The Top Player Each NFL Team Should Cut Before the 2019 Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2019

The Top Player Each NFL Team Should Cut Before the 2019 Season

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    We're now into the third week of the 2019 NFL preseason. This is widely viewed as the most important part of the action before the regular season gets underway. In reality, the most important week of the preseason is still to come.

    We won't see many, if any, projected starters in Week 4, but the final slate of games heralds cutdown day. By 4 p.m. on August 31, teams have to be down to 53 players. This means a lot of difficult decisions are looming.

    Due to factors like injuries, undesirable contracts and position depth, some quality guys will have to be let go—potentially into the waiting arms of the budding XFL.

    Here, we'll examine the top player from each team who should be released.

    Not every one of these players is a household name, but because of positional value, draft status, past production or team familiarity, these guys would likely make the 53-man rosters under slightly different circumstances.

    Entire position groups were evaluated before cut candidates were identified. Because of their lack of NFL experience, rookies have been excluded from this list, as have players likely to spend 2019 on injured reserve.

         

Arizona Cardinals: WR Chad Williams

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals are banking on a new-look offense in 2019. They brought in Kliff Kingsbury as head coach, drafted Kyler Murray first overall to run the new attack and added receivers Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson during the draft.

    While there will be room for some old faces—most notably, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson—it's time for the Cardinals to move on from certain players.

    One of those should be 2017 third-round pick Chad Williams. While the Grambling State product has shown flashes, he's never developed into a consistent pass-catcher. Through two seasons, he has just 20 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown.

    Williams was sidelined early in camp and has been unimpressive thus far in the preseason, catching just one pass for six yards.

    A year ago, Williams made the roster. However, this year's receiving corps is much deeper—Michael Crabtree was recently added—and there just isn't room for Williams.

Atlanta Falcons: CB Taveze Calhoun

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Injuries are an unfortunate part of the NFL, and for young players trying to make a roster, they can be devastating. This may be the case for Atlanta Falcons cornerback Taveze Calhoun, who suffered a possible concussion in Thursday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

    The Falcons shouldn't cut Calhoun because of one fluke injury, of course, but it does make it difficult for them to evaluate the Mississippi State product. Calhoun, who has also spent time with the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears, didn't appear in either of Atlanta's first two preseason games.

    Calhoun spent much of last season on the Falcons' practice squad, and it seemed for a time he would finally get a crack at the main roster. However, Atlanta is deep at cornerback, and Calhoun is firmly behind guys like Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Damontae Kazee and Jordan Miller on the depth chart.

    If the Falcons cannot figure out what they have in Calhoun, it's time to let him go.

Baltimore Ravens: RB Kenneth Dixon

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens are looking at a crowded backfield. After adding Mark Ingram II in free agency and drafting Justice Hill in the fourth round, they also have Gus Edwards, Tyler Ervin and Kenneth Dixon.

    Depending on how many backs the Ravens decide to keep on the 53-man roster, Dixon could be on the chopping block.

    A fourth-round draft pick in 2016, Dixon has yet to emerge as a reliable offensive contributor. He missed 2017 with a knee injury and has carried the ball just 148 times in 18 games with the Ravens.

    Ingram and Hill are virtual locks to make the final 53, and it seems likely Edwards—who averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2018—will make the roster as well. Given his injury history and relative lack of production, Dixon should be the odd man out.

Buffalo Bills: RB T.J. Yeldon

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Like the Ravens, the Buffalo Bills have a logjam at running back. The team seems determined to keep aging veteran LeSean McCoy on the roster, and it also has Marcus Murphy, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary.

    Because of his skill set, Yeldon is an expendable option.

    In four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Yeldon was primarily a receiving back. He caught 171 passes in that span while averaging 7.6 yards per reception.

    If the Bills are going to keep McCoy, however, they don't need another pass-catching back. What Buffalo needs is a bruising between-the-tackles runner, and that's Gore. With Gore as a physical complement to McCoy and Singletary as the up-and-comer, the Bills should be set in the backfield.

