NFL Cuts 2018: Predictions for Likeliest Big-Name Releases Before Season

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin #55 of the New York Jets looks on from the sideline during a a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Jets 31-13.  (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Every year, teams cut big-name veterans for a variety of reasons, but it doesn't calm the shockwaves that follow after the unforeseen transaction.

When attempting to predict notable cuts, it's best to take a look at roster acquisitions. Perhaps the team added a draft pick at a crowded position with a group of veterans.

The Cincinnati Bengals selected safety Jessie Bates in the second round of April's draft. Now the front office has opted to release seventh-year veteran George Iloka, who plays the same position and appeared in 83 games for the team, starting 76, over the past six seasons. His departure comes as a shock, but given the draft pick used, it makes sense. 

In other cases, position battles could bump underperforming veterans out of the roster picture, which is the case with a couple of cut candidates below. 

               

RB Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots 

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FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 9 : Mike Gillislee #35 of the New England Patriots in action during the preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddi
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Through two preseason games, Mike Gillislee has logged the most carries among the New England Patriots running backs, but he's not making the most of his opportunities. Fifth-year ball-carrier Jeremy Hill and undrafted rookie tailback Ralph Webb are also vying for a spot in the backfield. Both have a touchdown in exhibition action. 

Among the three ball-carriers, Gillislee averages the lowest yards per carry at 2.8. Running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel should all make the cut. Brandon Bolden likely remains as a special teams asset. 

Hill has looked exceptional in preseason action while running 17 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Barring an injury or sudden fumble issues for the former Bengal, he's in position to earn a spot at running back over Webb and Gillislee. 

Gillislee would be a major cut after the Patriots signed him as a restricted free agent in 2017. The sixth-year veteran led the team in rushing attempts in each of the first five regular-season games in 2017. Nonetheless, the coaching staff listed him as a healthy scratch late in the year. Now fighting for a roster spot, he's underwhelmed in his audition.

            

TE Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 27: Tight end Maxx Williams #87 of the Baltimore Ravens just misses a pass in the third quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Ge
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens selected two tight ends in April's draft. First-rounder Hayden Hurst and third-rounder Mark Andrews will make the final roster, but the rookie duo places uncertainty on Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle's short-term outlook with the team. Ironically, the pair of fourth-year veterans came into the league together with the 2015 class. 

Williams caught a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III in the Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears, but he's been quiet since that outing. Boyle only has one reception, but the fourth-year tight end out of Delaware brings more to the offense as an inline blocker on the perimeter. 

Williams battled injuries over the last three seasons. He missed five games with an ankle ailment last year. As a starter in eight of those games, the Minnesota product caught 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic put Williams on the roster bubble with Vince Mayle and Darren Waller, who served a yearlong suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. 

Hurst and Andrews have the ability to flash in the passing attack. Mayle's ability to contribute on special teams bumps Williams out of the picture. A nondescript preseason likely seals his fate in Baltimore.

             

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, New York Jets 

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin's Twitter caused a stir when he posted a series of cryptic tweets, but the 25-year-old attempted to clear up the speculation: 

The Jets coaching staff may not have let Mauldin know his time could come to an end, but there's enough writing on the wall. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the fourth-year linebacker suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the first two preseason games:

According to New York Daily News reporter Manish Mehta, the Jets contacted the Jacksonville Jaguars about edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr.'s availability in a potential trade: 

Fowler logged eight sacks in 2017, and the Jets need a push in the pass rush. Mauldin has been injured and ineffective off the edge over the last three years. The Louisville product has 6.5 sacks in 26 contests. Even though he says his tweets had nothing to do with the team, the front office will likely waive him before Week 1. A Teddy Bridgewater trade could eventually net an edge-rusher for Gang Green.