Every year, there are players released that shock and awe NFL fans. Teams will be required to submit their final cuts on September 1 by 4:00pm, and below is a list of one surprise cut that could happen for each franchise.
ARIZONA CARDINALS | K Phil Dawson
Kansas State rookie free agent Matthew McCrane has been a perfect two-for-two this preseason, including nailing a 53-yarder against the Saints last week. Releasing the 43-year old Dawson saves $3 million on the cap this year, and with a new head coach and a new quarterback of the future, don’t be surprised if they wipe the slate clean with a new kicker for the new era in the desert.
ATLANTA FALCONS | QB Matt Schaub
Although it would be risky to hand over the back up quarterback reigns to an undrafted rookie, Kurt Benkert has flashed in the preseason the team could recoup $2.25 million in cap space with Schaub’s release. Is he even a competent quarterback anymore? I'm not trying to throw shade, I honestly don't know.
BALTIMORE RAVENS | LB Albert McClellan
Breshad Perriman seems to be less surprise and more obvious with the procurement of two rookie receivers and three free agents, so let’s go in a different direction with long-time linebacker Albert McClellan. Rookie Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor are fighting over the inside spot next to CJ Mosley, and with Anthony Levine Sr’s special teams prowess and the emergence of the young edge rushers, this is a game of musical chairs that McClellan may not win.
BUFFALO BILLS | P Colton Schmidt
No need to go in-depth here. Ryan wouldn’t have signed at this point if he wasn’t guaranteed the spot with a handshake deal and Schmidt is in a contract year. Releasing Schmidt restores over a $1 million in cap space for Buffalo. Another guy to consider is current starting guard Vlad Ducasse, whom rookie guard Wyatt Teller has frankly outperformed in preseason.
CAROLINA PANTHERS | WR Torrey Smith
Sure, they just signed him, but Smith hasn’t been spectacular to this point and the solid play of Damiere Byrd and the first round selection of DJ Moore make it a difficult case to keep Smith and his unguaranteed $5 million salary on the books.
CHICAGO BEARS | WR Josh Bellamy
The long-time Bear could be seeing the Chicago sunset thanks to the heavy investment in the position this offseason. With Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller set to be the starting trio and Kevin White (hopefully) available to fill in all three spots, Bellamy’s nearly $2 million salary is superfluous to their mission.
CINCINNATI BENGALS | DE Michael Johnson
What? George Iloka and Brandon LaFell weren’t enough for you? I get that Johnson is beloved in the locker room and is an important veteran presence for this coaching staff, but the allure of saving over $4 million in cap and salary will make keeping Johnson a difficult temptation for this front office to resist. If Carlos Dunlap gets his pay day before the season starts, it will likely come with an expectation to take over Johnson’s role as a leader in the defensive line room.
CLEVELAND BROWNS | DE Nate Orchard
Entering the last year of his contract, Hard Knocks star Nate Orchard is very much on the roster bubble with the club not expected to keep six edge rushers. Orchard saves over a million in cap space and would likely find work fairly quickly in the event he is released.
DALLAS COWBOYS | WR Cole Beasley
Please don’t kill me, Cowboys fans. I know Beasley is a fan favorite and a good slot receiver, but it’s clear this team is hitting the reset button on the position and releasing Beasley would clear $3.25 million in cap room. Tavon Austin or Deonte Thompson are two players who can fill the slot role, or if Scott Linehan goes to three receiver sets, Allen Hurns could shift inside like he did in Jacksonville.
DENVER BRONCOS | WR Demaryius Thomas
This shouldn’t come as a shock with whispers already out there about Thomas potentially having played his last down as a Bronco. The impressive debuts of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton make Thomas an easy cut and saves close to $8 million in space. Paxton Lynch could also be a candidate here even though it would be cheaper to keep him on the payroll this season.
DETROIT LIONS | RB Ameer Abdullah
Abdullah has gotten the bulk of the first-team reps in the preseason, but lingering ball security issues and the stable of Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, and LeGarrette Blount behind him might make Abdullah expendable, putting close to $1 million back in the Lions’ pockets. Abdullah's entrenchment as the starting kick returner could make this difficult, and I would expect the Lions to move him via trade first before cutting ties.
GREEN BAY PACKERS | WR Randall Cobb
The Packers have an absolute traffic jam at wide receiver and moving on from Cobb saves over $9 million to move around for a re-worked Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews deal. The Packers would roll into the season with Davante Adams as the guy and a rotation of Geronimo Allison, Ty Montgomery, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore (who has struggled), Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and maybe Equanimeous St. Brown.
HOUSTON TEXANS | SS Kareem Jackson
The Texans don’t really have a good candidate for a surprise cut, but grasping at straws, Kareem Jackson could be expendable. The Texans spent a high draft pick on Stanford safety Justin Reid and Jackson’s versatility to play safety or cornerback, especially with recent injuries in the secondary, may make him worth his almost $7 million net cap number.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS | OT Austin Howard
The Colts brought Howard in to compete at right tackle, but it seems as though they are leaning towards starting second round pick Braden Smith at the position. Howard’s 2018 salary is simply excessive for a back up, and cutting Howard saves the Colts over $3 million in cap space.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS | DE Dawuane Smoot
Despite being a third round pick just last year, Smoot was disappointing as a rookie and failed to have any meaningful production in a healthy amount of snaps on a good defensive line taking double teams around him. Smoot has been out for almost the entire offseason with an ankle injury and could be in jeopardy if he doesn’t land on injured reserve. With Tom Coughlin in charge and a league-leading financial investment in the defensive line, this team is not in a position to have patience.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS | TE Demetrius Harris
Harris has been inconsistent with drops throughout his Chiefs tenure, and when you add his one-game suspension along with nearly $2 million in net cap savings with a release, this becomes an easy decision.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS | WR Travis Benjamin
Long time return ace Travis Benjamin may be on the roster bubble with the emergence of undrafted free agent JJ Jones in special teams. A wide receiver trio of a healthy Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams puts Benjamin in the back seat, and sub-$5 million net cap savings is too much to invest in a WR4.
