2022 NFL Roster Cuts: Predicting the Biggest Names That Could Hit the Market

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor IAugust 29, 2022

2022 NFL Roster Cuts: Predicting the Biggest Names That Could Hit the Market

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    With the 2022 preseason in the books, NFL teams have a full offseason of practices and exhibition games to make decisions on final roster cuts.

    As is the case every year, we’ll see big names on the transaction wire in the coming days. Some of them may surprise you while other players have clearly struggled or fallen behind their competition through August.

    In a few situations, teams will likely attempt to trade a player who has value because of recent past production or his perceived upside (usually early-round picks) before the front office cuts him.

    In a leaguewide view of the most notable players on shaky ground with their teams, we’ve highlighted eight and provided a potential landing spot for each selection.

Zack Baun, LB, New Orleans Saints

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    AP Photo/Gary McCullough

    Zack Baun has bounced between strong-side and weak-side off-ball linebacker but made little progress at those positions. He’s already behind All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis and 2021 second-rounder Pete Werner on the depth chart.

    Per John Sigler of Saints Wire, Baun took a backseat to veteran newcomers this offseason.

    With Pete Werner sidelined by a groin injury, it’s been free agents signed off the street like Eric Wilson and Jon Bostic who are getting first-team snaps next to Demario Davis, not Baun. That’s hardly what you’d expect to see from a former third-round draft pick who the Saints traded up for.

    In 32 contests, seven starts, Baun has recorded 42 tackles, one for loss, and two pressures. He came into the league as an undersized edge-rusher who logged 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his final term at Wisconsin.

    Though Baun is listed at 6’3”, 225 pounds on the Saints’ official website, he may need to play on the edge to reach his potential. The third-year pro can possibly reinvent himself as an outside linebacker in an odd-man front in a designated pass-rushing role on long third downs.

    The Minnesota Vikings may have some interest in Baun with Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith on the edge. Hunter and Smith only played eight games combined last year.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Arguably the biggest name on this list because of his position, Jimmy Garoppolo could find himself on the free-agent market with a chance to choose his next destination.

    Second-year quarterback Trey Lance is set to take over the San Francisco 49ers offense in the upcoming campaign, which makes Garoppolo expendable. The front office can recoup $25.6 million in cap space if it releases him, per Over the Cap.

    General manager John Lynch may not want to rush Garoppolo out of the building though. If a playoff-contending team loses its quarterback early in the season, the 49ers would have a quality asset in a quarterback who’s led the 49ers to the playoffs twice, including a Super Bowl appearance, over the last three years.

    However, the 49ers have the least amount of cap space across the league with $3.4 million, so it makes sense that they would want more financial flexibility heading into the regular season. Garoppolo's win-loss record (33-14) makes him an appealing free agent for a team with a solid roster around the quarterback position.

    If San Francisco cuts Garoppolo, watch out for the Seattle Seahawks, who named Geno Smith their starter over Drew Lock Saturday. Since 2015, Smith has started in just five games.

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins

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    In 2020, Myles Gaskin led the Miami Dolphins in yards from scrimmage (972). Last year, he finished second on the team in that category with 846 yards. Now, the fourth-year running back seems like the odd man out.

    This offseason, the Dolphins hired a new head coach in Mike McDaniel, who served as the San Francisco 49ers’ run game coordinator between 2017 and 2020 and then moved into an offensive coordinator role under head coach Kyle Shanahan last year.

    Based on his coaching background, McDaniel likely had a large influence on the Dolphins’ decisions to sign Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert who played for the 49ers over the past six seasons. Sony Michel also arrived from the LA Rams.

    All three incoming running backs could have a role in Miami’s offense in 2022. If that’s the case, Gaskin may find himself on the free-agent market in the coming days. Keep in mind the front office inked Edmonds to a two-year, $12.1 million deal ($6.1 million guaranteed), which is a sizeable salary at his position. The Dolphins can save $2.5 million if they cut Gaskins, per Over the Cap.

    As a free agent, Gaskin could find a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers, reuniting with his former head coach Brian Flores, who’s the linebackers coach for the AFC North club. Secondly, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, the Steelers want to "lighten" Najee Harris’ workload.

Ronald Jones II, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Through the preseason, rookie seventh-round running back Isiah Pacheco may have performed well enough to make Ronald Jones II expendable in the coming days.

    ESPN’s Adam Teicher released his 53-man roster projection for the Kansas City Chiefs, and he believes Jones will be the odd man out at running back.

    Ronald Jones never got any traction on the depth chart in training camp or during the preseason. He [didn't] play at all in the first half of the team's second preseason game -- the one that offers the best look into the team's thinking -- and he didn't touch the ball once all afternoon. It appears the Chiefs are ready to move on without him.”

    Through three exhibition games, Pacheco recorded 16 carries for 66 yards with his longest run going for 13 yards. Meanwhile, Jones logged 12 rush attempts for 44 yards with his longest gain on the ground at nine yards. The rookie also caught three passes for 21 yards, which isn’t the veteran running back’s strong suit. The latter only hauled in two passes for seven yards.

    Pacheco outperformed Jones on the ground against the Green Bay Packers Friday. Perhaps the fifth-year veteran made his contributions too late in the offseason program to maintain a roster spot.

    Jones, who’s a 2018 second-round pick, will likely find a complementary role with a new team. The Arizona Cardinals may be a good spot for him since they need a solid No. 2 option behind James Conner. Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed listed Cardinals running back Darrel Williams as a surprise trade or cut.

Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons activated Deion Jones off the physically unable to perform list, which may be bad news for Nick Kwiatkoski, who missed camp practices because of an undisclosed injury.

