15 Big-Name NFL Players Who Could Get Cut During Training Camp
15 Big-Name NFL Players Who Could Get Cut During Training Camp
A slew of quality players will battle admirably through the dog days of August before becoming some NFL team's tough decision. No one said life or training camp was fair and there will be plenty of undiscovered gems and under-appreciated vets cut by the regular season's commencement.
Meanwhile, there are also many athletes who underwhelmed in recent years but whose contracts defy economic sense to cut at this moment — too much "dead" money is already headed their way. Strangely, this has nothing to do with what happens on the field in August but more so what happened in the negotiation room years ago.
So if you're wondering why Mark Sanchez is not on this list, it's because general manager Mike Tannenbaum threw so much dumb money at him before getting canned that the New York Jets are just plain stuck with the struggling signal-caller for now. According to Spotrac.com, the $12.85 million cap hit Sanchez delivers to New York is dwarfed by the $17.15 million in dead money wrought by his contract right now — so cutting him would actually cost millions more against the salary cap. A funny world we live in.
Meanwhile, the 15 high-profile players on the following list have for the most part demonstrated value at some point; leaving optimism for many of them to contribute somewhere else this year if they indeed receive the axe. This is not to predict anyone getting cut or to hail them as underrated, but just to analyze which big names are surrounded by factors that could lead to their dismissal between the start of training camp and Week 1.
Spotrac.com provides the cap figures referenced.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles restructured Vick's contract this offseason so cutting him wouldn't be a complete and utter cap catastrophe, though it would leave north of $7 million in dead money. Coach Chip Kelly's high-tempo offense could even be a fit like no other offense for Vick.
It's a crowded crop of quarterbacks with Nick Foles and Matt Barkley among the Eagles' mix and it will be interesting to see who emerges in training camp. Kelly can't appreciate the noise that this quarterback battle has already created around Vick, and this could lead Kelly down the road to a roster move. If Vick loses out, he could also get the axe.
Bernard Pollard, Tennessee Titans
Seeing what Pollard has done to various New England Patriots over the past decade, I should probably watch what I say. However, since Tennessee doesn't have the Pats on their 2013 schedule, I'm sure Pollard will find his way to a team that does — I kid, I kid.
In all seriousness, this is an overcrowded strong safety spot where the superior George Wilson has already signed this offseason, and the vet was rumored to be at odds with previous Coach John Harbaugh during his last stint, adding an element of volatility to the discussion.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
Starks had a marvelous run during the Packers' 2010 playoff run. I'm not sure Green Bay wins that wild-card game against Philadelphia without the rookie's 123-yard rushing performance.
But fast-forward five years and Starks might be the odd man out in a backfield that just added draft picks Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. DuJuan Harris showed promise as a scatback in last season's wild-card win and, unlike Starks, Alex Green's rookie contract stretches into 2014 and would cost the Packers more dead money to cut.
Nnamdi Asomugha, San Francisco 49ers
The Niners signed Asomugha to essentially a "prove it" deal in offering the ex-Eagle free agent just one year and no guaranteed money. While his contract isn't exactly exorbitant, I wonder if a defense that's this physical in the tackling department will mesh with a player who struggled at it the last couple years.
Perhaps Asomugha will regain the form that made him the belle of the 2011 free-agent ball, or maybe he'll end up a free agent once again in 2013. Either way, it's little cost off the cap-strapped Niners backs.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets
What the Jets did to themselves cap-wise between 2008 and 2010 is almost comical — if you're not a Jets fan obviously. Not only was the Sanchez contract keeping Gang Green in a strangle-hold heading into this offseason, but so was that of the man rumored to psychologically destroy Sanchez from within the locker room.
Even after the recent contract restructuring, cutting Holmes in training camp would count as a hefty cap hit. However, if Holmes pulls the same shenanigans with second-rounder Geno Smith thats he's rumored to have done with Sanchez, I could see new general manager John Idzik bite the bullet and clear out even more of the old. Idzik's already shown he can bite the bullet with the Darrelle Revis trade.
Peyton Hillis, Free Agent
Hillis is the one current free agent tailback who "makes" this list, as I'm sure some team will encounter more backfield injuries that lead to Hillis joining for a spell in August. His 2010 season alone — you'd think — he would warrant him a tryout, a campaign that saw him basically carry that Colt McCoy offense to semi-respectability. Semi.
Hillis has also engendered some hard feelings from All-Pro ex-teammate Joe Thomas in the past, who criticized his focus on self in contract negotiations. The 27-year-old back could be headed for a featured back role, in the Canadian league probably.
