One of the toughest days of every football season comes the weekend before Week 1, as NFL teams are forced to reduce their rosters to 53 players. Most years, unheralded players are able to win spots in certain situations with standout performances in game situations, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, all preseason games were canceled this season, leaving those underdogs with less of a chance to make an impression.
Still, some players were able to use their practice time wisely and unseat more proven options on the depth chart. That includes in Green Bay, where Malik Turner won the last spot at receiver over Jake Kumerow, and in Pittsburgh, where Ray-Ray McCloud was able to beat out Ryan Switzer. Some moves caused us to scratch our heads, including the Raiders trading Lynn Bowden for a lower value than the third-round pick they spent on him in April, as well as the Cowboys reversing course on veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after signing him earlier this offseason.
We’ll have one takeaway from every team below, but you can alsofrom the weekend.
Buffalo Bills: Fromm survives
The Bills spent a fifth-round pick on Jake Fromm in this year’s draft with the hope that he could challenge for the backup spot at quarterback behind Josh Allen, but instead he found himself in a battle with Davis Webb to be the team’s No. 3 option at the position. Speculation emerged that Fromm could fail to make the initial roster despite the draft pick invested in him back in April, but in the end it was Webb who found himself on the cut list. Buffalo did only keep four cornerbacks on the initial roster, so it’s possible there are more moves on the way. One of those four, Tre’Davious White, also reportedly agreed to a massive extension on Saturday, keeping him in Buffalo for years to come.
Miami Dolphins: Rosen on the move again
The Cardinals made Josh Rosen the No. 10 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft only to give up on the quarterback once the team found themselves with the top overall pick in 2019 and the opportunity to draft Kyler Murray. So they sent Rosen to the Dolphins in exchange for a second-round pick, and Rosen again struggled when given an opportunity with his new team. With the Dolphins also landing an expected franchise passer at No. 5 overall this year, Rosen’s only chance at sticking in Miami was if the team decided to keep three quarterbacks, possibly due to concern about Tua Tagovailoa’s health as he recovered from multiple injuries that ended his final collegiate season. But Tagovailoa is apparently healthy enough to serve as the team’s backup to start the year, and that leaves Rosen off the initial roster and looking for his third team in three years.
New England Patriots: Kicker job goes to who?
The Patriots surprisingly made Justin Rohrwasser the first kicker off the board during the 2020 draft when they selected the Marshall product in the fifth round. That made him the favorite to take the reins from Stephen Gostkowski heading into 2020, but the Patriots brought back Nick Folk to compete for the kicking job as well. After news emerged that Rohrwasser was one of Saturday’s cuts, it appeared Folk had won that competition. However, Folk also found himself on the team’s list of cuts. So who’s kicking for the Patriots in Week 1? Your guess is as good as ours.
New York Jets: New plans at center
Offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison has been forced to play plenty at center for the Jets over the last few seasons, including starting 18 games in 2018-19. Despite his experience, the Jets decided to move on from the seven-year veteran. With Josh Andrews also part of the team’s cuts, that leaves an open question who will get the nod if a fill-in is needed at center. Perhaps Harrison will eventually make his way back onto the roster with a non-guaranteed salary, but for now Adam Gase’s offense enters the season with just nine offensive linemen, including several new faces after an offseason makeover.
Baltimore Ravens: Going sparse at tight end
The Ravens last year were marked by great depth at the tight end position, trotting out receiving threat Mark Andrews, blocking weapon Nick Boyle and former first-round pick Hayden Hurst. With Hurst traded to the Falcons this offseason, it was an open question who would emerge as the third option at the position this summer. And it turns out, so far, no one. The Ravens cut all three of the tight ends left on the roster on Saturday, including Charles Scarff, Jerell Adams and UDFA Eli Wolf. Fullback Patrick Ricard can fill in at tight end if needed, but expect Baltimore to be on the lookout for a third tight end as they sift through available players as well.
Cincinnati Bengals: Eyeing the wire
The Bengals didn’t have much drama when it came to their cut day, with the most surprising perhaps being the decision to keep only two quarterbacks considering Joe Burrow and Ryan Finley have a total of three career starts between them. Brandon Allen and Jacob Dolegala, both waived on Saturday, are candidates to land on the practice squad. But the interesting part of the equation comes on Sunday, as the Bengals hold the No. 1 waiver priority as teams sift through the mountain of cuts made this weekend. Will Cincinnati add to their corner depth with Trae Waynes hurt? Will they find a veteran presence at quarterback? We’ll know in less than 24 hours.
