The Most Notable NFL Roster Cuts
It’s safe to say we should have learned a long time ago that there are no surprises when it comes to the NFL.
Of course, there are always exceptions to that rule, especially about the time when all 32 clubs have to pare down their rosters from 75 to 53 players as the regular season looms.
So here’s a look at eight players cut loose Friday and Saturday whose exits may not be super shocks but certainly raised an eyebrow or two.
How did we come up with this list? It is made up of some performers in notable training camp battles who fell well short. A few players signed as free agents to bolster a team and surprisingly failed to live up to expectations. Name value and career achievements also played a part in our selections, and each player has his own unique story.
It will be interesting to see just how long each of these players (listed in football order from offense to defense) remains on the unemployment line.
QB Matt Cassel (Released by Buffalo Bills)
Depending on who you read, followed or believed this offseason, either EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel was not only in the running for the starting quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills but had a spot on the roster that was never in doubt.
Well, neither Manuel nor Cassel could beat out Tyrod Taylor for the No. 1 spot under center, and for now the Bills will be going with only two quarterbacks.
Cassel, who the Bills obtained via trade from the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, may not remain on the open market too long given that any number of teams may be looking for some experience at the position. But because Manuel struggled during training camp and that for parts of the summer the Bills’ quarterback job looked like a duel between Taylor and Cassel, the release of the 10-year pro was somewhat surprising.
QB Tim Tebow (Released by Philadelphia Eagles)
His latest try to get back into the league, also involving a team wearing green and white, may have him and his numerous supporters seeing red.
No, it is not a real surprise that the Philadelphia Eagles let go of the one-time Heisman Trophy winner Saturday. But most assumed he would be the team’s third quarterback behind starter Sam Bradford and backup Mark Sanchez after Chip Kelly dealt reserve Matt Barkley to the Arizona Cardinals Friday.
“We felt Tim has progressed,” Kelly said, according to ESPN.com. “But we didn't feel he was good enough to be the (No.) 3 right now.”
It will be interesting to see if another team was impressed enough with Tebow’s play this summer for the popular quarterback to warrant another chance with a different team. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes and threw for two scores while running for another during the preseason. But he was also sacked five times and threw one interception.
We shall see.
RB Rajion Neal (Released by Green Bay Packers)
Call this a mini-surprise.
The Green Bay Packers have a terrific running back combination in workhorse Eddie Lacy and one-time starter James Starks. Of course, every team is always looking for a little depth.
Running back Rajion Neal, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the team in 2014, did not play in a regular-season game with the club as a rookie. He spent the first half of the season on injured reserve but was then added to the practice squad for the final eight games as well as the postseason.
This summer, he got quite the look-see from the Packers, and it appeared he might have the inside track for the third running back job. But the club cut him loose Saturday.
It wasn’t for a lack of touches. This preseason, the one-time University of Tennessee product totaled 17 carries for 69 yards, finished second on the team with 11 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown and also returned four kickoffs for 113 yards.
Could he be with the Packers in some regard later this year? It’s a distinct possibility.
RB Robert Turbin (Released by Seattle Seahawks)
In 2014, the Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in rushing yards in large part because of the physical entity known as “Beast Mode.” Running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,306 yards, ranking fourth in the league in that category, but the team has had solid depth behind him the last three years in the form of Robert Turbin.
In three seasons with the club, the 2012 fourth-round pick from Utah State proved to be a reliable performer. He did not miss a game and totaled 928 rushing yards on 231 carries, plus he added 43 receptions for 427 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The real surprise would be if Turbin was not on an NFL roster by the end of next week. For all we know, he could have been the subject of trade talks with a team that is looking to shore up its backfield.
NOTE: Turbin was apparently waived/injured and is now currently on the Seahawks' IR list.
WR Duron Carter (Released by Indianapolis Colts)
There are no doubt advantages to being the son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
There are also advantages to putting up impressive numbers in a professional football league.
Many players have gone to the Canadian Football League and gotten their feet wet. In two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes (2013-14), wide receiver Duron Carter (son of Cris Carter) totaled 124 catches for 1,939 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
This preseason, the talented youngster led the Indianapolis Colts with nine receptions for 126 yards and also flashed some skills on punt and kickoff returns. But that wasn’t enough to warrant a roster spot on the wide receiver-deep Colts (who have Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett), and the organization opted to let him go Saturday.
Could he wind up on the practice squad or earn another shot with another club?
WR Reggie Wayne (Released by New England Patriots)
That was quick.
No, we are not talking about veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s current 40 time. Rather, it was his brief stay with the New England Patriots. The defending Super Bowl champions added the veteran wideout on Aug. 25, but he was among the Pats' cuts Saturday.
“Obviously, Reggie’s time here was brief but it only confirmed what I already thought—he is a true professional who represents every positive attribute a player should emulate,” coach Bill Belichick said, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “Our parting was mutually agreed upon and I am personally grateful to have worked with one of the great NFL players of the past two decades.”
That greatness included 1,070 catches in 14 seasons—good enough for seventh place on the league’s all-time receptions list. Let’s see if that’s good enough for Wayne to land on a roster in the next few weeks and continue his climb up the charts…as well as give the veteran a chance to play in another Super Bowl.
DT Darnell Dockett (Released by San Francisco 49ers)
You would think with all of the numerous departures in San Francisco this offseason that the 49ers would be more than happy to keep a three-time Pro Bowler.
This offseason, the Niners added some depth to the defensive front in the form of longtime Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL.
Now a club that had massive roster turnover from a year ago has opted not to keep the veteran defender. New head coach Jim Tomsula was the team’s defensive line coach before being elevated to his new position and obviously likes what he sees in some of his younger players.
According to ESPN.com and staff writer Paul Gutierrez, the 11-year pro was hoping to help the 49ers’ pass rush in some way or form. He was held out of Thursday’s preseason game with the San Diego Chargers because of a rib injury.
As Dockett continues to get stronger following last year’s knee injury, he could be a midseason pickup by a team that is looking to make a strong playoff push.
ILB Mason Foster (Released by Chicago Bears)
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the emergence of a pair of undrafted rookies helped the Chicago Bears decide they did not need to retain the services of inside linebacker Mason Foster.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter, who in four seasons with that club was one of the high-volume tacklers around, signed with Chicago this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. But a defense that has allowed 93 offensive touchdowns the past two seasons combined and the third-most total yards in the league each of the last two years is hoping that youth will be served in the Windy City.
With the Bucs, Foster played in all 16 games in each of his first two seasons and 15 contests in 2013 before being limited to just 10 outings this past season. His career resume includes 343 tackles, six sacks, five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 13 passes defensed and two forced fumbles and fumble recoveries apiece.
Those numbers are awfully hard to ignore if a team is looking for a little insurance on defense.
All free-agent information and player signings/transactions are courtesy of Spotrac. Depth chart information comes via Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com.