NFL Cuts 2021: Predictions for Veterans in Danger of Being Released
The third and final cut-down period for the NFL will feature the biggest names as teams trim their roster from 80 to 53.
The deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, though some teams have already got started on this front, such as the New England Patriots sending running back Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams.
More trades are sure to follow, though teams that can't work out deals will simply cut loose other notable names while eyeing the future. These cuts can be players at lesser-valued positions or veterans who have seen younger guys shove them aside on the depth chart.
Here's a look at three veterans potentially on the chopping block and a verdict for each.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Chicago Bears
On paper, the best possible thing for a rookie passer like Justin Fields—once he inevitably gets on the field—is a reliable veteran tight end.
Jimmy Graham might not be that guy. Now 34 years old, he caught eight touchdowns over 16 games last season in Chicago, an anomaly compared to a pair of very quiet seasons in Green Bay before that.
But the Bears used a second-round pick on Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame in 2020 for good reason. He only caught 28 passes as a rookie but scored twice, and head coach Matt Nagy has already hinted at a bigger role for him as a sophomore.
Add in the Bears signing veteran tight end Jesse James to a one-year deal this offseason, and the $7 million the team would save by cutting Graham looks great considering Chicago has just $3.7 million in available cap space.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Given the shelf life of the average running back in the NFL, Rashaad Penny classifies as a veteran despite being a first-round pick in 2018.
The Seattle Seahawks drafted the 25-year-old with the intention of finding a workhorse back, but he's yet to even reach the 100-carry mark in a season and has missed 21 games over three years.
While he does average 5.1 yards per carry over his 161 attempts with five touchdowns, he has played second fiddle to seventh-round breakout Chris Carson. This summer, he's been getting a serious push from veteran back Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas.
Dallas, a fourth-round pick by Seattle in 2020 (which speaks to how the team views Penny, too), has had a monster preseason, including a 43-yard touchdown reception and a strong showing on special teams.
Given the devalued nature of the running back position, Seattle isn't likely to find many trade suitors for Penny, which could mean he's left off the final 53.
Jordan Hicks, LB, Arizona Cardinals
The writing remains on the wall for veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks with the Arizona Cardinals.
After drafting Zaven Collins 16th overall, the Cardinals gave the 29-year-old permission to seek a trade, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
It was a surprising turn of events for a player who had 118 total tackles last season. But he did only generate a 50.4 Pro Football Focus grade last year—well into the "replaceable" range—and Collins' arrival hints the team thinks the veteran was overexposed while playing 92 percent of the defense's snaps.
While Hicks does have some trade appeal, a new team might not want him in a heavy-duty role, either. That, plus his $6 million salary this year, could make it hard for Arizona to find a deal worth making. If not, he could get cut loose to allow him to find a team that lets him do more than play a role as a primary backup.
Prediction: Cut if not traded