Projecting Every NFL Team's Most Difficult Roster Cut
Over the next month, NFL teams are going to use training camps and the preseason to evaluate what they have available on their rosters. At the end of the period, each team will have to trim its roster to 53 men.
Some of the coming roster cuts are going to be difficult.
On the final day of cuts, every coach and general manager will have to make the painful decision to part ways with at least one player who almost did enough to win a job. In many cases, these guys go on to find a place on a practice squad or start for another team.
In some cases, a player like Minnesota Vikings receiver and former Cleveland Browns practice-squad member Charles Johnson will do both.
This is the kind of difficult roster cut we're going to try to predict for each team today. Since we're only entering the first full week of preseason action, there will be at least some degree of guesswork here (and it may all look a little foolish in a few weeks). However, we'll try to avoid picking on the career fifth-stringers and undrafted long shots of the league in order to keep it interesting.
We'll focus primarily on past performances, injury history, system fit and salary when projecting our cuts, though recent reports and rumors will certainly have some influence.
Arizona Cardinals: Stepfan Taylor
Arizona Cardinals running back Stepfan Taylor was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and has carved out a marginal role in the Cardinals offense since. Though he has never seen extensive action, he did make four starts last season and touch the ball 74 times.
Unfortunately, Taylor wasn't especially effective last season, when he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. He averaged just 3.2 yards per carry as a rookie in 2013, and this consistent lack of production could lead to the Cardinals cutting Taylor with two years remaining on his current contract.
The Cardinals are likely to have both Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson on the roster this season, which could leave Taylor competing with Kerwynn Williams and Marion Grice for roster spots.
Ellington, Johnson and Grice have been limited by injuries this offseason, and according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, head coach Bruce Arians "is not happy with the overall running back play at this point."
"I am not pleased with the time [Andre] and David have lost," Arians said, per Urban. "And I was not fired up about the running backs' performance on Saturday."
According to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, Arians is looking to bring in another running back to add to the equation. This could leave guys like Taylor, Williams and Grice on the outside altogether.
If it comes down to a battle between Taylor and Williams for a final roster spot, Williams may have the edge. He averaged a promising 4.6 yards per carry in 2014, while cutting Taylor would save the team roughly $1.1 million over the next two years.
Atlanta Falcons: Dezmen Southward
Atlanta Falcons defensive back Dezmen Southward was a third-round pick only a year ago. However, the Falcons have a new head coach in place with Dan Quinn, and it appears Southward is going to have to make a successful switch from safety to cornerback to make the final roster.
Though he has the raw talent to make a successful conversion, it's not like he excelled when he got opportunities for playing time in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked just 166th among all safeties for the season.
Southward also underwent knee surgery back in May, which has caused him to miss time during the offseason.
Atlanta recently released its first depth chart of the preseason, and Southward is near the bottom of the cornerback group. A depth chart this early in the preseason has little bearing on the coming season, but it does show that Southward will have to beat out a number of talented players to have a shot at making the final roster.
His future may depend on how many cornerbacks the Falcons decide to keep on the final roster.
Veterans Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Phillip Adams are probably locks for the roster, as is second-round draft pick Jalen Collins. Undrafted rookies Akeem King and Kevin White may also make the roster over Southward, who has zero ties with Quinn.
Baltimore Ravens: Jah Reid
The Baltimore Ravens spent a third-round pick on offensive tackle Jah Reid back in the 2011 draft, but they haven't exactly gotten a lot in return.
Reid has appeared in 39 games over the past four years but has made a mere seven starts. Last year, he was arrested at a Florida strip club on battery charges.
Even though Reid has never worked his way into a starting role, the team still decided to bring him back this offseason on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. He is listed on the initial depth chart of 2015 as the backup right tackle.
It would seem like a good idea to bring Reid back, as he has experience with the team and with offensive line coach Juan Castillo. However, one has to wonder how much faith the Ravens really have in Reid. According to Pro Football Focus, he saw just four snaps between the regular season and the playoffs in 2014.
Since Reid's contract isn't guaranteed, the team probably won't hesitate to release him if another young player emerges over the next month. If one doesn't, it will be difficult not to keep Reid around.
Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel
The Buffalo Bills have released their first depth chart of the 2015 preseason, and it has three quarterbacks listed at starter.
The Bills have maintained all along that Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor will have an equal opportunity to win the starting job this preseason, and the depth chart affirms this.
