NFL Veterans on the Roster Bubble Who Need to Impress at Training CampJuly 29, 2021
NFL Veterans on the Roster Bubble Who Need to Impress at Training Camp
With training camp in progress across the NFL, coaches will begin the process of setting up their depth charts for the regular season.
Going forward, we'll see in-house competition with three rounds of cuts as teams trim down rosters to 53 players by Aug. 31.
Several short- and long-tenured veterans stand on shaky ground with their respective clubs because of free-agent or draft acquisitions, contract situations and low production in recent years. As a result, teams will make notable cuts in the coming weeks.
Let's take a look at eight players on the bubble in the most danger of losing their roster spots.
DE Ben Banogu, Indianapolis Colts
Ben Banogu may have an uphill climb to make the Indianapolis Colts roster. As a rookie, he appeared in all 16 contests but listed inactive while healthy for multiple games last year.
This offseason, the Colts selected pass-rushers with their first two picks in Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo. The club placed the latter on the active/non-football injury list, but the rookie second-rounder, who's recovering from a torn Achilles, plans to play in 2021.
The Colts haven't re-signed edge-rusher Justin Houston, who's still a free agent, but Banogu still has to battle within a crowded position that includes two high 2021 draft picks, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Al-Quadin Muhammad. Indianapolis also signed Isaac Rochell, a fifth-year veteran with 9.5 sacks.
The Colts' offseason additions at defensive end sends a clear message to Banogu. He must show improvement or fall behind in the pecking order.
Turay has missed 23 games in three seasons. If he can stay healthy through training camp, Banogu seems like the odd man out.
Keep in mind, for the 2020 term, Muhammad played 56 percent of the defensive snaps and Lewis logged four sacks while on the field for just 40 percent of the snaps. After Week 8, Banogu appeared in two outings and took the field for a total of eight plays on defense.
WR Miles Boykin, Baltimore Ravens
Over the past two drafts, the Baltimore Ravens have selected four wide receivers.
Last year, the Ravens picked up Devin Duvernay and James Proche. This offseason, they added Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the first and fourth rounds, respectively. The club also signed Sammy Watkins, who has experience in offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system.
Because of his draft status, Bateman will undoubtedly hold a roster spot. He'll line up alongside Marquise Brown and Watkins in three-wide receiver sets.
Barring injury, Wallace should earn a spot. He's a feisty 5'11", 194-pound receiver who makes the tough grabs. For someone his size, the Oklahoma State product looked impressive while hauling in 50-50 targets on the collegiate level.
In 2020, Duvernay suited up for all 16 contests, catching 20 passes for 201 yards, but he made significant contributions on special teams, returning 21 kicks for 578 yards and a touchdown. Expect him to make the 53-man roster as well.
Miles Boykin will likely battle Proche for a back-end slot on the depth chart. Last year, the latter served as the Ravens' primary punt returner, which may help him keep his spot.
Though Boykin can also contribute on special teams, he doesn't have the speed and elusiveness to return kicks. Secondly, the 2019 third-rounder has had underwhelming years on offense, hauling in 32 passes for 464 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6'4", 220 pounds, he's an asset in the red zone, but the Notre Dame product must show a little more with three newcomers set to make the roster at his position.
DT Taven Bryan, Jacksonville Jaguars
Taven Bryan has to impress a new regime to extend his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2018, former Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell selected Bryan with the 29th overall pick. The athletic 6'5", 291-pound defensive tackle hasn't moved the needle much in three seasons, logging 71 tackles (41 solo), 11 for loss and 3.5 sacks. He's started in 17 out of 48 games.
Bryan didn't see his role expand between his second and third terms. He played 46 percent of the defensive snaps in both campaigns. This offseason, Jacksonville added four players to its rotation on the defensive line in Roy Robertson-Harris, Jihad Ward, Malcom Brown and rookie fourth-rounder Jay Tufele.
The Jaguars signed Robertson-Harris to a sizeable three-year, $23.4 million ($14 million guaranteed) deal. They acquired Brown from the New Orleans Saints.
Ward played two seasons under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, who served as the Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach between 2016 and 2020.
In his first two terms at USC, Tufele flashed as a disruptive force with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss before opting out of the 2020 season.
All four of the aforementioned interior defensive linemen should make the roster. Even if Bryan has a solid showing at training camp, his efforts may fall into the too-little-too-late category.
OT Chuma Edoga, New York Jets
The New York Jets signed right tackle Morgan Moses, whom the Washington Football Team released in May. This transaction will likely bump George Fant into a reserve swing tackle role.