    Ironically, Jones and Kwiatkoski took the field for the first time in the preseason while most of the Falcons' first-stringers watched from the sidelines Saturday. Usually, when the majority of a team’s starters sit for the final preseason game, players battling for roster positions see the most action.

    The Falcons would have to eat about $19 million in dead money if they release Jones, so he’s safe unless they trade him. The front office can release Kwiatkoski and save $895,000 without owing him anything.

    Two years ago, Kwiatkoski signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders and then started in 12 games during the 2020 season. Last year, he lost his starting job and missed nine games. The Raiders cut him in March.

    Hampered by injuries this summer, Kwiatkoski may have to find a roster spot elsewhere before Week 1 of the 2022 season.

    In one year as a full-time starter for the Raiders, Kwiatkoski had a decent campaign, logging 81 tackles, three for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, four pass breakups and an interception. If healthy, he could contribute in a rotational role.

    The Los Angeles Chargers need depth at the off-ball linebacker position. Kenneth Murray hasn’t played up to first-round expectations, and Drue Tranquill is headed into a crucial contract term only two years removed from missing all but one game. Along with Troy Reeder, Kwiatkoski can fill a backup spot at the position.

Alex Leatherwood, OL, Las Vegas Raiders

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    ​​Following a rough rookie campaign, moving from right tackle to right guard after Week 4 under former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, Alex Leatherwood has continued to struggle on the outside with a new regime in place.

    Head coach Josh McDaniels and his staff haven’t been able to help put Leatherwood on the right track. Strictly on the outside, Leatherwood has performed at a below-average level during the preseason.

    According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, other teams think the Raiders might trade or release Leatherwood. As a 2021 first-rounder, his contract carries dead money charges of $11.8 million, $8.5 million and $1.9, correspondingly, for the next three terms. That’s a tough financial pill to swallow, but general manager Dave Ziegler and McDaniels didn’t invest a premium pick in him.

    Without any sign of Leatherwood moving back inside, Vegas may cut its losses and move on with $21.6 million in cap space still left to patch up other areas of the roster before Week 1.

    Only in his second year, Leatherwood will more than likely get another chance to reinvent himself elsewhere as a tackle or guard.

    The Chicago Bears, who just moved second-year offensive lineman Teven Jenkins from tackle to guard, may take a flier on Leatherwood because of his collegiate dominance on the perimeter. At Alabama, the latter won the 2020 Outland Trophy as a standout junior left tackle.

Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets

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    AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

    Denzel Mims will probably suit up for another team if he’s on an NFL roster for Week 1 of the regular season.

    According to The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt, Mims requested a trade through his agent Ron Slavin, who issued a statement to the team Thursday.

    “Denzel vowed to come back better (than) ever this season and worked extremely hard in the offseason to make that happen,” Slavin said. “Still, he has been given no opportunities with the starting offense to get in a groove with them.”

    General manager Joe Douglas selected Mims in the second round of the 2020 draft while Adam Gase served as Gang Green’s head coach. The Baylor product had an underwhelming rookie campaign, hauling in 23 passes for 357 yards through nine games (eight starts).

    In 2021, the Jets fired Gase and hired Robert Saleh. Mims saw an offensive snap reduction under the current coaching staff (82 to 40 percent) and caught just eight passes for 133 yards in 11 outings.

    At the beginning of training camp, Saleh expressed his satisfaction with Mims’ effort, telling reporters that he’s “fighting his tail off” and “battling” on special teams.

    However, as Mims’ agent points out, the receiver hasn’t had a chance to showcase himself in the first-unit offense. With Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and rookie first-round wideout Garrett Wilson atop the depth chart, the third-year pro will probably have to go elsewhere for a bigger role.

    If the Jets cannot find a trade partner for Mims, which seems likely, they could let him go and save $1.1 million.

    According to The Athletic’s Joseph Person, the Carolina Panthers have checked in on Mims. If they don’t acquire him via trade, head coach Matt Rhule may look to sign his former Baylor wideout off the free-agent market.

Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants

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    If you’ve followed New York Giants’ beat reporters through the offseason, this isn’t a surprise, but Darius Slayton is a notable name.

    According to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, the Giants shopped Slayton before the 2022 draft.

    Former NJ.com reporter Zack Rosenblatt noted that Slayton struggled while in the lineup with mostly backups in the spring.

    “Slayton rarely worked with the first-team offense during live drills and generally struggled to catch passes,” Rosenblatt wrote. “The lack of reps with the starters is especially eye-opening with how many actual starters (Toney, Golladay, Shepard) were out."

    Duggan wrote that it was “glaring” to see Slayton work with the third-team offense at the beginning of training camp.

    As a 2019 fifth-rounder out of Auburn, Slayton had an impressive career start, hauling in 98 passes for 1,491 yards and 11 touchdowns through his first two seasons (24 starts in 30 games).

    Last year, Slayton only caught 26 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns for a passing attack that finished with the second-fewest yards and third-fewest touchdowns. Now, he’s probably behind Kenny Golladay, 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and rookie second-rounder Wan’Dale Robinson, who’s looked impressive this offseason (h/t NBC Sports’ Peter King).

    Slayton could catch on with the division rival Dallas Cowboys, who probably won't have Michael Gallup at the beginning of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL or James Washington (broken foot). The Cowboys could use a big-play receiver who averaged 15-plus yards per reception in his first two seasons.

    Player contracts and team cap space amounts are provided by Over the Cap.

    Preseason statistics are provided by ESPN.com.

    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.


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