1 Player Each NFL Team Should Cut Before the 2021 Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2021

1 Player Each NFL Team Should Cut Before the 2021 Season

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Week 2 of the 2021 NFL preseason is underway. This means that teams are deep into the evaluation process and barreling toward final roster cuts. Several players we see over the next week-plus of preseason action will be gone by the time the regular season rolls around Sept. 9.

    The first wave of cuts came last Tuesday, as teams had to move from 90 to 85 players. Rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by Aug. 31.

    Making the final few roster cuts can be difficult for decision-makers. Players are regularly released on cutdown day only to emerge with different franchises. Taylor Heinicke was let go by the Carolina Panthers in 2019 and started a 2020 playoff game for the Washington Football Team. The fear of giving up a promising player is real.

    However, not every cut is a brain-racking decision. Factors like past production, positional depth, positional value and cap implications can make some choices relatively easy. Today, we're going to examine this side of the spectrum.

    Here, you'll find one player from each NFL franchise who should be released between now and cutdown day. Because of their lack of NFL experience, rookies have been excluded from this article, as have players likely to spend all of 2021 on injured reserve.

Arizona Cardinals: LB Jordan Hicks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    It has become clear that Jordan Hicks' time as an Arizona Cardinals starter is over. The team drafted Zaven Collins with the 16th overall in April and quickly gave Hicks permission to seek a trade. The league may discipline Collins after he was arrested on reckless driving charges in June, but he is the future at the position.

    While Hicks has not found a trade destination, he's been told that he has no chance of earning a starting role in the preseason. Naturally, that has disappointed the 29-year-old.

    "I think at this point, I think I've proven that I'm a starter in this league by the resume that I have, by the past two years of being here and showing my leadership, showing my play on the field," Hicks said, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss.

    While cutting Hicks wouldn't save Arizona much 2021 cap space, it would cut $6 million from next year's cap and eliminate the risk of having a disgruntled player on the roster. If the Cardinals cannot trade Hicks, releasing him would be the prudent move.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Tajae Sharpe

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    The Atlanta Falcons added wideout Tajae Sharpe in May after he was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs. With Julio Jones now a member of the Tennessee Titans, Sharpe has an opportunity to crack the new-look wide receiver corps, with Calvin Ridley becoming the new No. 1 while complementary receivers get bumped up the depth chart.

    As Dave Holcomb of SI.com recently noted, Sharpe has gotten opportunities in camp with the starting offense.

    The issue is that Sharpe doesn't provide special teams value. He has played just eight special teams snaps in his career. This places him firmly behind guys like punt returner Chris Rowland and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in terms of overall value.

    If Sharpe is going to make the roster, he'll have to do so purely as a pass-catcher, and he last caught an NFL pass in 2019.

    While cutting Sharpe would only save $850,000 in cap space, it would free up a roster spot for a developmental receiver who can contribute on special teams.

Baltimore Ravens: OT Andre Smith

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    The Baltimore Ravens signed offensive tackle Andre Smith in January 2020. However, he opted out of last season and has yet to play a snap for the team.

    Carrying Smith into camp made sense for a Ravens squad looking to retool its offensive line. Baltimore traded Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. before the draft. However, the 34-year-old Smith is past his prime, hasn't played in over a year and has struggled in camp.

    "Maybe the most disappointing of all the linemen has been tackle Andre Smith, who is showing all the signs of a player who has been in the league too long following a 12-year career," Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun wrote.

    Unless the Ravens become desperate for line depth, there's no reason to keep Smith. Releasing him would only save $850,000 in cap space, but it would make room for a lineman with more upside.

Buffalo Bills: QB Jake Fromm

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    For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, players on the 53-man roster must either contribute or provide premium depth at a valuable position. Quarterback Jake Fromm, unfortunately, doesn't fit into either category.

