Preseason Week 4 Takeaways: Biggest NFL Cut Predictions as Roster Battles End
With all 65 preseason games complete, the NFL can turn its attention to one of the wildest, most interesting and most difficult portions of the annual professional football calendar.
Between now and Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for teams to cut down to 53 active players, well over 1,000 players will be released leaguewide.
Sadly, most of those players will never be heard from again, and many never hit casual fan radar in the first place. But every year at this time, several well-known veterans suddenly land on the open market.
Here are eight such players who could be out of jobs by Saturday afternoon.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Carlos Hyde
A second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, Carlos Hyde was a relatively steady, relatively productive running back as recently as 2017. In 2016 and 2017 in San Francisco, he compiled 2,439 yards from scrimmage and scored 17 touchdowns while averaging a solid 4.2 yards per attempt.
But the former Ohio State star couldn't stick last season in either Cleveland or Jacksonville, and now it looks as though he'll be looking for a new team for the fourth time in an 18-month span.
ESPN.com's Adam Teicher reported Monday that Hyde was again working exclusively with backups in Kansas City Chiefs practice, while Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams all received some first-team reps.
That's been the case for some time, and Hyde didn't help himself by gaining just 55 yards on 16 carries in the preseason. Williams, Williams and Thompson all saw action prior to Hyde in Kansas City's unofficial dress rehearsal last week.
He'll likely be released in the coming hours, and then the question will be how much he has left as he approaches his 29th birthday.
Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy
But Hyde isn't the only accomplished veteran running back in peril. Because young players emerge so quickly at that position, it doesn't take long to become chopped liver in the backfield.
LeSean McCoy was a Pro Bowler with 1,586 scrimmage yards in 2017. But he's 31 now and coming off a brutal season in which his 3.2 yards-per-attempt average (a number which had already dropped from 5.4 in 2016 and 4.0 in 2017) ranked 48th among 49 qualified players.
The Bills can save $6.2 million by releasing McCoy. And although he gained a solid 43 rushing yards on 10 carries in the team's first three preseason games, fellow veteran back Frank Gore outproduced McCoy on a much lower salary this preseason.
Gore and rookie third-round pick Devin Singletary are probably locks to make the roster, which has many figuring that free-agent addition T.J. Yeldon will get the boot before playing a game in Orchard Park. And Yeldon has struggled this month, but cutting him would save just $1 million and he at least has more upside at the age of 25.
Moving on from McCoy now makes the most sense.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Josh Adams
As an undrafted rookie running back in 2018, Josh Adams led the Philadelphia Eagles in rushing. But the Notre Dame product struggled with a 2.7 yards-per-attempt average in the last three games of the regular season and was a complete non-factor in the playoffs.
Now, with veteran Jordan Howard and rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders joining the fray, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles returning to health and Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey also on the roster, the numbers don't favor Adams.
It doesn't help that the 22-year-old missed much of the offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery, or that he averaged just 1.6 yards per attempt in the preseason.
Howard, Clement and Sanders aren't going anywhere, Pumphrey had a strong preseason, and they might even prefer Sproles for his experience and versatility.
Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia noted early in the summer that "the odds are against" Adams making the 53-man roster, and little has changed to help his cause this preseason.
New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead
The New England Patriots stand to save just $500,000 by cutting veteran running back Rex Burkhead, so finances won't be the reason the 29-year-old might be released this weekend. Instead, it's simply that there might not be enough room for a player who has a pretty clear ceiling.
New England has used premium draft picks on the running back position in back-to-back offseasons, and both 2018 first-round selection Sony Michel and 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris are locks in the backfield. Ditto for veteran passing-game weapon James White, special-teams ace Brandon Bolden and fullback James Develin.
The Pats could decide to roll with that group and part ways with Burkhead, and they might even figure they're better off giving a shot to undrafted rookie Nick Brossette, who scored three touchdowns in the preseason.
Burkhead played a big role in Super Bowl LIII, but he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season and is probably declining now. He'd have a better shot to earn playing time elsewhere.
Washington Redskins WR Josh Doctson
Have the Washington Redskins run out of patience for 2016 first-round wide receiver Josh Doctson? It appears so.
Head coach Jay Gruden wouldn't guarantee Doctson a roster spot when asked about the disappointing 26-year-old's status this week. At around the same time, The Athletic's Ben Standig reported the organization is trying to trade him.