Carolina Panthers: WR Torrey Smith

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    There was a time when Torrey Smith was one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league. That time has passed, however, as the 30-year-old is on the back end of his career.

    Despite playing 11 games for the Carolina Panthers last season, Smith hauled in a mere 17 receptions for 190 yards. His 11.2 yards per reception marked a career low. If he makes the regular-season roster, Smith could be even less productive.

    Carolina has a quality trio of starting receivers in DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Chris Hogan. With Jarius Wright and Aldrick Robinson also on the roster, there isn't room for Smith—not at his $3 million salary.

    None of that money is guaranteed, so the Panthers can save the full amount by releasing him.

Chicago Bears: QB Tyler Bray

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Bringing in quarterback Tyler Bray last season made a lot of sense for the Chicago Bears. He had spent three years with the Kansas City Chiefs and—along with one-time Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel—could help head coach Matt Nagy's offense in Chicago.

    Now is the time for Chicago to part with Bray, however. When Mitchell Trubisky missed time in 2018, the Bears turned to Daniel. He made a pair of starts and helped Chicago go 1-1.

    The Bears should not keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster this season. They are title contenders and need every available slot for other positions. Ideally, Trubisky will only yield the field in garbage time, and if he does suffer an injury, the Bears have a capable spot starter in Daniel.

    While having experience in Nagy's offense is valuable, the Bears don't need two quarterbacks with that particular asset backing up Trubisky.

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Jeff Driskel

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    As is the case in Chicago, the Cincinnati Bengals do not need to keep three quarterbacks on their regular-season roster. The difference is that the 2018 spot starter should be the odd man out.

    Jeff Driskel started five games for Cincinnati in 2018, and he played reasonably well given the circumstances. However, the Bengals used a fourth-round pick on N.C. State product Ryan Finley in this year's draft—and Finley has been a preseason surprise.

    So far, Finley has completed 47 of his 64 pass attempts for 414 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

    Finley has likely already secured the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, and he may push Andy Dalton for the starter's job. If Cincinnati had any faith Driskel could become the long-term starter, it wouldn't have used that pick on Finley.

    Though the futures of Finley and Dalton are unclear, there isn't a place for Driskel on the roster.

Cleveland Browns: K Greg Joseph

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns are deep at many positions, but they have a real problem at kicker. Last season, Greg Joseph didn't do much to instill confidence. He missed three of his 20 field-goal attempts and four extra-point tries.

    In April, the Browns selected former Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert in the fifth round of the draft. While he didn't outplay Joseph in camp, Seibert does carry the allure of the unknown—and he went 4-of-4 on field-goal attempts in the third preseason game.

    Through the first two weeks of the preseason, Joseph missed a field goal and a point-after try. Cleveland cannot go into the season with its kicking hopes resting on him. Even if Seibert doesn't win the starting job, the Browns have to find an alternative to Joseph.

    Don't be shocked if Cleveland's next kicker is signed after final cuts.

Dallas Cowboys: QB Mike White

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    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    While the Dallas Cowboys have yet to reach a long-term contract agreement with quarterback Dak Prescott, they will have him under center for the 2019 season. That leaves Dallas with the task of selecting his backup at quarterback.

    Based on the first two weeks of the preseason, it looks like Central Michigan product Cooper Rush deserves to win that job. He's been adequate in exhibition action, going 26-of-42 for 225 yards and a touchdown.

    Mike White, a fifth-round pick in 2018, has been a disaster. He's completed just 16 of 33 passes for 117 yards with an interception. If Dallas is forced to rely on its backup at any point in 2019, fans better hope White isn't the guy.

    While it's always difficult to turn the page on a draft pick, that is what the Cowboys need to do with White. He isn't the future starter, and he shouldn't be the future No. 2 either.

Denver Broncos: TE Jake Butt

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos used a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft on former Michigan tight end Jake Butt. Even though he was coming off a torn ACL, Butt had the kind of upside NFL teams drool over.