    Fromm would be a valuable insurance policy at the game's most important position if not for the offseason signing of Mitchell Trubisky. The former Chicago Bears quarterback has 50 pro starts on his resume and is perfectly suited to be Josh Allen's primary backup.

    This leaves Fromm, a 2020 fifth-round pick, as nothing more than an emergency option and a developmental project. He has never taken a regular-season snap and isn't going to challenge Trubisky as the No. 2 QB.

    If Buffalo is eager to develop Fromm, it would be wise to do so on the practice squad. While that would carry the risk of another team poaching the former Georgia standout, that risk doesn't outweigh the value of an additional open spot on the final roster.

Carolina Panthers: S Doug Middleton

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    The Carolina Panthers just added safety Doug Middleton this month, which is why they may give him a look through the remainder of the preseason. However, Middleton is going to find it difficult to claim a spot on the final roster as a member of the defense.

    Carolina is making 2020 rookie standout Jeremy Chinn a full-time safety, which leaves Middleton solely competing for a depth position. The problem is that his only real value is as a special teams contributor.

    The 27-year-old Appalachian State product hasn't seen meaningful defensive snaps since his 2018 campaign with the New York Jets. That year, he allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 123.7 in coverage.

    There's a chance that Middleton could stick as a core special teamer. He played 191 special teams snaps with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. However, he's unfamiliar with Carolina's system and is set to carry a cap hit of $990,000. That's money—and a roster spot—better spent on a young player with upside who can also provide defensive depth.

Chicago Bears: WR Javon Wims

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    It's time for the Javon Wims experiment in Chicago to end. A 2018 seventh-round pick out of Georgia, Wims has shown a few glimpses of promise—he had 186 receiving yards and a touchdown in 2019—but has struggled to secure a defined role.

    Last season, he caught a mere six passes while playing only 28 percent of the offensive snaps and 13 percent of the special teams snaps. Wims is now battling for one of Chicago's final receiver spots. He did himself no favors in the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.

    He played just 17 offensive snaps against Miami, according to The Athletic's Adam Jahns, was targeted once and was flagged for a false start.

    The biggest problem is that Wims isn't a significant special teams asset. The Bears know what they have in him offensively, and they can save $920,000 and a valuable roster spot by moving on at the end of the month.

Cincinnati Bengals: G Xavier Su'a-Filo

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    Xavier Su'a-Filo appeared in six games for the Cincinnati Bengals last season, starting five and playing 27 percent of the offensive snaps, primarily at left guard. A left ankle injury cost him the other 10 games of the season.

    While Su'a-Filo could provide depth, Cincinnati added Quinton Spain during the 2020 regular season and used a second-round pick on Jackson Carman this offseason. While Carman has struggled in camp, Su'a-Filo hasn't been particularly good either.

    "Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said not to read too much into Su'a-Filo's spot in the guard rotation Saturday night, but it's hard not to take notice of an eight-year veteran being held out until the second half, then being forced to play four series against the opponent's deep backups," The Athletic's Jay Morrison wrote.

    Complicating matters is the fact that Su'a-Filo didn't look effective against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers backups.

    Cincinnati should be looking for a more dependable guard to put in front of second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. It should also be looking for a less expensive option for a backup role. Cutting Su'a-Filo would clear $2.8 million in 2021 cap space and wipe $3.4 million off the 2022 books.

Cleveland Browns: WR JoJo Natson

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    The Cleveland Browns are not lacking receiver depth. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie third-round pick Anthony Schwartz are likely locks for the final 53. This leaves JoJo Natson, who has primarily been a return specialist, with an uphill climb to make the roster.

    The torn right ACL he suffered in 2020 is another obstacle. Natson appeared in only three games for Cleveland last season and returned only three punts and one kickoff before suffering the injury.

    Schwartz isn't an experienced returner, but he has legitimate 4.26 40-yard-dash speed. Peoples-Jones returned 18 punts and 18 kickoffs last season.