Cleveland Browns: Tight end party for Stefanski
With Kevin Stefanski taking over the reins in Cleveland, we knew we’d see plenty of attention paid to the tight end position as the new coach incorporates multiple-TE looks into the offensive regularly. Not only did they not trade David Njoku after handing Austin Hooper a massive contract during the offseason, but the Browns went back to the well by selecting well-regarded tight end prospect Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the draft. That’s an impressive top three at the position, and it figured to leave Pharaoh Brown and Stephen Carlson likely fighting for one spot. Well, it turns out neither player was on the team’s cut list for Saturday, setting the Browns up with a whopping five tight ends to start the year. Get used to seeing plenty of bodies at the position on the field for Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers: McCloud takes Switzer’s spot
After serving as the team’s primary return and part of the receiver rotation in 2018, Ryan Switzer saw his role reduced last year. The Steelers signed Ray-Ray McCloud, a third-year pro who also has returner experience, during camp and ultimately decided to keep him around on the initial roster while sending Switzer packing. He was one of five receivers to miss on an initial roster spot for Pittsburgh, with Saeed Blacknall, Deon Cain, DeAndre Thompkins and Amara Darboh also on the outside looking in. That leaves just McCloud behind the team’s top four of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and rookie Chase Claypool.
Houston Texans: Depth a problem on O-line
The big news on Saturday for Houston was of course Deshaun Watson’s , and perhaps the most notable cut on Saturday was a player who has spent plenty of time blocking for him over the years. Greg Mancz made 28 starts for the Texans over the last four years but managed to play in just nine games (one start) last year as the team finally found a line combination that had some level of success. While Houston’s starting five is locked in, they’ll have plenty of questions to answer in terms of depth with Mancz, Brent Qvale, Rick Leonard, Kyle Murphy, Cordel Iwuagwu, Jerald Hawkins and Elijah Nkansah also failing to make the initial roster. That leaves just Roderick Johnson, Senio Kelemete and 2020 fourth-round pick Charlie Heck to serve as depth, so expect at least one more name brought aboard in the coming days.
Indianapolis Colts: New kicker in town
Adam Vinatieri’s poor performance in 2019 cost Indy potential wins and left the team looking for a new kicker for the first time since 2006. With Chase McLaughlin part of Saturday’s cuts, that leaves the job to undrafted free agent Rodrigo Blankenship. The Georgia kicker, who wears thick glasses during games, hit on 82.5 percent of his field-goal attempts at the collegiate level and earned the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top kicker, last season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Turning page at RB
The Jaguars’ most notable cut came earlier in the week when the team parted ways with former No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette, who went on to agree to a new deal with the Bucs. That left five running backs on the roster as contenders to replace Fournette’s huge role in the offense. The assumed leader of the pack, Ryquell Armstead, was placed on the COVID reserve list, and while one of the team’s two UDFAs, Nathan Cottrell, couldn’t crack the initial 53-man roster, the other did. James Robinson racked up 4,444 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns in his Illinois State career, and now he’ll get the opportunity to compete for touches with Devine Ozigbo and Jay Gruden favorite Chris Thompson should Armstead stay on the reserve list for Week 1.
Tennessee Titans: Heavy workload for RBs?
The Titans leaned heavily on Derrick Henry last season; for the most part the strategy paid off, as Henry dominated during the playoffs and helped drag the team to the AFC Championship Game. Tennessee then handed a four-year deal to the star runner and spent a third-round pick on Darrynton Evans to be their second option at the position. What will they do if they need to dig past those two players? That’s up in the air, as the team parted ways with the other three running backs on the roster on Saturday, saying goodbye to Senorise Perry, Marcus Marshall and Jeremy McNichols. Khari Blasingame still remains at fullback, but expect Tennessee to bring at least one more true running back into the fold before Week 1.
Denver Broncos: New faces on defense
After saying goodbye to Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe, two players who led their position groups in snaps last year, earlier this offseason, the makeover continued this week for the Broncos. Todd Davis, who led all Broncos linebackers in snaps last year, was released in a cost-cutting move, while former starting cornerback Isaac Yiadom was dealt to the Giants. Yiadom’s departure cleared the way for a few players to step into the fold as the third option at the position behind A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan, including De’Vante Bausby, but he was also unable to make the initial roster. This week’s moves clear the way for Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell to start at linebacker, with recent additions Mark Barron and Austin Calitro waiting in the wings. Third-round pick Michael Ojemudia and UDFA Essang Bassey will join Duke Dawson and Davontae Harris at cornerback behind Bouye and Callahan.