LOS ANGELES RAMS | DE/LB Matt Longacre
The team likes Longacre, but with a new emphasis on speed edge rushers, Longacre could be in roster purgatory, especially if the Rams end up bringing in Junior Gallette. Releasing Longacre saves nearly $2 million in cap space, but unless they absolutely need every penny for an Aaron Donald extension, expect Longacre to hang on.
MIAMI DOLPHINS | WR Leonte Carroo
Carroo never did live up to expectations and the emergence of Isaiah Ford this preseason and lack of contribution on special teams makes Carroo a difficult player to keep. A second chance with a blank slate is probably best for Carroo’s career, anyway.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS | S Jayron Kearse
The signing of George Iloka makes for a pretty crowded safety room in Minnesota, and for a head coach in Mike Zimmer who values availability, Kearse may be the odd man out. I would expect Kearse to be snatched up via waivers very quickly, as safety depth in the NFL is deplorable.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS | TE Dwayne Allen
No dead cap and $5 million in savings for a player who could never quite fall in line with the Patriot way. Belichick and the Pats have been giving Jacob Hollister excessive run this preseason to audition for the role behind Gronk, and he may just be the winner when all is said and done.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS | QB Tom Savage
The Saints gave Taysom Hill the QB2 reps this past week against Arizona, and let’s face it, if Brees does go down due to injury, the Saints are cooked regardless of their back up situation. They may opt to go with Hill and develop JT Barrett IV on the practice squad this year and save $1.3 million in cap room by cutting Savage loose.
NEW YORK GIANTS | C Brett Jones
Jones lost his starting job to Jon Halapio, who was a team captain against the Lions this week, and has been buried on the depth chart this preseason. For a team that’s up against it with the cap, the $2.9 million net savings from moving on from Jones would be a welcome influx.
NEW YORK JETS | WR Terrelle Pryor Sr.
The Jets just signed prior this offseason, but he has yet to stand out and has already rubbed head coach Todd Bowles the wrong way by disclosing the ankle injury he has been working through. The Jets have a bevy of average receivers competing for roster spots, and they just might eat the $2 million in dead cap and move on. Buster Skrine is another sneaky potential cut for the Jets, so keep an eye on that.
OAKLAND RAIDERS | WR Martavis Bryant
Gruden has publicly lambasted Bryant’s lack of effort and disinterested attitude despite spending a third round pick on him on a draft day trade with the Steelers. Cutting Bryant could send a strong message to the rest of this team as a reminder that there’s a new sheriff in town, and talent alone won’t suffice. $1.9 million would go back into Khalil Mack's escrow with Bryant’s release.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES | DE Michael Bennett
Similar to Martavis Bryant above, the Eagles did just trade for Bennett, so this would be a surprise. However, Bennett has no dead cap number on his $5.6 million salary this season and the strong play of Steven Means and rookie Josh Sweat so far may make Bennett expendable and allow the Eagles to move some of that money towards a Brandon Graham extension.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS | QB Landry Jones
The Steelers burning draft picks on quarterbacks in back-to-back years to develop behind Ben Roethlisberger spells bad news for Jones. Is a veteran back up worth $1.9 million in net cap? It’s less about the money and more about not keeping four QBs on the final roster for Jones.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS | WR Aldrick Robinson
Robinson is a nice player to have on the roster and a stand out on special teams, but with two draft picks spent on wide receivers and the admiration of Kendrick Bourne and Victor Bolden may cause Robinson to be the odd man out. Cutting Robinson saves the 49ers almost $2 million in cap space.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS | CB Byron Maxwell
I really wanted to go with KJ Wright here for pure shock factor, but just can’t believe that he would be cut in my heart of hearts, despite an attractive $7.2 million in cap savings and the impressive debut of Shaquem Griffin behind him. Let’s go with Maxwell, who hasn’t appeared in preseason so far and may get Wally Pipp’ed by rookie Tre Flowers, who has gotten reps with the ones at right cornerback. Maxwell is washed and not worth the $1.5 million cap savings.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS | WR Adam Humphries
The coaching staff is enamored with Humphries, but with an expanded role for Chris Godwin and the stellar debut of Justin Watson, Humphries may not be worth his $2.9 million salary as a fourth or fifth wide receiver. Humphries could be a candidate to get cut and come back at a lower number or simply re-structure.
TENNESSEE TITANS | LB Wesley Woodyard
The selection of Rashaan Evans in the first round, the strong play of Jayon Brown, and the free agency addition of Will Compton make Wesley Woodyard and his $3.75 million net savings dead weight. Woodyard should find work fairly quickly if he hits the market.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS | LB Pernell McPhee
Sure, the Redskins just signed McPhee, but the same could have been said about Orlando Scandrick’s sojourn with the team. The Redskins may choose to go with Ryan Anderson as the primary rotational rusher behind Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith and put roughly $1.4 million back in their pocket.