Tim Tebow, New England Patriots
Tebow joins the many on this list that reside in the one-year contract, no guaranteed money category. It's no skin off the Patriots' backs whether they keep or drop him, and that certainly played into negotiations this offseason.
Tebow does serve a need with Aaron Hernandez probably going to jail forever and Rob Gronkowski's increasingly-chronic back issues. And arm issues. But I have a hard time believing Tebow will also leap TE No. 2 Jake Ballard on the depth chart, so his roster spot remains tenuous.
Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals
Darnell Dockett made a good argument for the elite tier just a couple seasons ago but saw his play declined markedly in 2012. After finishing seventh Pro Football Focus' 3-4 defensive end grades in 2011, last season saw him fall to last in the league in that regard.
Dockett has been quoted blaming departed defensive coordinator Ray Horton for his struggles last season, which I don't imagine endears him to new Cards DC Todd Bowles.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
As with Pollard, I would be lying if I said this pick didn't slightly cause me anxiety over my own safety. Getting socked in the mouth by LeGarrette Blount is no joke.
Alas, Blount will never read this so I write away! The Pats backfield remains crowded even with Danny Woodhead's departure, and Shane Vereen fills that Woodhead role perfectly. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are both better short-yardage runners despite smaller size, and this could mean Blount serves that role elsewhere in 2013.
Randy Moss, Free Agent
He's currently a free agent, but the 49ers or some team is likely to bring Randy Moss back for one more go around considering Michael Crabtree will be out for quite some time and many squads have receiver needs.
Moss in his prime was the greatest deep-ball receiver I've ever seen, even with Megatron giving him a run for that distinction the past couple years. But that was Moss in his prime, and his intermediate game never developed to the point where Moss' twilight could even touch someone like Jerry Rice or Reggie Wayne, or even (let's slide down the scale a bit) Santana Moss.
With no dead money and a battle royale among many receivers on San Fran's depth chart, I could see Moss concluding his should-be Hall of Fame career this offseason.
Kenjon Barner, Carolina Panthers
Barner set the world on fire as LaMichael James' successor in the Oregon offense. Barner helped make Coach Kelly's offense sing last year and it earned him sixth-round selection from the Panthers.
Barner added a ton of muscle in the draft lead-up and that should serve him well in the pro game, but the Carolina backfield just seems a tad crowded as is with Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Michael Tolbert still battling for carries. Perhaps we could see Barner rejoin Kelly in Philly.
Quentin Jammer, Denver Broncos
Fellow 2013 free-agent signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is seven years younger and Jammer can't touch the mercurial DRC when he's on his peak. I assume the DRC peak is what Denver's hoping for in giving him $5 million guaranteed this offseason, while cutting Jammer would result in no dead money for the Broncos.
Jammer has struggled since reaching the wrong side of 30 but many speculate that he could move away from cornerback to bolster the Broncos' safety position, as CB 1-3 seem pretty set with DRC, Champ Bailey and Chris Harris. If that transition does not go smoothly, Jammer could lose his roster spot.
Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh Steelers
Plaxico Burress has been good for a red-zone throw or wide open catch every now and then, but his role in the receiving corps just seems a bit of a novelty at this point.
With one year left on his contract and no dead money hurting the Steelers' cap, there seems little room on the depth chart behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and rookie burner Markus Wheaton.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
The second-round selection of Gio Bernard surprised many who'd expected Eddie Lacy to go off the board first among running backs in the 2013 draft class. I imagine it also surprised BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who came to Cincy as the team's featured back just last offseason.
The Law Firm's Pro Football Focus grade ranked him 55th among 59 qualifying running backs last season, and his 3.9 yards per carry in 2012 looks more brutal behind a really good offensive line. With the rookie investment and a recovering Bernard Scott in tow, Cincy could save roughly $5 million in salary cap with this cut.
Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dwyer helped Pittsburgh out by immediately signing the $1.3 million restricted tender offer this offseason, but the franchise still went on to invest heavily in this area. The Steelers' backfield will have plenty of work sowed up in both rookie second-rounder Le'Veon Bell and Isaac Redman.
I hesitate a bit on choosing Dwyer given that Pittsburgh has already lost Chris Rainey, but Rainey's returner/scatback role hardly overlaps with Dwyer's. If Todd Haley decides in camp that the big, bruising Bell will be the Steelers' bell cow (see what I did there?), Dwyer's place in the backfield could be in danger.