    Even if Natson is at 100 percent, he has only two career receptions and isn't going to contribute on offense. While releasing Natson would save only $874,265 in cap space, Cleveland has Super Bowl aspirations and little room for special teams-only players.

Dallas Cowboys: LB Jaylon Smith

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    Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has been a tackling machine over the past four years (498 combined), though he has too often been a liability. In each of the last three seasons, he has allowed an opposing quarterback rating of at least 102.0 and has missed 33 tackles over that span.

    Smith hasn't looked good in preseason action, while rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons has been a star. Smith isn't a core special teamer either, having played less than 20 percent of special teams snaps in each of his four campaigns.

    The reality is that Smith is no longer worth his hefty six-year, $68.4 million contract.

    "I think there is a very slight chance he is on the roster in 2022 and a greater-than-zero chance he is not on the roster in 2021," The Athletic's Bob Sturm wrote. "... I see some major issues with his ability to do his job and the money has already been spent. He cannot play special teams for the same reasons he cannot play linebacker at a high enough level."

    Smith may stick around because of his contract, as Dallas will save nothing by cutting him. But the Cowboys should be looking for more reliable options at linebacker. Trading Smith would be ideal, but it's time to pull the plug if one cannot be facilitated.

Denver Broncos: QB Brett Rypien

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    The Denver Broncos are holding a quarterback competition between incumbent Drew Lock and offseason trade acquisition Teddy Bridgewater, and that battle could soon be settled.

    "Pretty damn close, but you know we have more information coming, OK?" head coach Vic Fangio said, per Troy Renck of Denver 7.

    Presumably, whoever loses the competition will serve as the primary backup this season. This leaves little room for third-stringer and 2019 undrafted free agent Brett Rypien.

    While keeping Rypien as an insurance policy could make some sense, he's done nothing to prove that he can be a reliable spot starter. He appeared in three games last season with one start and posted a dismal passer rating of 66.1. (Denver did win the game he started against the New York Jets, which finished the year at 2-14.)

    If the Broncos are going to carry three quarterbacks on the roster, they would be wise to find a more polished option. If they're not insistent on carrying three, stashing Rypien on the practice squad should be an easy decision.

Detroit Lions: CB Corn Elder

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    The Detroit Lions should have their starting cornerbacks in Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah. They may also have some key depth spots filled with rookie third-round pick Ifeatu Melifonwu and recent addition Nickell Robey-Coleman.

    This leaves cornerback Corn Elder, who has been hampered in camp by a leg injury, competing for one of the final roster spots in the secondary.

    The issue is that Elder isn't going to provide much, even as a depth player. The 2017 fifth-round pick has appeared in 30 games as a pro but has made only one start. He hasn't been good in coverage either. He allowed 32 receptions on 47 targets last season.

    The good news is that Elder does provide some special teams value after playing 148 (35 percent) of those snaps for the Panthers in 2020. However, Detroit could save $920,000 by cutting him and free up a spot for a player with more defensive upside, like undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs.

Green Bay Packers: WR Equanimeous St. Brown

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    In recent years, the Green Bay Packers have struggled to find quality receiver depth behind Davante Adams. That should be far less of an issue in 2021.

    The Packers recently traded for Randall Cobb, and they used a third-round pick on Amari Rodgers. They also have 2020 acquisition Devin Funchess back in the fold following his opt-out last season. With Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling returning as well, Aaron Rodgers should have plenty of targets to choose from.

    This should put an end to Equanimeous St. Brown's time in Green Bay. A sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2018, St. Brown has only shown occasional flashes. He has appeared in 24 games and has 445 receiving yards, but he's been credited with four drops on 49 targets with 28 receptions.

    St. Brown also hasn't been a regular special teams contributor, playing just 56 snaps in that role. He isn't going to have much value to the team this season, and Green Bay can save $850,000 by dumping him.