    Butt missed his rookie campaign and suffered another torn ACL after just three games in 2018.

    Though Butt was cleared to practice, he's a long shot to make the 53-man roster. Denver used a first-round pick on Noah Fant in April and also has Jeff Heuerman and Troy Fumagalli at the position.

    It seems unlikely the team will keep four tight ends, and the Broncos cannot afford to hold a roster spot just to see if Butt can reach his potential. Perhaps he can stay healthy and revive his pro career somewhere, but it shouldn't be in Denver.

Detroit Lions: WR Tommylee Lewis

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions added former Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis this offseason, but they haven't seen a whole lot of him on the practice field. He was only activated off the physically unable to perform list a couple of weeks ago, and he missed practice again this week.

    While Lewis did appear in Week 2 of the preseason, he did not register a catch.

    If he cannot show something substantial soon, the Lions should free up his roster spot. They're fairly deep at the receiver position with Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola and Marvin Jones Jr. leading the group.

    If Lewis is going to make the roster, it could be as a return specialist. However, Detroit had cornerback Jamal Agnew in that role each of the past two seasons. It's unlikely the Lions will keep both players.

Green Bay Packers: QB DeShone Kizer

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The Browns gave former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer a chance to be an NFL starter two years ago, and the results were horrendous. Kizer completed just 53.6 percent of his passes and tossed an NFL-leading 22 interceptions as a rookie.

    From a physical standpoint, though, Kizer has all the tools to be a premier passer. That's why the Green Bay Packers took a chance on him, acquiring him in the trade that sent Damarious Randall to Cleveland.

    After more than a year in Green Bay, however, Kizer has shown little growth. He still has a penchant for picks—he threw another Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders—and his consistency is lacking.

    So far this preseason, Kizer has completed 17 of 30 attempts for 196 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He's been sacked four times.

    It's time for the Packers to pull the plug on the Kizer experiment. It would be worth keeping him around for depth purposes, but second-year man Tim Boyle—who has 338 yards and five touchdown passes this preseason—is establishing himself as a better backup option.

    They can save nearly $1 million by letting Kizer go.

Houston Texans: TE Jordan Thomas

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In 2018, the Houston Texans used a sixth-round pick on former Mississippi State tight end Jordan Thomas. They also used a third-round pick on UCF's Jordan Akins, and one of the two could be on the way out.

    That's because Houston drafted San Diego State's Kahale Warring in the third round this year and added Darren Fells in free agency. With those three draft picks in two years invested in the position, Fells seems a likely cut candidate. However, he's impressed the coaching staff.

    "He's a big man, a big target [and] athletic for his size," head coach Bill O'Brien said, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "The basketball thing is interesting because he does a decent job on the edge blocking, just keeps getting better."

    Fells is a plus blocker who should boost the running game. That gives him an advantage over the younger tight ends. Unless Houston decides to keep four, Thomas, the cheapest investment of the three picks, should be cut.

Indianapolis Colts: RB Charcandrick West

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Recently, the Indianapolis Colts took a flier on former Chiefs running back Charcandrick West. That was after Indianapolis placed fellow offseason acquisition D'Onta Foreman on injured reserve with a torn biceps.

    West is a familiar name to many fans, especially those who utilized him in fantasy during the 2015 season. However, West is already a long shot to make the roster and should be one of the first running backs cut next weekend.

    The Colts have their starter in Marlon Mack, and they have a receiving back in Nyheim Hines. West was listed as the sixth back on Indianapolis' preseason Week 3 depth chart, and unless he flashes big in the final two exhibition games, he'll likely be out.

    Signing West was likely just a depth move for the preseason, and the Colts have no reason to keep him.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Terrelle Pryor Sr.

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Former Ohio State signal-caller Terrelle Pryor Sr. made the switch from quarterback to wide receiver several years ago, and for a time it looked like the transition was going to work.