Mike Rodak of ESPN.com believes, however, that it could soon be a two-man race between Cassel and Taylor:
The feeling from this perspective is that, even though his first-team reps haven't been limited, Manuel has fallen behind Cassel and Taylor in the competition. Manuel will stand out with one or two great throws every practice—on Friday, it was a flea flicker-style play in which Manuel found tight end Nick O'Leary about 25 yards down the sideline—but otherwise will turn in underwhelming outings.
If Manuel really is far behind the other two quarterbacks, it could make sense for the team to go ahead and part ways with him now. His entire contract is guaranteed, so cutting him would be a tough decision. However, the Bills have a good idea what they have in him by now, and it isn't pretty.
Pro Football Focus ranked Manuel just 62nd overall among quarterbacks in 2014, and he was eventually benched in favor of journeyman Kyle Orton. New head coach Rex Ryan would probably prefer to find a starter before the start of the season and stick with him throughout.
Carolina Panthers: Fozzy Whittaker
In addition to having one of the coolest names in the entire NFL, running back Fozzy Whittaker was a virtual multi-tool for the Carolina Panthers in 2014. He filled in at running back, returned kicks, played special teams and caught a handful of passes out of the backfield.
However, he may have to beat out a number of players—including rookie Cameron Artis-Payne and offseason addition Jordan Todman—in order to stick on the final roster in 2015.
Jonathan Stewart should remain the starter, and fullback Mike Tolbert should own a roster spot as well. The offseason acquisition of return specialist Ted Ginn may also hurt Whittaker's value on special teams.
Depending on how many backs the Panthers decide to keep, there could be a battle between Whittaker and Todman for a single roster spot.
Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer likes Todman to make the final roster:
Jordan Todman, the running back whom the Carolina Panthers signed in March, is the early leader. The guy runs with authority and for a little guy he blocks with authority, too. I saw him handle linebacker A.J. Klein on a blitz, and I’m a Klein fan. Now, because Todman played three seasons for Jacksonville, started a game for Jacksonville last season and ran 62 yards for a touchdown last season, you could say he’s not a long shot.
Tolbert also seems to like Todman.
"He's a tenacious cat," he said, per David Newton of ESPN.com. "We call him 'Sir Purr' just because he's always on the move. You watch the game and Sir Purr is always running around, moving, dancing, doing whatever he can."
If Carolina only decides to keep three tailbacks on the final roster, Whittaker could easily be the odd man out.
Chicago Bears: Willie Young
As a defensive end, Willie Young (10 sacks) was one of the better Chicago Bears defenders in 2014. However, he is making a transition to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's system this year.
The problems for Young are twofold. He is trying to return from the torn Achilles that ended his 2014 campaign, and he is moving to a position he has never played before.
"I don’t know anything about playing linebacker," Young said, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. "So obviously I study day in and day out now."
If Young's studying doesn't pay off, he could be in danger of losing a roster spot. He has been missing time because of his recovery and is falling behind other converted outside linebackers like Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston.
For monetary reasons, Young would probably be on the chopping block before Allen or Houston. Allen earned an $11.5 million roster bonus this year, while Houston has $9.9 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract.
Young is set to earn more than $3 million in each of the next two seasons, but only $1.3 million of that is guaranteed.
Letting Young go wouldn't be a popular move and would almost certainly be a purely financial decision. It is worth mentioning, however, that Young was rated just 75th overall among 4-3 defensive ends by Pro Football Focus in 2014—35 spots lower than Houston.
Cincinnati Bengals: Domata Peko
Like Chicago's Young, Cincinnati Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko could become a cut casualty for financial reasons this preseason.
Peko is set to earn $2 million in base salary this season and another $3.5 million in 2016. None of that money is guaranteed. This isn't a ton of money, of course, but is it a sizable chunk that the Bengals could save by cutting the second-worst defensive tackle of 2014.
According to Pro Football Focus, the only defensive tackle to perform worse overall last season was Nick Hayden of the Dallas Cowboys.
Peko and his massive mane have been fan favorites for nearly a decade, so cutting either would be a difficult decision.
Cleveland Browns: Jim Dray
Veteran tight end Jim Dray was listed as the No. 2 tight end when the Cleveland Browns released their first depth chart of the preseason. However, there is at least some chance he doesn't last until the regular season.
The tight end room in Cleveland is a little crowded.
The Browns signed former Cardinals tight end Rob Housler in free agency and drafted tight end Randall Telfer. The team also signed undrafted tight end E.J. Bibbs and selected tight end/fullback Malcolm Johnson.