Houston Texans: TE Kahale Warring

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    In 2019, the Houston Texans used a third-round pick on San Diego State tight end Kahale Warring. In the two years since, they've gotten little in return.

    Warring spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Last year, he appeared in seven games and had three receptions on seven targets. He provided a quarterback rating of just 58.6 when targeted. Warring is now competing for a spot behind Jordan Akins and Pharaoh Brown but has trended toward the bottom of the depth chart.

    "With tight ends Pharaoh Brown and Jordan Akins both not playing Saturday, Anthony Auclair, Ryan Izzo and rookie Brevin Jordan all saw action before Warring," The Athletic's Aaron Reiss wrote after Houston's preseason opener against Green Bay.

    Warring is set to carry a cap hit of $1 million in 2021 which is a lot for a tight end who isn't likely to see the field. The Texans can save $780,000 by cutting Warring, and they should.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Jack Doyle

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    Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle took a step back last season. After catching 43 passes for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, he had just 23 receptions for 251 yards and three scores in 2020. Meanwhile, Mo Alie-Cox led Indianapolis tight ends with 31 receptions for 394 yards.

    With Alie-Cox and rookie fourth-round pick Kylen Granson on the roster, the Colts should move on from Doyle.

    Not only could Indianapolis save $4.8 million in cap space, but they could also rid themselves of a target who has lacked reliability. Doyle was better in 2020 (provided a passer rating of 122.2) but he recorded a quarterback rating of only 84.7 when targeted in 2019.

    Doyle's biggest asset appears to be his experience, but that does not justify the price tag. Opening up opportunities for Alie-Cox, Granson and 2020 practice squad tight end Farrod Green would provide more long-term value.

Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Taven Bryan

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    In 2018, the Jacksonville Jaguars used the 29th overall pick on Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan. Unfortunately, he has failed to make much of an impact.

    He has appeared in every game since being drafted but has logged a mere 71 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Those aren't awful numbers but not what a team expects from a first-round pick. More alarmingly, Bryan has only made 17 starts and has never played 50 percent of the defensive snaps in a season.

    Further hurting his stock is the fact that he was only recently activated for the first time in training camp after opening on the non-football-injury list and then moving to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Urban Meyer and the rest of the new coaching staff simply aren't going to get a long look at Bryan ahead of final cuts. It won't help that the new regime traded for Malcom Brown and drafted Jay Tufele, both players at Bryan's position.

    The Jaguars declined the fifth-year option on Bryan's rookie contract, making him a free agent next offseason. Jacksonville can and should save $1.2 million by pulling the plug early.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Gehrig Dieter

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    Wideout Gehrig Dieter has been on and off the practice squad since the Kansas City Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2017. He's probably as familiar with the offense as anyone at this point, but he has rarely had an active role.

    Dieter has appeared in only 10 regular-season games and has just three career receptions, including the playoffs.

    The issue with keeping him is that Kansas City is a legitimate title contender with no room on the 53-man roster for players who don't contribute. While the Chiefs parted with Sammy Watkins in free agency, they also added rookie wideout Cornell Powell in the fifth round. With Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle all returning, there just isn't an opening for Dieter.

    While Dieter does provide some special teams value (124 career snaps), he isn't worth a roster spot or an $850,000 cap hit.

Las Vegas Raiders: RB Jalen Richard

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    Las Vegas Raiders running back Jalen Richard was a significant piece of the offensive puzzle early in his career. Primarily a receiving back, he logged 160 catchers in his first four years with the Raiders and racked up 2,550 yards from scrimmage.

    However, Richard was less of a factor in 2020, when he had career lows in receptions (19) and yards from scrimmage (261). The Raiders added dual-threat back Kenyan Drake on a two-year, $11 million deal in free agency. This leaves Richard vying for the No. 3 role behind Drake and 2020 Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs.

    While Richard's receiving prowess is well established, he faces competition from undrafted rookie Trey Ragas. The Louisiana-Lafayette product shined in Las Vegas' preseason opener, compiling 82 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks.

