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NFL Cuts 2016: Predictions for Likeliest Big-Name Releases Before Season

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2016

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 18: outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo #51 of the Cleveland Browns tackles running back C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos during the first quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images)
Andrew Weber/Getty Images

Late August can be a stressful time for NFL veterans. 

Every year, a handful of players previously locked into roster spots find themselves having to fight for their jobs. 

This year, the roster bubbles seem to be unusually loaded with relatively young veterans, primarily players near the end of their rookie contracts. Some of these former prospects look like busts, while others have had injuries interfere with once-promising careers. 

As roster-trimming time nears, here's a look at a few prospects who could be searching for a new employer sometime soon.

    

Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns

Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns selected the ultra-athletic Barkevious Mingo with the sixth pick in the 2013 NFL draft, hoping to develop him into a dangerous edge-rusher. But in three seasons in Cleveland, Mingo has brought down the quarterback just seven times. 

According to Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, Mingo has been getting reps late in the second half of preseason games, which is usually a bad sign for veterans. The majority of players locked into roster spots are typically taken out in the first half and rarely play into the fourth quarter early in the preseason. 

The Browns drafted outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah out of Oklahoma State in the second round this year, and Ogbah appears to be in position to push Mingo out of a job.

    

Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs

Aug 13, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) warms up before the game agains the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Seattle won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

At one point, Knile Davis looked like a potential long-term replacement for Jamaal Charles, but it now appears as though Davis is simply fighting for a roster spot. 

Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware were surprisingly productive for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 and have supplanted Davis as the primary backups to Charles. 

Few teams carry four running backs, which puts Davis in a difficult position in Kansas City. 

The Chiefs are still using Davis as their primary kick returner, however, which could be his last chance to make the roster. If Davis proves his value on special teams in the final weeks of training camp, he may be able to stick around a little longer in Kansas City. 

    

Johnthan Banks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dec 17, 2015 St. Louis, MO, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks (27) against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Johnthan Banks has been a fixture in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting defensive lineup over the past three seasons. He's made 37 starts at cornerback since entering the NFL in 2013. 

However, the addition of free-agent cornerback Brent Grimes and first-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves has left Banks battling for a roster spot. 

Grimes, Hargreaves and Alterraun Verner are solidly ahead of Banks on the cornerback depth chart, leaving him to battle for the fourth or fifth spot. 

The key to Banks' ability to maintain his place in Tampa Bay could be his contributions on special teams.

     

Matt Elam, Baltimore Ravens

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 08:  Safety Matt Elam #26 of the Baltimore Ravens lines up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on August 8, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

In 2013, the Baltimore Ravens selected Matt Elam in the first round as a replacement for veteran safety Ed Reed. And while Elam's performance was promising early in his time with the Ravens, injuries have derailed his career. 

Elam missed the entire 2015 season, and another recent knee injury may end his time in Baltimore, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. 

While he is only expected to miss a few weeks with his latest injury, the Ravens may not want to waste a roster spot on an injured backup. 

If Elam ever returns to full health, he could earn a starting job in the league again, but at this stage of his career, simply getting back on the field is the top priority. 

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