If any of the rookie tight ends make the final roster, Dray could be the odd man out.
According to Dan Labbe of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, starter Gary Barnidge has been the standout of training camp at tight end. He has shown the ability to stretch the field from the position and should have a secure roster spot.
Dray, on the other hand, will likely have to outperform the newcomers during the preseason in order to make the final roster. Cutting him would save the Browns more than $3 million in salary over the next two seasons.
Dallas Cowboys: Morris Claiborne
According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne isn't going to take his roster spot for granted.
"I'm trying to make the team," Claiborne said, per George. "That's how I look at this whole thing right now, I'm trying to make this team."
It seems there's a chance he won't make the team, though, no matter how focused he appears. Claiborne has disappointed repeatedly since being drafted sixth overall back in 2012.
He saw only limited action before rupturing his patellar tendon but was rated just 198th overall among cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus last season. In 2013, when he appeared in 10 games, he came in 173rd overall. He has started just 10 games over the past two seasons.
Dallas decided not to pick up Claiborne's fifth-year option this offseason, which means this could be his last opportunity with the Cowboys. Considering he is due to make $2.6 million in base salary, his opportunity could even end with a disappointing preseason.
This is not how former top-10 selections are expected to end up.
Denver Broncos: Ronnie Hillman
According to the Denver Post, the Broncos have running back Ronnie Hillman listed third on the depth chart behind C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball. This means the former third-round draft pick would likely have a roster spot if the season ended today.
However, Hillman can't possibly consider his position safe with guys like Juwan Thompson and Jeremy Stewart breathing down his neck. Those guys play multiple roles, including special teams.
Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com believes Hillman could have to start spending more time on the special teams unit to ensure he has a job in 2015:
At the moment Hillman doesn't appear on special teams nearly as often as many of his peers in the running back meeting room and he hasn't had a significant role on the units in much of his time with the team. He has spent much of the offseason program and training camp as the No. 3 back. Hillman's big-play speed is a potential difference maker for him, but he has to be reliable as well, especially if he isn't a presence on the team's special teams units.
Hillman rushed for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry in 2014, but he could easily be replaced by a more versatile back this season if the Broncos are confident that Anderson and Ball can handle most of the carries.
Detroit Lions: Joseph Fauria
Detroit Lions tight end Joseph Fauria was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2013, catching 18 passes for 207 yards and seven touchdowns. However, he struggled with injuries and consistency last season while catching a mere six balls.
Now he is entering the final year of his rookie deal and may have trouble making the final roster.
According to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News, the Lions listed both Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron as starting tight ends on their first depth chart of the preseason. This likely leaves Fauria battling with tight ends like David Ausberry and Casey Pierce just to make the team.
According to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com, Fauria is still "less than 100 percent," which has led the team to sign tight end Jacob Maxwell and add him to the mix.
In reality, it would probably make more sense to cut ties with Pettigrew than Fauria. Pettigrew caught just 10 passes in 2014 and was rated 127th overall among tight ends by Pro Football Focus. However, Pettigrew's entire 2015 salary is fully guaranteed, and he is still owed $5.8 million in total guaranteed money.
If Fauria cannot prove he has put his injury woes behind him, he could be unemployed or on another roster when the 2015 season kicks off.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Ripkowski
The Green Bay Packers spent a sixth-round draft choice on fullback Aaron Ripkowski this offseason; however, the Oklahoma product may only stick on the roster if the Packers decide to keep two fullbacks.
Of course, it is worth nothing that Kuhn is more of a multidimensional fullback, while Ripkowski is a pure blocker. There is room for the two styles on the roster, so a lot will depend on how many tailbacks the team decides to keep.
Eddie Lacy and James Starks will be safe. The Packers will then have to choose one or two guys from the group of Rajion Neal, John Crockett and Alonzo Harris. Assuming Kuhn is in the picture, Ripkowski may have to excel at special teams in the preseason to avoid being sent to the practice squad.
Of course, the Packers may face the even more difficult decision of trying to pick between Ripkowski and Kuhn on cut day, depending on how the season unfolds. Ripkowski would at least be a candidate for the practice squad.
Houston Texans: Jonathan Grimes
With starting running back Arian Foster looking at a lengthy recovery from a groin injury, the other running backs on the roster have even more value to the Houston Texans.