    In his first full season as a receiver, 2016, Pryor amassed 77 receptions, 1,007 yards and four touchdowns.

    However, Pryor has struggled to repeat that kind of success since. He's caught just 36 passes in the two years since his breakout campaign, and now he's trying to catch on with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Jacksonville should pass. Pryor didn't appear in either of the first two preseason games because of injury, and he reinjured his hamstring against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

    The Jaguars are hoping for a bounce-back season with Nick Foles under center. With more established wideouts such as Marqise Lee, DJ Chark Jr., Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley on the roster, there isn't room for Pryor.

Kansas City Chiefs: RB Carlos Hyde

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    The Chiefs are planning to use a committee approach with their backfield. Carryovers Darrel Williams and Damien Williams should be a part of that committee. So should sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson, who has impressed in camp and the preseason.

    Through two games, Thompson has carried the ball nine times for 52 yards and caught one pass for a 29-yard score.

    With Williams, Williams and Thompson likely to make the final 53, there may not be room for offseason acquisition Carlos Hyde. He's been less impressive during the preseason, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, and he'd have a cap hit of $2.7 million.

    Cutting Hyde would save only $1.2 million, but it could be worth it. Hyde was purely a grinder with the Browns last season—he averaged 3.4 yards per carry in six games—and was even worse after he was traded to the Jaguars (3.3 yards per carry in eight games).

    The Chiefs don't have a need for a plodding, mediocre running back in their explosive offense.

Los Angeles Chargers: QB Cardale Jones

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones has been with the Los Angeles Chargers since 2017 and spent last season on the practice squad. This preseason, he's finally showing growth as an NFL signal-caller.

    So far, he has completed 14 of 20 attempts for 158 yards and a touchdown.

    "Maybe it's just the process of growing up a little bit. He came out young," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said, per Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. "I think maybe it's being in the same system for a couple years. It's been different, and it's a credit to him."

    Could Jones develop into L.A.'s quarterback of the future? It's possible, but unless the Chargers plan on keeping three quarterbacks, he's likely to see the chopping block before the regular season.

    Los Angeles signed Tyrod Taylor to a two-year, $11 million deal to back up Philip Rivers this offseason. The Chargers cannot afford to cut him—for a couple of reasons. Taylor is due $6 million in dead money, and he has three full years of starting experience.

    The Chargers are hoping to reach the Super Bowl this season, and if they have to go a stretch without Rivers, Taylor's experience likely trumps any potential Jones possesses.

Los Angeles Rams: OL Jamil Demby

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last year, the Los Angeles Rams used a sixth-round pick on Maine offensive lineman Jamil Demby. Then they cut him at the start of the regular season. They've since signed him off the Lions' practice squad and thrust him into the competition along the interior line—which has a large hole after the departure Rodger Saffold in free agency.

    Demby has struggled at both guard and at center, and he could once again be part of Los Angeles' preseason cuts.

    "Jamil is another guy that I think we expect a lot better from him than that, especially when he is playing that center spot," head coach Sean McVay said, per Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire.

    Teams often keep eight or nine offensive linemen on their active rosters, and the ability to play both guard and center usually goes a long way toward landing a spot. Heading into camp, it seemed like Demby had a good chance of sticking his second time around.

    However, if the Rams are disappointed with how he's performed through camp and the preseason, they should probably cut ties once again and look for line depth they're more confident in.

Miami Dolphins: OT Jordan Mills

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Dolphins signed Jordan Mills to a one-year, $3 million deal this offseason, in part to help replace Ja'Wuan James at right tackle.

    So far, the results have not been encouraging. Mills was not a standout in camp, and when he got the start at left tackle in Miami's preseason opener against Atlanta, he struggled mightily.

    "It was a slog for him all night," Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald wrote. "[Mills] looked like a guy playing out of position.  ...[He] allowed multiple pressures, at least one sack, and committed two holding penalties.