    Ragas could make Richard an attractive cut candidate. The Raiders could save $3.4 million by letting him go. At that price point, Richard isn't worth the production he provided last season. And with Drake and Ragas on the roster, Richard's 2020 production could be his ceiling.

Los Angeles Chargers: QB Easton Stick

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    The Los Angeles Chargers have their quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert. This offseason, they signed journeyman Chase Daniel to a one-year, $1.1 million deal to be his backup. Therefore, there is no reason to keep Easton Stick on the active roster.

    Stick, a 2019 fifth-round pick out of North Dakota State, has just one pass on his resume. Daniel, meanwhile, has 261 attempts, five starts and 69 appearances on his. He is the far more experienced option for injury insurance, though both quarterbacks should play in the preseason. Herbert will not.

    "Chargers HC Brandon Staley said today that his team will not play Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Derwin James at all this preseason," ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted last week.

    While some teams keep three quarterbacks on the regular-season roster, it doesn't make sense for L.A. to keep Stick. If it was sold on his prospects as a long-term backup, it wouldn't have signed Daniel—and the Chargers can save $850,000 by releasing Stick.

Los Angeles Rams: QB Devlin Hodges

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    The Los Angeles Rams aren't going to play new starting quarterback Matthew Stafford in the preseason.

    "There is zero chance you'll ever see Matthew Stafford take a snap in the preseason for the Rams as long as I'm the coach," head coach Sean McVay told Fox Sports' Doug Gottlieb (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

    The Rams aren't going to keep four quarterbacks on the regular-season roster, though, which means John Wolford, 2020 undrafted free agent Bryce Perkins and Devlin Hodges are competing for two spots. Wolford, who went 2-0 last season, including a playoff win, should have the backup role. This leaves Perkins and Hodges.

    Perkins was the more impressive of the two in L.A.'s preseason opener. He went 7-of-10 for 42 yards with a touchdown. Hodges finished 11-of-19 for 85 yards but appeared rattled by pressure and threw an interception.

    Los Angeles would save $660,000 by cutting Perkins and would save $780,000 by cutting Hodges. While the difference isn't huge, it should be a factor for the Rams, who have just $6.5 million in cap space.

Miami Dolphins: WR Allen Hurns

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    Miami Dolphins wideout Allen Hurns recently suffered a wrist injury that required surgery. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Hurns is expected to miss three months. This means Hurns could miss the first 10 games of the season and is therefore a candidate for this list.

    However, the Dolphins should be more inclined to release Hurns with an injury designation than to keep him on injured reserve for so much of the regular season. Even before the injury, Hurns did not project as a high-level contributor.

    The Dolphins added William Fuller V and rookie first-rounder Jaylen Waddle to their receivers room this offseason. This pushed Hurns down the depth chart.

    According to Kyle Crabbs of Dolphins Wire, Hurns was listed behind Fuller and Mack Hollins as No. 3 on the depth chart at his receiver spot. Hollins provides special teams value (he played 57 percent of snaps in 2020), while Hurns does not (0 percent in 2019; he opted out in 2020).

    The fact that Hurns doesn't contribute on special teams and is likely to miss a large chunk of the season should make releasing him an easy decision. Miami could save $1.2 million by cutting Hurns. More importantly, it could free up a roster spot for someone who will make an impact.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Tye Smith

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    The Minnesota Vikings are looking to remake a secondary that surrendered the eighth-most passing yards in 2020. But many of the players vying for depth positions got embarrassed by the Broncos in their preseason opener, as The Athletic's Arif Hasan pointed out.

    "Almost all of the big plays were to receivers, and many times it was a corner in coverage. Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, Dylan Mabin and Tye Smith all gave up big gainers," Hasan wrote.

    For Smith, one of Minnesota's offseason acquisitions, this isn't a new trend. The Vikings likely signed Smith because he has 40 games of experience. However, he has often been a liability in a limited role.