However, at least one of the backs on the roster could be replaced by a veteran or another team's castoff as roster cuts commence. Of the current group of Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes, Grimes would seem to be the first on the chopping block.
According to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, Blue is likely to be the starter in Foster's absence.
Polk has value as a return specialist and special teams player. He returned 11 kicks for 340 yards with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, including one that went for 102 yards and a touchdown.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans recently met with free-agent back Pierre Thomas. Though the two sides did not come to an agreement, this tells us that the Texans are interested in adding to the backfield.
If this happens, Grimes could be out of Houston after spending the past two seasons with the team.
Indianapolis Colts: Griff Whalen
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen has a few things going for him heading into the 2015 season. He has two years of playing experience with the Colts, has some value as a return specialist and is a former Stanford standout.
This means that Whalen's experience with quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton dates back to his college days. However, Whalen faces some stiff competition in his battle to make the regular-season roster in Indy.
He will certainly be behind T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and rookie Phillip Dorsett on the receiver depth chart. The addition of Dorsett also hurts Whalen's value as a return man, because Dorsett is a phenomenal returner.
Former CFL star Duron Carter has also been impressive in camp, and veteran Vincent Brown is in the mix as well.
Kevin Bowen of Colts.com believes Whalen may have to make the team as a special teams ace:
Per usual, Whalen has been Mr. Reliable up in Anderson. His consistency is quite remarkable day-in-and-day-out. How the special teams units play out in the preseason could go a long way in deciding if Whalen makes this team. Duron Carter has definitely impressed offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and was the star of Friday's practice.
Whalen is owed no guaranteed money on his current contract, so cutting him may wind up actually being an easy decision.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcedes Lewis
Tight end Marcedes Lewis has been a staple of the Jacksonville Jaguars offense for the better part of a decade, but his time with the team is nearing its end.
He appeared in just eight games in 2014 and posted a mere 18 receptions. He was rated 188th overall among tight ends for the season by Pro Football Focus and was rated as the worst tight end on the team.
With free-agent addition Julius Thomas taking over the starting role, Lewis could find it difficult to return for a 10th season in Jacksonville. The team did try to trade him earlier this offseason, after all, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
Not only will Lewis have to beat out guys like Clay Harbor and rookie Ben Koyack, but he may have to prove he can provide a special teams presence as well. After nine pro seasons, this may not be something Lewis is willing to do.
If the Jaguars are forced to part ways with Lewis, it will be a difficult decision since he has long been a fan favorite.
Kansas City Chiefs: Junior Hemingway
Former seventh-round draft pick Junior Hemingway has managed to stick with the Kansas City Chiefs for three seasons, though he has never had much offensive impact.
His time to do so may be quickly running out.
The Chiefs have a much deeper receiving corps this year after adding Jeremy Maclin and rookies Chris Conley and Da'Ron Brown. Considering Hemingway hauled in just 12 passes while playing with last year's woeful group, he should be considered a bit of a long shot to make the final roster.
Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that he has missed a large portion of training camp with a hip injury. According to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Hemingway missed his seventh straight practice on Monday.
Cutting Hemingway may be difficult, because he has spent three years with the team and has obviously worked hard to stay in Kansas City. If he cannot get healthy and prove he belongs with the new guys, however, the Chiefs may have no real alternative.
Miami Dolphins: J.D. Walton
Last season, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey spent 12 games at guard because it helped create a better overall line setup for the team. If he has to do it again in 2015, the Dolphins could be forced to turn to J.D. Walton or Sam Brenner at center.
According to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, Walton is ahead of Brenner on the depth chart behind Pouncey.
In many ways, this makes sense. Brenner has been with the Dolphins since 2013 but has never seen regular-season action. Walton started 16 games for the New York Giants in 2014.
However, it may be best for Miami if Brenner can step up and claim the backup role. Though Walton was a starter in 2014, he wasn't particularly impressive. Pro Football Focus rated him 67th among 70 centers for the season.
Walton has starting experience, so it may be hard to cut him. The best-case scenario, however, would be to find some reliable starters at guard so that moving Pouncey isn't even an option.
Minnesota Vikings: Joe Banyard
Running back Joe Banyard only saw limited action with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, but he performed well. He appeared in 15 games, averaged 4.2 yards per carry and caught nine passes for 62 yards.
Banyard has spent the past two years with the Vikings and has provided a presence in the backfield and on special teams during that time. If not for the emergence of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, he might be in store for an even bigger role in 2015.