    The reality is that he isn't cut out to provide depth at both tackle positions. If he cannot beat out Jesse Davis for the starting right tackle job, it doesn't make much sense to keep him. Considering Miami can save $2 million by cutting Mills, it probably should.

Minnesota Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings used the 23rd overall pick on Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell. In three seasons, he's rewarded them with a mere 56 receptions, 517 yards and one touchdown.

    Now, Treadwell is buried behind the likes of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor on the depth chart. Cutting him isn't the most enticing option because most of his 2019 salary is guaranteed. However, it's something the Vikings may have to do. There just isn't a place for him.

    Minnesota is getting him some preseason action in order to up his trade value.

    "We're trying to get Treadwell the ball a little bit more in the second half," head coach Mike Zimmer said after Week 2, per Brian Hall of the Associated Press. "Try to showcase him a little bit, I guess."

    If the Vikings cannot deal Treadwell before the start of the season, it will be time for them to cut their losses.

New England Patriots: WR Demaryius Thomas

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    The New England Patriots only recently activated wide receiver Demaryius Thomas off the PUP list. According to Doug Kyed of NESN.com, this is an indication that Thomas could make the 53-man roster.

    "That says to me that they'll let him make the initial 53-man roster," Kyed wrote. "I'm not sure if I'd call him a lock right now, but it would be unfair to expect him to prove he deserves a spot on the team in just a matter of days."

    Thomas may not be able to prove he belongs that quickly, but he can show whether he's fully recovered from last year's torn Achilles. This is likely why the Patriots activated him prior to the end of the preseason.

    Making the team is a different story. New England already has Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, special teams ace Matthew Slater and rookie N'Keal Harry as virtual locks. Josh Gordon's conditional reinstatement likely leaves just one or two receiver slots.

    The team would be better served by keeping a promising young wideout like Jakobi Meyers, 22, over an aging and possibly less than 100 percent Thomas. Cutting the 31-year-old veteran would also save the Patriots more than $2.5 million in 2019.

New Orleans Saints: CB Ken Crawley

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    It's been an up-and-down couple of seasons for New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley. He earned a starting spot in 2017, only to lose it after Week 7 in 2018. Now he's battling to make the 53-man roster.

    The Saints have a tough decision to make. They first have to decide which version of Crawley they're going to get and then determine if that version is worth his one-year, $2 million non-guaranteed salary.

    Crawley appears to be firmly behind the likes of Marshon Lattimore, Eli Apple, P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson on the depth chart. He could be vying with offseason acquisition Marcus Sherels to be the fifth and final corner—depending on how many New Orleans decides to carry.

    The problem is that Sherels adds value as a return specialist (he has one-year, $930,000 in base salary). If the Saints only keep five corners, Crawley could be out.

New York Giants: QB Kyle Lauletta

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Fans and the New York media may not be fully behind sixth overall pick Daniel Jones just yet. However, they do appear to be coming around on the Giants' quarterback of the future after a couple of strong preseason outings.

    At some point in the near future, Jones is going to supplant Eli Manning.

    "No one knows exactly when that thunderbolt will arrive, but it's coming, and his standing as a franchise icon cannot save Manning when it does," Steve Serby of the New York Post wrote.

    It's looking more and more likely that Jones will get his chance at some point in 2019. This means that the Giants have little reason to keep quarterbacks not named Manning or Jones. Though New York used a 2018 fourth-round pick on Kyle Lauletta, he doesn't fit in the passing-of-the-torch game plan soon to unfold.

New York Jets: RB Elijah McGuire

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire came to the New York Jets as a sixth-round draft pick in 2017. Due in part to injuries, he had several opportunities to take the Jets' starting job and, er, run with it. However, he never emerged as a consistent player.

    He showed some promise as a rookie, rushing for 315 yards and a touchdown to go along with 177 receiving yards and another score. However, he regressed as a runner last season, totaling just 276 yards on the ground and averaging a paltry 3.0 yards per carry.