    Last season, for example, Smith played only 15 percent of Tennessee's snaps. He still allowed 15 completions on 20 targets and an opposing quarterback rating of 133.1.

    Dantzler, Bashaud Breeland, Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and rookie fourth-round pick Camryn Bynum should be near-locks for the final 53. For depth, the Vikings should be searching for players with more upside than Smith. Cutting him would save only $850,000 against the cap but would free up a valuable roster spot for a player such as Hand, who allowed an opposing passer rating of just 74.6 last season.

New England Patriots: WR N'Keal Harry

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    New England Patriots wideout N'Keal Harry has done next to nothing since being picked in the first round of the 2019 draft. The Arizona State product has just 45 receptions, 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games.

    Harry's lack of a prolific role led to a trade request in early July.

    "Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it's time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N'Keal moves on before the start of training camp," Harry's agent, Jamal Tooson, said in a statement (h/t NFL Network's Mike Garafolo).

    Harry hasn't been traded, and it doesn't appear he is in line for a significant role. Kendrick Bourne recently suggested that he, Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers will start in Week 1.

    "Kind of that's the plan, it looks like, for going into Game 1. Hopefully we have everybody healthy," Bourne said, per WEEI's Ryan Hannable.

    Harry may be out of preseason opportunities. He suffered a left shoulder injury against the Eagles on Thursday and was spotted in a sling after the game.

    If Harry is only going to be a depth receiver, that's a problem. The Patriots have traditionally put more value on contribution potential than draft status, and Harry does not play special teams (only 21 snaps). While New England would surely prefer to get something in return via a trade, cutting him and freeing up a roster spot may be its best-case scenario.

New Orleans Saints: QB Trevor Siemian

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    Quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston are going to continue getting preseason action, as the two are competing for the New Orleans Saints' vacancy. One will emerge as Drew Brees' replacement, while the other will likely be the primary backup.

    New Orleans also has rookie fourth-round pick Ian Book, who made his debut in the preseason opener. Fourth quarterback Trevor Siemian did not appear in that game, and New Orleans has little reason to carry him into the regular season.

    "All signs have pointed Book's way as the Saints' third quarterback heading into the season. Saturday was another indication of that movement," The Athletic's Larry Holder wrote.

    Siemian has 25 starts on his resume and could be a valuable backup for some team. However, the Saints don't need him and can save $990,000 by cutting ties.

New York Giants: WR Dante Pettis

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    Looking to bolster their receiving corps, the New York Giants added Kenny Golladay, John Ross and Kadarius Toney this offseason.

    Golladay is New York's new No. 1 receiver, and as a first-round selection, Toney is a lock to make the final 53. With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton on the roster, this likely leaves Ross, Dante Pettis and David Sills V vying for complementary roles.

    Sills, who had three catches for 49 yards in New York's preseason opener, should have an inside track.

    So, early-draft disappointments in Ross (2017, No. 9) and Pettis (2018, No. 44) will battle for a spot. Ross has made at least one highlight play in camp and was the a primary backup ahead of Toney, Pettis and others on the first preseason depth chart—which doesn't bode well for Pettis. Ross also set a combine record by running a 4.22-second 40-yard dash.

    Speed will always be coveted by NFL decision-makers.

    Pettis just isn't worth his $1.4 million cap hit. He has little special teams experience (40 career snaps) and has caught just 15 passes over the past two seasons.

New York Jets: OT Chuma Edoga

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    In 2019, the New York Jets used a third-round pick on USC offensive tackle Chuma Edoga. While he started eight games as a rookie before suffering a knee injury, he started only four games last season and performed poorly.

    Edoga was responsible for five penalties and two sacks in only 235 saps, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Further complicating matters is that New York added veteran right tackle Morgan Moses in late June. Edoga is also expected to miss the remainder of training camp with a knee injury that required "minor surgery," according to DJ Bien-Aime II of the New York Daily News. This means Robert Saleh and the coaching staff won't get a long look at Edoga ahead of Week 1.