The problem for Banyard is that star running back Adrian Peterson is back in the fold this year after missing the majority of 2014 on the exempt/commissioner's permission list.
Do the Vikings really need three backs behind Peterson?
They probably don't, and Banyard is likely the odd man out. Asiata and McKinnon each rushed for more than 500 yards last season, and Asiata racked up nine touchdowns.
It's often difficult to cut players who can help on special teams, but keeping four tailbacks just doesn't make sense for the Vikings.
New England Patriots: Travaris Cadet
New England Patriots running back Travaris Cadet is the type of football player head coach Bill Belichick loves.
He may not do any one thing exceptionally well (actually, he's a good route-runner), but Cadet is a jack-of-all-trades running back. Last season with the New Orleans Saints, he played special teams, returned punts and caught 38 passes as a running back-receiver hybrid.
If Belichick has to cut Cadet, it isn't likely to come as an easy decision.
The problem is that the Patriots have a number of other backs on the roster, including LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray. The other problem is that Cadet recently joined Blount (knee sprain) on the injury report.
According to Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com, Cadet is out with a hamstring injury. There is no clear timetable for his return.
Cadet would appear to be the perfect candidate to be the Patriots' new third-down back in 2015. If his injury keeps him out of preseason preparations for long, however, that job may go to another player such as 2014 fourth-round pick James White.
New Orleans Saints: Josh Morgan
Depending on how many wide receivers the New Orleans Saints decide to carry into the regular season, the team could face a few difficult decisions in the near future.
Wideouts Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks are locks to make the final roster. When the Saints released their first depth chart of the preseason, Brandon Coleman, Lance Lewis, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan were listed as primary backups.
If the depth chart remains constant, it would leave seven-year veteran Josh Morgan on the cutting pile.
Morgan has a ton of NFL experience to go with 209 career receptions, so it's hard to believe that cutting him would be a simple decision. He appeared in 14 games for the Bears last season, though he only had 12 touches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The problem for Morgan is that he is 30 years old and doesn't play special teams.
Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com believes Morgan will wind up battling a handful of younger players for the final receiver spots. If this is how things play out, the Saints could well turn to a player with youth and special teams value over Morgan.
New York Giants: Adrien Robinson
New York Giants tight end Adrien Robinson has made just five regular-season receptions since being drafted in the fourth round back in 2012.
He may not produce any more with the Giants.
Robinson is listed as the No. 3 tight end behind Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell on New York's first depth chart of the preseason. Fells and Donnell aren't likely to go anywhere, but Robinson could be in danger of losing his spot to former practice-squad member Jerome Cunningham.
According to Dan Salomone of Giants.com, Cunningham saw extensive work with the first-team offense back in June, and the opportunity paid off:
He is seeing increased reps during organized team activities at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center while fellow tight end Larry Donnell, who had a breakout campaign in 2014, deals with Achilles tendinitis. In the meantime, [Cunningham]’s building a rapport with quarterback Eli Manning, and the two have connected on some highlight pays so far this spring.
Robinson simply hasn't delivered enough in his career to justify keeping Cunningham down. If Cunningham shows some signs of real promise during the preseason, the Giants may have to make the difficult decision of giving up on a former draft pick.
New York Jets: Zac Stacy
Earlier this offseason, the New York Jets used a seventh-round draft pick to acquire running back Zac Stacy from the St. Louis Rams. However, this doesn't guarantee he has a job in 2015.
Stacy is listed as the third back behind Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell on the team's first unofficial depth chart of the preseason. However, Stacy will likely have to beat out Daryl Richardson in order to stay in the No. 3 spot.
Ironically, Richardson was also with the Rams last season, though neither he nor Stacy was particularly impressive. Stacy rushed for 3.9 yards per carry and caught 18 passes, while Richardson rushed for 3.1 yards per carry and caught 14 balls.
The difficult part for the Jets will be deciding if either Stacy or Richardson is worth keeping on the roster and if a place should be reserved for Stevan Ridley.
Ridley is currently on the PUP list while continuing to recover from ACL and MCL tears.
If the Jets feel confident that Ridley will be ready to go early in the season, Stacy and Richardson could both be out.
Oakland Raiders: Chimdi Chekwa
Veteran cornerback Chimdi Chekwa has spent four years with the Oakland Raiders and re-signed with the team after New England cut ties with him earlier this offseason.