    Heading into 2019, there just isn't a place for McGuire in the lineup. The Jets have their starting back in offseason acquisition Le'Veon Bell, and they have a standout third-down back in Bilal Powell. They also have Trenton Cannon, who provides value as a kick returner, and former Ravens back Ty Montgomery.

    McGuire should be the odd man out.

Oakland Raiders: WR J.J. Nelson

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    While the offseason drama may suggest otherwise, Antonio Brown is not the only wide receiver on the Oakland Raiders roster. The team also has Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson and promising rookie Hunter Renfrow, all of whom were added in the offseason.

    Of this group, Nelson, 27, appears to be the most expendable. Brown, Williams and Renfrow are locks to make the final 53, and Grant has been making a positive impression late in the preseason.

    "I think he's a really good receiver," head coach Jon Gruden said, per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think he's got to get some luck. He's got to stay healthy. He's got to be consistent to get an opportunity. But we're happy to have him."

    Undrafted rookie Keelan Doss has also impressed—he had four catches for 52 yards on Thursday against the Packers. He has both the ability to create space and a knack for making contested catches. It makes more sense to keep him than it does Nelson.

    Though Nelson is only set to make $1 million this season, the Raiders can save all but $75,000 of that by releasing him. Don't be surprised if they look to fill out their remaining receiver spots with younger players with upside.

Philadelphia Eagles: RB Wendell Smallwood

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles' logjam at running back might be the biggest of any position group in the NFL. They have offseason acquisition Jordan Howard, promising rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders, receiving back extraordinaire Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood.

    Smallwood, a 2016 fifth-round pick, is the most expendable. While he has flashed some as a receiver, he's never developed into a consistent and reliable runner. He's averaged 4.0 yards per carry during his pro career.

    Realistically, Smallwood and Clement—who has averaged 4.1 yards per tote—could both be out. But Clement is an explosive pass-catcher—he's averaged 9.8 yards per reception—and should get a little leeway coming off last season's campaign-ending knee injury.

    Adams could also be on the roster bubble, but after he racked up 511 yards on 120 carries last season, he's more likely to stick as a depth runner.

    This should leave Smallwood as the first to go.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Eli Rogers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Even with Antonio Brown gone, it's beginning to look like the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a stacked receiving corps in 2019. JuJu Smith-Schuster is entrenched as the new No. 1 receiver, and offseason acquisition Donte Moncrief should have a real shot at a starting job.

    Rookie Diontae Johnson and second-year man James Washington have both stood out in the preseason—they've averaged 15.3 and 20.2 yards per reception, respectively. Ryan Switzer has also made a strong impression.

    "Stamp Switzer on the team," Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently said during a fan chat.

    This doesn't leave much room for 2015 undrafted free agent Eli Rogers, who has managed to stick around for three seasons. While Rogers had a strong campaign in 2016 with 594 yards and three touchdowns, he's progressively become less of a factor. Last year, he caught just 12 passes for 79 yards.

    While Rogers once appeared to be a rising player, that time is past. Pittsburgh needs to focus on finding receivers who can be a part of the future.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Jerick McKinnon

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the San Francisco 49ers signed running back Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million contract. They then watched as he tore his ACL just before the start of the 2018 campaign.

    Unfortunately, McKinnon still isn't where he needs to be to help the Niners win games. He recently underwent a platelet-rich plasma treatment and is only now returning to individual drills. If McKinnon isn't ready for team work in the near future, he could again start the season on injured reserve.

    If this is where McKinnon is headed, the 49ers would be wise to pull the plug. Cutting McKinnon would cost San Francisco more than $9 million in dead money, but it would also clear the remaining two years of his contract. Trading him would be the ideal option, but it's difficult to envision a team dealing a player with that price tag who hasn't seen action in over a year.

    If the 49ers cannot move McKinnon, they should open up his roster spot for a running back more likely to contribute this season.

    It's not like San Francisco is thin at the position either. It added Tevin Coleman this offseason to a backfield that also features Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida. McKinnon is expendable.