    With both Moses and 2020 starting right tackle George Fant in the fold, keeping Edoga on the active roster wouldn't make a ton of sense. The Jets would save only $850,000 by releasing Edoga but would free up a spot for a player who can contribute to their rebuild.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles have little incentive to keep third-year wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on the active roster. A second-round pick out of Stanford, Arcega-Whiteside has been a non-factor.

    Through 24 games, Arcega-Whiteside has logged just 14 receptions, 254 yards and one touchdown.

    The presence of 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor and 2021 first-round pick DeVonta Smith has put extra pressure on Arcega-Whiteside to produce—he's no longer the young receiver with upside. However, Arcega-Whiteside has fallen flat.

    "In a pivotal season ... [he] hasn't really done anything of note so far in camp," Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia wrote. "He actually was very good in training camp last year, using his big frame [6'2", 225 lbs.] and good hands to catch 50-50 balls, but we haven't seen it this year."

    The Eagles should have three receiver slots locked with Reagor, Smith and Travis Fulgham. According to Frank, Greg Ward and Quez Watkins have been strong in camp. Both could make the final roster. This should leave one or two open spots at most with free agents and waiver wire pickups factored in.

    Arcega-Whiteside played just eight snaps in Thursday's preseason disaster against New England and dropped his only target, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Eagles should be able to find a more reliable option on another team's cut pile.

    The Eagles know what they have in Arcega-Whiteside—it isn't much—and they would be better off saving $945,112 and a roster spot by cutting him.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Joshua Dobbs

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    When the Pittsburgh Steelers took a flier on 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, it gave the franchise a new developmental project behind 39-year-old starter Ben Roethlisberger. It also created fewer long-term opportunities for backups Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs.

    Rudolph has a 5-4 starting record but also has a career passer rating of just 82.7. Dobbs has never made a start. While it makes sense for Pittsburgh to keep two backups behind Roethlisberger, only one is likely to stick along with Haskins.

    Dobbs was a crisp 4-of-6 for 37 yards and a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game—which didn't surprise head coach Mike Tomlin.

    "He's been with us before and performed similarly when given the opportunity," Tomlin said, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Man, this guy's not going to back down from competition. You guys keep asking me about Rudolph and Haskins; he's not going anywhere."

    However, Dobbs also threw an interception in his next outing (he finished 5-of-6 for 30 yards), while Rudolph has gone 14-of-18 for 161 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Picking between the two will be a tough choice that could come down to financials.

    Pittsburgh would save $850,000 by cutting Dobbs. It would have to eat $1.3 million in dead money to cut Rudolph.

San Francisco 49ers: RB JaMycal Hasty

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    While San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan loves to employ multiple running backs, there simply isn't room for JaMycal Hasty on the active roster. A 2020 undrafted free agent out of Baylor, Hasty appeared in eight games as a rookie, compiling 148 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards and a touchdown before landing on injured reserve with a broken collarbone.

    This offseason, the 49ers added veteran running back Wayne Gallman II and drafted Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell in the third and sixth rounds.

    Sermon has been particularly impressive during camp and the preseason.

    "He's been smooth so far. He really has," Shanahan said, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Yahoo Sports).

    Starting ball-carrier Raheem Mostert is back for another go, and the 49ers are expected to have Jeff Wilson Jr. back from a torn meniscus at some point during the regular season. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is a permanent fixture as well.

    This leaves little reason to keep Hasty, who would be more valuable as an emergency option on the practice squad.

Seattle Seahawks: RB Rashaad Penny

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    In 2018, the Seattle Seahawks used the 27th pick on San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny. They've gotten little in return.