That's usually a sign that if a trade doesn't materialize, the player on the block will be released.
It was already a bad omen when the Redskins didn't exercise Doctson's fifth-year option for 2020 last offseason, and now he's coming off a season in which his touchdown total dropped from six to two. His other numbers barely rose despite the presence of new franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Doctson is a phenomenal route-runner who plays bigger than he is, and he certainly looked like the complete package coming out of TCU. But he just hasn't worked out in D.C., where he recorded just one catch for 16 yards this preseason.
The Redskins have invested elsewhere with Paul Richardson Jr. (free agency, 2018) and Terry McLaurin (Round 3, 2019) joining the fray in the last 18 months. Look for Doctson to be on a new roster by the end of the weekend.
Minnesota Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell
The player drafted one spot after Josh Doctson in 2016 is no safer. ESPN's Courtney Cronin reported in July that Laquon Treadwell might not make the team's final roster in his fourth season, while Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted this month that the organization is again making 2016's No. 23 overall selection available.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer even bluntly stated they tried to "showcase" Treadwell when he caught four passes for 47 yards in the team's second preseason game.
In what might have been his final showcase, Treadwell caught three passes for 30 yards as the Vikes wrapped up the preseason Thursday in Buffalo. But that might not be enough to convince anyone to trade for a player who has averaged just 9.2 yards per reception and scored only one touchdown in three NFL campaigns.
With Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe and Olabisi Johnson already on the wide receiver depth chart, Minnesota might be ready to move on.
Baltimore Ravens LB Shane Ray
A few weeks ago, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote that new Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Shane Ray needed "a big preseason" considering the competition at that position. And unfortunately for the Denver Broncos' 2015 first-round pick, he had only half a sack and one other tackle in the Ravens' four preseason outings.
He just hasn't been able to get back to where he was when he recorded eight sacks as a sophomore with the Broncos.
Third-year Day 2 draft picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have played much larger roles this month, while rookie third-rounder Jaylon Ferguson and projected starters Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee are locks to make the 53-man roster.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley recently noted all five of those edge-defenders have "received longer extended runs with the first-team defense this summer than Ray," whose release would create $1 million in salary-cap savings for the Ravens.
Where does that leave the 26-year-old? Probably auditioning for other teams come next week.
Detroit Lions CB Teez Tabor
Detroit Lions cornerback Teez Tabor has hardly seen the field thus far in his two-year career, and he's struggled badly when he has. Unfortunately, the 2017 second-round pick hasn't positioned himself well for a breakout third campaign.
Tabor missed the lion's share of training camp and the preseason due to what he called a "weird" leg injury, and he didn't play in Thursday's exhibition finale just days after finally returning to the practice field.
Does that mean he's guaranteed another shot in 2019? Or was he just not ready to roll after only two practices?
Tabor's talent and size (6'0", 191 lbs) might earn him another year in Detroit, but his struggles can't be overstated. He would have earned the lowest Pro Football Focus grade for a cornerback by a large margin last season, except he didn't even qualify because he played just 276 snaps.
If the Lions had faith in him, they wouldn't have signed both Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman in free agency while using a fifth-round pick on another corner: Amani Oruwariye out of Penn State.
It wouldn't be shocking if they decided to go with Melvin, Coleman, veteran Darius Slay, Oruwariye and Jamal Agnew or Mike Ford at corner while leaving Tabor in the cold.
Will the Miami Dolphins Clean House?
The Miami Dolphins haven't come right out and admitted they're sacrificing the 2019 season for a rebuild, but actions speak louder than words. The Dolphins have already traded veterans Robert Quinn and Ryan Tannehill and released Danny Amendola, Josh Sitton, T.J. McDonald, Jordan Mills and Akeem Spence this offseason.
But they might not be done.
Barry Jackson and Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald reported recently that vets Kenny Stills, Reshad Jones and Kiko Alonso could all be on the trade block, which probably means they're candidates to be cut as well. Releasing Stills would save the team nearly $3 million, while parting ways with Alonso would create nearly $4 million in cap space.
If the Dolphins decide that any or all of those players don't fit in as they embark on a rebuilding process, they could opt to move on before dinnertime on Saturday.