Seattle Seahawks: QB Geno Smith

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks have themselves a quarterback competition—for the backup spot, obviously. Russell Wilson is entrenched as the starter, while Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch are vying to be his understudy.

    Smith has been a disappointment so far in the preseason, going just 3-of-9 for 58 yards in the opener. Lynch, meanwhile, as been one of the biggest stars of the exhibition slate, racking up 176 passing yards, 37 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

    Both backups have dealt with injuries. Smith missed Week 2 after having a cyst removed from his knee. Lynch is in concussion protocol after taking a helmet-to-helmet against Minnesota. Smith should get his chance to even up the competition in Saturday's game against the Chargers.

    Realistically, though, it makes more sense to keep Lynch. The University of Memphis product is three years younger, carries the allure of being a 2016 first-round pick and possesses the kind of scrambling ability that fits in Seattle's offense.

    Smith should be the one to go.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Blaine Gabbert

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert is entering his ninth season and is with his fifth team. He isn't a threat to unseat Jameis Winston as the starter, but he could be a capable backup.

    After all, he did spend time with new head coach Bruce Arians when the two were with the Cardinals in 2017.

    However, Gabbert hasn't exactly been a steady presence during the preseason. He's completed just 11 of 20 passes for 92 yards. Meanwhile, longtime Tampa backup Ryan Griffin has been earning Arians' respect.

    "Griff has gotten better and better," Arians said, per Scott Smith of the team's official website. "And I don't care who you're playing with—when you do the things he's done in two-minute [drives], it's noteworthy."

    While Gabbert may be slightly more familiar with Arians' offense, Griffin is the backup Tampa needs to keep on its 53-man roster.

Tennessee Titans: WR Taywan Taylor

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Wideout Taywan Taylor was a notable piece of the Tennessee Titans offense in 2018—he had 37 receptions for 466 yards—but he was far from a budding superstar. Now, the team needs to consider parting with him in order to make room for this year's newcomers.

    Slot receiver Adam Humphries came over in free agency. The Titans then drafted A.J. Brown and signed undrafted free agent Anthony Ratliff-Williams. With Tajae Sharpe and emerging No. 1 receiver Corey Davis also on the roster, there isn't room for an inconsistent pass-catcher like Taylor.

    Drops have been an issue, both in camp and during the preseason. This is a significant problem because Tennessee needs to figure out where it stands with quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    Mariota is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Titans still aren't sold on him as a franchise quarterback. This season is going to help them make the decision, and they need to surround the former Oregon Duck with receivers he can count on.

    It's not looking like Taylor can be one of those.

Washington Redskins: RB Samaje Perine

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    While the Washington Redskins are in the midst of their quarterback competition, the battle at running back has flown a little more under the radar. There is a bit of a logjam at the position, though, at least if the team is counting on second-year running back Derrius Guice.

    In addition to the LSU product, Washington has receiving back Chris Thompson as well as Adrian Peterson, who is coming off a 1,000-yard campaign. Then there's Samaje Perine, who has been mostly an afterthought since being selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft.

    In two seasons, he has amassed just 635 rushing yards with an average of 3.5 yards per carry. While head coach Jay Gruden does appear to be high on the Oklahoma product, Perine has done little in years past or this preseason to prove he belongs. He had five carries for just one yard in the Week 2 preseason game against the Bengals.

    "That comes after a poor showing in pass protection in the preseason opener. Jay Gruden always sings praises of Perine but hasn't after the last two preseason games," JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. "Prior to Shaun Wilson's ankle injury, he seemed like a guy that could really push for Perine's roster spot. Could that be Byron Marshall now?"

    Perine did rush for 16 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 against Atlanta, but that game also saw Guice return from his torn ACL. If Wilson or Marshall can't claim Perine's roster spot, rookie fourth-round pick Bryce Love might (he is recovering from a torn ACL). Gruden is likely coaching for his job this season, and he needs players who can contribute now.

                                            

    *All contract information via Spotrac.