However, the Ohio State product may not get to return to the Bay Area for year five. Chekwa was rated just 167th among all cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus in 2014 and was not wanted by the cornerback-challenged Patriots.
When the Raiders released their first depth chart of the 2015 preseason, Chekwa was listed at the very bottom of the cornerback group.
Still, it isn't going to be easy to cut ties with Chekwa, who has appeared in 25 games with three starts over the past two years in Oakland. If he can endear himself to new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. over the next month, he should have an opportunity to stick.
On the other hand, the fact that none of Chekwa's one-year contract is guaranteed makes him a definite candidate for the chopping block.
Philadelphia Eagles: Matt Barkley
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley hasn't accomplished a lot since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. What he has done hasn't been desirable either.
In four regular-season appearances, Barkley has thrown four interceptions and fumbled three times, losing one. This is why he could be in danger of losing his job to a guy who hasn't played in two years. The Eagles may have simply seen enough of Barkley.
Would the Eagles really give the No. 3 job to Timmy Tebow, though?
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com believes they will:
He is a much better passer than he was two years ago when he took a shot with the New England Patriots, and he has shown that in the first week of practice. Throw in his experience starting in the NFL, even in the playoffs, and it isn't hard to imagine [Chip] Kelly would rather turn the season over to Tebow instead of Barkley.
Sam Bradford is clearly the starter heading into the season, and Mark Sanchez is one of the better backups in the league, so this will come down to what Tebow or Barkley can offer as the No. 3 quarterback.
Tebow can offer something as a Wildcat or short-yardage quarterback, and Barkley can offer...turnovers.
Actually, the most difficult part here may be dealing with the fact Tebow's jerseys might become more popular than those of Philadelphia's starter.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey appeared in all 16 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season but finished the year with just three receptions for 33 yards.
It may be time to cast him aside for a younger player.
Heyward-Bey does bring experience and special teams value, but he isn't a starting-caliber receiver at this point in his career. On the team's first depth chart of the preseason, he is listed behind wideouts Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton.
He could be jumped by second-year receiver C.J. Goodwin and rookie Sammie Coates on the depth chart if either can prove his special teams worth. Goodwin had two receptions for 19 yards in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, while Coates caught one pass for 12 yards and drew a pass interference penalty that gave the Steelers 1st-and-goal.
If the two youngsters can continue to progress throughout the preseason, Heyward-Bey will probably be the outsider, even if he is a former first-round draft pick. He seems to have hit his offensive ceiling years ago.
San Diego Chargers: Donald Brown
San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown has six years of NFL playing experience, which is why he holds value in the backfield.
However, he only rushed for 2.6 yards per carry in 2014 and finds himself in a crowded Chargers backfield. The team used a first-round draft pick on Melvin Gordon and brings back Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead from a year ago.
According to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, the Chargers have Brown listed as the fourth running back on the first preseason depth chart. This isn't surprising. Brown likely provides more as a mentor than as a runner in camp.
"First and foremost he is a great person and my brother," Oliver recently said of Brown, via the team's official website. "But inside of the game, his knowledge is unbelievable. He's been around for seven years now, and he's so smart. Especially in pass protection, he knows certain tendencies of linebackers very well. I've picked a lot of that up from him."
Brown's experience and leadership will likely save him a roster spot through the preseason. However, he doesn't possess the upside of guys like Gordon, Oliver or Woodhead and may find himself looking for work on final-cut day.
San Francisco 49ers: Kendall Hunter
There was a time when it appeared Kendall Hunter would be the heir apparent to Frank Gore for the San Francisco 49ers. After missing the 2014 season with a torn ACL, however, he may be closer to the chopping block than anything.
The 49ers are suddenly looking at a fairly crowded backfield. Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush are likely to be the top two backs in 2015, and rookie fourth-round pick Mike Davis will probably be in the mix as well. Fullback Bruce Miller will also own a spot in the backfield.
This likely leaves Hunter as the fifth back, if he can prove he is healthy and the 49ers decide to keep five backs.
"He's coming along great," head coach Jim Tomsula told Fox Sports last month. "I think we all have strong feelings for Kendall…but we definitely have a rep count on him."
Hunter's pending salary of $660,000 isn't guaranteed, so the 49ers can always bring in another back and cut him with little financial consequence. Still, you can bet that members of the organization are rooting for Hunter to complete his comeback.
Seattle Seahawks: Tharold Simon
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon had some bright moments in 2014, but he was rated just the sixth-best corner on the team by Pro Football Focus.