    Penny has appeared in 27 games and has produced 823 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards and six touchdowns. A torn left ACL in 2019 derailed his development—Penny began the 2020 season on the physically unable to perform list—but Penny struggled to earn reps even before the injury.

    The Seahawks declined Penny's fifth-year option, and he is battling to make the roster. His biggest obstacle is the fact that Seattle has a clear starter in Chris Carson and two valuable role players in Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas. His future may hinge on the final two preseason contests.

    "Seattle has very little incentive to give Carson preseason reps, so these exhibition contests may be significant for Penny, who has already missed several training camp practices with a thigh injury," The Athletic's Michael-Shawn Dugar wrote this week.

    If Penny is going to be the fourth or fifth back, there's no reason to keep him. Seattle can save $1.4 million by dumping Penny before Week 1 and can open a roster spot for a player who might have a future with the franchise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Ryan Griffin

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision to draft quarterback Kyle Trask in Round 2 could bring an end to Ryan Griffin's tenure with the franchise. While Griffin has been a backup with Tampa Bay since 2015, the Bucs aren't going to keep three quarterbacks behind starter Tom Brady.

    Tampa Bay also isn't likely to risk moving a second-round pick to the practice squad either.

    This means Griffin is competing with Blaine Gabbert for the last remaining spot. Gabbert, who has 48 games of starting experience, should have the inside track.

    While Brady doesn't miss games because of injury—his torn ACL in 2008 was the only instance of this—he's also 44 years old. The Buccaneers are looking to repeat and shouldn't leave anything to chance. Griffin has appeared in all of two games and has never made a start.

    Money should also be a factor here, as Tampa Bay has less cap space than any team. Cutting Griffin would save $850,000, while cutting Gabbert would save $500,000.

Tennessee Titans: WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The addition of Julio Jones changed the Tennessee Titans receiving corps. Jones and A.J. Brown are clear-cut starters, while free-agent acquisition Josh Reynolds will likely be the starting slot receiver.

    In a run-heavy offense built around Derrick Henry, there's not a ton of room for depth receivers. Rookie sixth-round pick Racey McMath and rookie fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick should have good chances to stick, which could leave second-year man Nick Westbrook-Ikhine as the odd man out.

    Westbrook-Ikhine was largely a special teams contributor as a rookie. He had three receptions but played only 15 percent of the offensive snaps—and 35 percent of the special teams snaps. The problem is that Tennessee has a better option in former Colts receiver—and 2020 Titans practice-squad member—Chester Rogers.

    Rogers made an outstanding 57-yard punt return during Tennessee's preseason opener. He returned both punts and kickoffs for the Colts and compiled 111 catches and 1,221 receiving yards with five touchdowns in four seasons with the club.

    Cutting Westbrook-Ikhine would save only $780,000 in cap space, but it would free up a player with more upside, such as Rogers.

Washington Football Team: WR Steven Sims Jr.

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Washington Football Team wideout Steven Sims Jr. flashed potential as an undrafted rookie in 2019, finishing with 34 receptions, 310 yards and four touchdowns. However, a toe injury limited Sims to 12 games last year, and he wasn't particularly effective when on the field.

    Sims finished with 27 receptions, 265 yards and a touchdown.

    While Sims has again flashed in training camp, he carries a lot of question marks—as Peter Hailey of NBC Sports Washington noted early this month.

    "Sims' hands aren't always the most dependable, and there's always an injury concern with someone of his size, but when he's right, he can be electric," Hailey wrote. "We'll just have to see if he can regain this staff's trust after a poor campaign."

    At just 5'10" and 190 pounds, Sims is undersized and doesn't provide a lot of special teams value (only 70 snaps in 2020). With Adam Humphries, Curtis Samuel and rookie Dyami Brown entering the equation this offseason, Sims is likely competing for one of the final receiver spots—a spot that usually requires special teams value.

    Sims has upside, but Washington's best play is to try stashing him on the practice squad.


    Salary-cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.