Last offseason, the Jets signed Fant to a three-year, $27.3 million contract with $13.3 million in guarantees. In 2020, he started in 14 outings.
Moses has made 96 consecutive starts. Don't expect him to back up Fant, who's opened 38 games with the first unit in his five-year career. Nonetheless, the latter has a contract with $5.45 million in dead money (post-June 1) left on it. The Jets have little incentive to cut him, which raises the question about Chuma Edoga.
Like Fant, Edoga has position versatility. He can play left and right tackle, but Douglas didn't draft him. In 2019, former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan selected the USC product in the third round. The team fired the front-office executive a few weeks after the draft.
Through two seasons, Edoga started in 12 games. Last year, for the most part, he filled in when Mekhi Becton or Fant sat out.
With the addition of Moses, Edoga doesn't have a secure role when the Jets field a healthy starting offensive line. Because he's not a product of the current regime, the third-year pro may be the odd man out if the coaching staff looks to keep back-end players at other positions.
WR N'Keal Harry, New England Patriots
N'Keal Harry's tenure with the New England Patriots will probably come to an end in the coming weeks via trade or release.
According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo (h/t Kevin Patra), teams inquired about Harry's availability in March. A couple of weeks ago, the wideout requested a trade through his agent Jamal Tooson (h/t Garafolo).
Tooson highlighted the lack of opportunities for his client in New England. In two seasons, Harry saw just 81 targets, converting that into 45 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite Harry's first-round pedigree, the Patriots may struggle to find a trade partner who's willing to give up premium draft capital for a wideout with modest production. Furthermore, the Arizona State product has missed 11 career games because of injuries and had a calf issue during mandatory minicamp.
The Patriots will probably have to settle for a late-round pick if they want to part ways with Harry sooner rather than later.
LB Jordan Hicks, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals foreshadowed the end of Jordan Hicks' tenure with their first-round draft selection.
After the Cardinals acquired linebacker Zaven Collins with the 16th overall pick, the team granted Hicks permission to seek a trade, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
If the Cardinals don't execute a trade deal, they can release Hicks and save $5 million. He should draw some offers. In Arizona, the 29-year-old recorded 268 tackles (171 solo), 22 for loss, 10 pass breakups and four interceptions without missing a start over the last two campaigns.
On the other hand, Hicks doesn't play a high-value position. He's not going to fetch premium trade compensation, which means the Cardinals may do the seventh-year pro a favor and allow him to pick his own destination as a free agent.
LT Greg Little, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers may have closed the door on Greg Little's window of opportunity to start at tackle.
This offseason, the Panthers signed Cameron Erving, a versatile lineman who took most of his snaps at left tackle with the Dallas Cowboys last season. The front office re-signed tackle Trent Scott, who started on the left side in multiple games. Rookie third-rounder Brady Christensen played the position for three terms at BYU.
Carolina signed Taylor Moton to a lucrative five-year, $85 million ($43 million guaranteed) extension, which locks him into his position at right tackle.
Little has been limited because of injuries. Through two seasons, he's missed 18 games. The Ole Miss product has a lot to prove, and he doesn't have a strong connection to the primary decision-makers.
The Panthers' current regime didn't draft him in 2019. Carolina hired head coach Matt Rhule in 2020 and brought in general manager Scott Fitterer from the Seattle Seahawks in January.
The Panthers have a placeholder starter in Erving, and Christensen could take over at some point in the near future. Unless Little shows some versatility as a guard, he'll likely miss the cut.
RB Jalen Richard, Las Vegas Raiders
Though we often hear the NFL has become a passing league, the Las Vegas Raiders have a lot of money invested in their running back group relative to the other 31 clubs.
This year, the Raiders rank seventh in cap dollars spent on the position.
Coming off a Pro Bowl campaign, Josh Jacobs' contract carries a $3.25 million cap hit. In March, Las Vegas signed Kenyan Drake, who logged 955 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns with the Arizona Cardinals in 2020. His contract accounts for $3 million in cap space this year.
Yet third-string running back Jalen Richard has the highest cap number among the Raiders tailbacks ($3.5 million). Over the past five seasons, he's served as a reliable target in the short passing game and provided solid blocking in the backfield, but his touch volume has been on the decline since 2018.
As Richard's offensive role shrinks, his pass-blocking and special-teams contributions won't be enough to keep him around behind Jacobs and Drake.
Player contracts and team spending courtesy of Over the Cap.