The fact that the Seahawks acquired cornerbacks Will Blackmon and Cary Williams during the offseason could push Simon down the depth chart. The fact that the Seahawks recently traded to acquire cornerback Mohammed Seisay from the Lions could also hurt.
However, a bigger concern is that Simon hasn't been practicing.
The former fifth-round pick had shoulder surgery earlier this offseason and has been a spectator at training camp. According to Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll stated over the weekend that Simon is still a couple of weeks away from returning to practice.
If any of the young cornerbacks on the Seattle roster make a strong impression over the next couple of weeks, Simon could find himself playing catch-up or even cut. It's always difficult for a team to let go of a young and promising player because of injury, but if a guy can't play, he isn't going to play.
St. Louis Rams: Austin Davis
Though he had his ups and downs, former undrafted free agent Austin Davis deserves at least a little credit for his performance with the St. Louis Rams in 2014. Because of injuries, he ended up starting eight games for the Rams and went 3-5 as a starter.
He produced a respectable passer rating of 85.1 for the season.
However, Davis may find himself off the roster at the end of preseason. The team traded for Nick Foles, re-acquired Case Keenum and drafted Sean Mannion during the offseason.
The Rams recently signed Foles to a two-year, $24.5 million extension, which should make him the unquestioned starter moving forward. He and third-round pick Mannion will almost certainly be on the roster this year.
This likely leaves Davis battling Keenum to be the third quarterback on the roster.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Keenum, not Davis, has seen most of the second-team reps in offseason workouts and in training camp. If this is an indication of where the Rams are leaning, then Keenum could be the backup in 2015.
"But we’re going to allow ’em all to play, allow them to compete and see what happens," coach Jeff Fisher said, per Thomas. "Case has won games. Austin’s won games. They both have a good feel for what they’re doing."
Unless Mannion really shines in the preseason, St. Louis will almost certainly keep three quarterbacks. However, Davis might be out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Garrett Gilkey
Offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey appeared in all 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and is competing to make this year's roster as a backup.
The reason he has value is that he can provide depth at either guard position and at center. The reason he may wind up as a cut casualty is that he didn't perform well when he had opportunities last season.
"After the season Coach Warhop shared with me and said, 'You are going to have to fight for your spot on this team,'" Gilkey said, per Mark Cook of PewterReport.com. "'You had every opportunity to take that starting guard spot and you didn't take it. You only squandered it.' And he is right. I did."
If Gilkey squanders his preseason opportunity this year, his versatility may not be enough to earn him a job in the regular season.
Tennessee Titans: Andy Levitre
Andy Levitre was listed as the starting left guard on the Tennessee Titans' first depth chart of the preseason. However, if the Titans can find a better option before the end of the preseason, he may be cut.
Levitre has been a disappointment since arriving in Tennessee two years ago. Injuries and inconsistencies have defined his tenure with the Titans, and in 2014, Pro Football Focus rated him just 103rd overall among guards.
"What they saw in me when they brought me in here, I am sure they want to see it now," Levitre said in July, per Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. "I want to get back to that level just as much as they want to see me do it."
If Levitre cannot show he is ready to be the player the Titans thought they were getting, it would make some sense for them to cut ties for financial reasons. He is due to earn $6.5 million in base salary in each of the next three seasons.
Washington Redskins: Kai Forbath
During the offseason, the Washington Redskins gave kicker Kai Forbath a $1.54 million restricted free-agent tender. This would make Forbath seem like an unlikely candidate for the scrap pile, if not for a couple of factors.
For one, Forbath wasn't anything special in 2014. He did make 88.9 percent of his field-goal attempts, but he was rated just 55th overall among kickers by Pro Football Focus. Only 18 of his 54 kickoff attempts resulted in touchbacks.
The other factor is that he appears to be struggling thus far in training camp. According to Rich Tandler of CSN Washington, Forbath and rookie Ty Long have both been disappointing in camp thus far:
Now about 10 days into training camp it still doesn’t look like Long will be on the roster when the season starts. But it looks like there’s a chance that Forbath might not be kicking for Washington in Week 1 either. Both kickers have had a rough go of it during training camp. At the end of practice today, Long was four of five with a long of 48 and a miss from 40. But Forbath is the main cause for concern. He has had a rocky camp so far and it continued on Saturday.
Washington will have a full month to audition kickers before the start of the regular season if Forbath's struggles continue.