NFL Roster Cuts 2021: Predicting Notable Releases After Preseason Week 2
The first of the three NFL cutdown days didn't feature many notable names leaguewide.
But that changes exiting Week 2 of the preseason.
Teams must cut rosters to 80 by Tuesday ahead of the final 53-man roster deadline on August 31. That means positional battles across the league take on heightened importance.
Also playing a factor? Available free agents, both in the pool already and via future cuts, plus the possibility of trades. The whirlwind that is the sprint to Week 1 can always lead to notable or shocking releases, so let's project a few of those after the preseason's second week.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Sony Michel might be the odd man out in the usually impossible-to-predict New England Patriots running back room.
Michel, a first-round pick in 2018, appeared in just nine games last year and rushed for 449 yards and a score, albeit on a 5.7 per-carry average. But he's a spell back at best to starter Damien Harris, who recently received praise from head coach Bill Belichick and out-carried Michel 41 to 17 in their three games together last season.
Fourth-round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson isn't helping things for Michel. His first preseason performance was a 10-carry, 127-yard performance with two touchdowns (12.7 per-carry average). His second saw him put up 66 yards and two scores (4.4 average).
With Harris and Stevenson riding high this summer, the Patriots might opt to save a little cap space and trim one of the more devalued positions in the name of keeping more players elsewhere.
Zach Ertz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
It just feels like a matter of time with Zach Ertz, right?
The subject of trade speculation this summer, the Philadelphia Eagles couldn't or didn't want to find a partner, and the veteran tight end reported to training camp. But the team would still save $8.5 million in cap space by cutting him loose.
That has to be pretty appealing to a team with $12.8 million in free space as it is and Dallas Goedert already on the roster to act as a reliable safety valve for the still-developing Jalen Hurts.
Ertz, who turns 31 in November, played in just 11 games last season and caught one touchdown. With a dry trade market because teams are willing to wait out the seemingly inevitable, the Eagles might opt to cut losses, save money and use the roster spot elsewhere on the depth chart.
David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
David Johnson's tenure with the Houston Texans was always an odd one. He arrived via trade in that ill-fated DeAndre Hopkins deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and over 12 games with Houston last year, he rushed for 691 yards and six scores (4.7 average).
But Houston wasn't content at the position and added Mark Ingram II and Phillip Lindsay. Both guys are above Johnson on the team's depth chart now—all this after he signed a restructured contract extension just to stay in town.
Johnson is only 29, but last season was the first time since 2016 he averaged four yards per carry during a season, so some of the hesitation on Houston's part makes sense. Ingram has proved he can be a workhorse back and averages 4.6 yards per carry for his career, while Lindsay averages 4.8.
In a possible sign of things to come, Ingram was a healthy sit in Houston's first preseason game, while Lindsay out-snapped Johnson 8-2 during Tyrod Taylor's starting reps.