brody Eldridge and a two-back set with a genuine fullback is more rare than Peyton Manning taking a sack.
Trindon Holliday is a kick returner in a league without kick returns
Trindon Holliday is practically the face of the dying breed: kick returners.
The new rules probably signed the death-knell of Holliday's active roster spot, as the luxury of carrying a specialist kick returner went to being a genuine hindrance.
He's stuck being a stud kick returner in a league without kick returns.
While you could point to the fact that he was re-signed by the Texans to the practice squad, he's a young player who would have been subject to waiver claims, and nobody claimed him.
It seems that nobody wants kick returners under the current rules, and Holliday's best chance at an NFL career may well be a reversion to the old rules next year.
Wholly intact in this picture (rare)
Terrence Wheatley had an exciting start to the NFL.
He earned his first start on Nov. 2, 2008, against the Indianapolis Colts and matched up against Marvin Harrison.
On his first defensive set, he broke up one pass intended for Harrison and then broke up a second.
But in the process of slapping down the second pass, he rolled over the top of Harrison, fell on his arm and injured his wrist, an injury that put him on injured reserve.
Fast-forward three years, and that's Wheatley's only real impression on the NFL.
He was hoping to catch on in Jacksonville, in order to resurrect a career with a lot of promise, but even more injuries.
Now he's an unemployed cornerback whose best (only?) game was more than three years ago, and who has been passed over by every team in the league at least once.
As close as Maybin got to usefulness.
Aaron Maybin. Super-bust.
Before 2011 he was just a bust.
But now he's the guy that Rex Ryan gave up on immediately.
The same Rex Ryan who kept Vernon Gholston around for quite a while.
Where to now for Maybin?
He didn't catch on in a 3-4. He didn't catch on in a 4-3. He probably couldn't catch anything in a bargain VD clinic.
Chalk this one up as a career-ender.
The Rhodes Scholar won't be unemployed for long. It's just not guaranteed to be in football
Myron Rolle has a lot going for him: extremely intelligent, Rhodes Scholar, education opportunities up the wazoo and a burgeoning career in medicine just waiting for him.
However, that's really his problem and always has been.
Before the draft, people questioned just how long he would try to stick in the NFL before he pursued his real passion and gift: medicine.
While he was drafted as a gifted and versatile athlete, his intelligence was supposedly as much of a detriment to his ratings as it was a boon.
Some scouting departments thought he wouldn't stick it out, solely because he had better options.
Now you'd have to wonder if those same scouting guys will shy away from looking at him now he's a free agent, just because other things appeal more.
McKenzie is the unfortunate recipient of some downtime.
Tyrone McKenzie is a grafter.
He had a tough childhood, elevating himself from unfortunate circumstances and earning himself a college scholarship to Michigan State.
However, after some issues, he transferred to Iowa and had a pretty impressive season, after sitting out a year for transfer reasons.
He then transferred to South Florida, being able to play immediately as he transferred under a hardship waiver, this time specifically related to the family issues.
He was drafted by the New England Patriots, but was injured his rookie season. After being usurped by other linebackers on the depth chart, the Patriots granted him a release from the practice squad so he could take work closer to his family in Florida by joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As of a month ago, things were looking up, and he was being touted as a potential starter to replace Barrett Ruud.
Now he's just another free agent, kicked in the teeth by a cruel NFL.
Tate had two kick returns for touchdowns last year, but is a victim of the kick return rule change
Brandon Tate is another victim of the kick return rule change.
After taking back two for touchdowns last season, Tate found his role being squeezed when the NFL dictated kickoffs be moved five yards upfield.
That put emphasis on Tate to show his abilities as a wide receiver, and with the sudden depth at that position in New England, Tate's time as a Patriot was cut short.
It should be noted that the Cincinnati Bengals have picked up Tate through waivers, but after the stories Tate has likely heard from recently ex-teammate Chad Ochocinco, he may have preferred to hit free agency proper.
All by himself. Don't wanna be...
Trent Edwards was the odd man out in the Oakland Raiders quarterback cadre.
He was beaten out by, well, Kyle Boller. And nobody.
Terrelle Pryor is on the roster, but he's suspended for the first five games and has had zero time to acclimate or learn the playbook.
So basically, the Raiders are saying they would rather have Boller in the event of an injury to Jason Campbell.
And in the event of an injury to Boller and Campbell, if it's before Week 6 they'd rather go it without a quarterback at all, or if it's after Week 6 they'll go it with a rookie with zero playtime in practice, training camp or preseason games.
The Raiders effectively had the choice between Edwards and a black hole at quarterback three, and went with the black hole.
Somehow fitting for the Raiders, but a little depressing for Edwards.
Healthy scratch. Ouch.
Sinorice Moss had a lot going for him.
He was from an established NFL family, as older brother Santana Moss had had a measure of success playing the same position.
However, he was injured his first season, and the next year the Giants drafted fellow wide receiver Mario Manningham, so Moss' looks went down.
This was exacerbated when Moss lost looks to the next season's rookie wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks.
So Moss was a guy who had run out of opportunities because highly drafted guys vaulted up the depth chart. Not really his fault, right?
Moss finally got a shot to earn some gametime when he seized the kick return duties from injured Domenik Hixon, only to get hurt himself. Strike two.
Moss was released by the Giants and found himself on the dream team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Better yet, the Eagles wide receivers had injury histories possibly even worse than his own, as Jeremy Maclin had a lymphoma scare (that turned out to be an inflammatory virus), DeSean Jackson has ongoing concussions in 2010 and then held out just before the deadline in 2011, and the Eagles picked up fellow ex-Giant Steve Smith, who was an immediate addition to the physically unable to perform list.
Moss was the healthiest wide receiver going into the season, so he should have stood out, right?
Nope. Cut. Ouch.
Josh McCown; beaten by a rookie and Alex Smith.
Josh McCown gets to be known as the guy who is worse than Alex Smith.
The 49ers had Smith on the roster, and heir apparent Colin Kaepernick as backup, with McCown playing the role of veteran third quarterback, in the "just in case" gig.
Apparently the 49ers "just in case" happens to be "shrug, who cares, next season."
Instead, the 49ers released McCown, and picked up rookie undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien off waivers.
So if Alex Smith goes down, they either send Kaepernick out to the wolves, or they protect Kaepernick by lobbing in a guy who literally first saw the playbook yesterday.
McCown just got told "thanks anyway, but if the worst happens, we'd prefer to tank the season instead of have you on the roster."