Kansas City Chiefs: RB settled behind rookie?
After Damien Williams opted out of the season, it was an open question whether the Chiefs would bring in some help to take some of the pressure off first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That didn’t happen, with ex-Raider DeAndre Washington serving as the main addition to the backfield. Now Washington finds himself looking for a job once again, as Kansas City has decided to keep just Darrel Williams (not to be confused with offensive lineman Darryl Williams, who was cut) and Darwin Thompson at running back behind the rookie. Neither was effective carrying the football last year, with Williams averaging 3.4 yards per carry and Thompson not much better at 3.5. This could be a position of focus as the Chiefs sift through the cuts made around the league over the weekend.
Los Angeles Chargers: Questions at receiver
The big news for the Chargers on Saturday involved No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen landing to keep him in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future. The only other wide receiver on the team to catch more than 10 passes last year, Mike Williams, could be up next in getting a deal done. But questions remain for the rest of the depth chart at the position, especially with ex-Titan Darius Jennings part of the team’s cuts this weekend. The third and fourth receiver roles could now come down to a pair of Day 3 rookies in fifth-rounder Joe Reed and seventh-rounder K.J. Hill — unless the Chargers have more moves to make over the next few days to strengthen the position.
Las Vegas Raiders: Surprising trade at RB
The Raiders spent a third-round pick on offensive weapon Lynn Bowden during April’s draft and even made some noise about using him at quarterback in some packages during camp after he filled that role for Kentucky due to injury last year. But ultimately the team decided to move on before he had even played a snap, trading Bowden plus a sixth-round pick to Miami for a fourth-round pick. That’s not what you want to see from a player taken 80th overall, and one has to wonder if he wasn’t a fit for the locker room in Las Vegas. With Bowden traded and Theo Riddick released, the Raiders head into the season with Jalen Richard and Devontae Booker behind Josh Jacobs on the depth chart.
Dallas Cowboys: Reversing course on Clinton-Dix
The Cowboys handed safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix a one-year, $3.75 million contract in free agency that included $2.25 million in guaranteed money. The former first-round pick, who spent plenty of time playing for Mike McCarthy with the Packers, didn’t even make it to Week 1, quickly slipping behind Darian Thompson on the depth chart in camp before failing to land a spot on the initial roster. Xavier Woods, who has been battling a groin issue, can be assumed to be healthy enough to play in Week 1 with the Clinton-Dix move, but expect speculation to continue running wild on whether three-time first-team All-Pro Earl Thomas lands at Dallas. For now, Luther Kirk and 2019 sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson will serve as depth at safety, though it’s possible some of the team’s corners could see time at the position if needed.
New York Giants: Shocking cut at linebacker
2019 fifth-round pick Ryan Connelly flashed when given the opportunity last year, recording two interceptions and one sack while playing in just four games due to an ACL tear. He was expected to play a major role on the defense once healthy, but that return to health never came, and the team released the linebacker in an unexpected move on Saturday. While the Giants will likely try to maintain his rights via an injury move, that leaves the team with questions at who will play linebacker next to Blake Martinez. 2020 seventh-round picks Tae Crowder and T.J. Brunson made the team’s initial roster, but with David Mayo also dealing with an injury, the most likely candidate to start early is Devante Downs, provided the Giants don’t add more help at the position in the coming days.
Philadelphia Eagles: Cornerback rebuild complete
The Eagles’ Achilles heel has often been the cornerback position in recent years, but the team went to great lengths to address the issue this offseason, trading for and extending Darius Slay to be their No. 1 option, while adding nickel corner Nickell Robey-Coleman during the offseason as well. Slay will pair with 2018 fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox on the outside, and 2019 trade acquisition Cre’Von LeBlanc will serve as a reserve along with Craig James. That left no room for the team to keep a pair of 2017 Day 2 picks at the position: Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. Though Jones was the higher pick, Douglas has played the bigger role for the team over their three years in Philadelphia, but both find themselves in the same position after cut day: looking for a new job.
Washington Football Team: Smith back, Peterson gone
The biggest news for Washington involved two long-time NFL veterans, with one packing his bags and one remarkably completing his comeback. Not only was Alex Smith unlikely to ever step on a football field again after suffering a compound fracture to his leg, but he was in danger of losing the limb or even his life. Against all odds, Smith returned to the field this summer and finds himself on the team’s initial roster to start the season, where he will serve as a backup behind 2019 first-round Dwayne Haskins. One veteran who won’t be joining him is Adrian Peterson, who didn’t fit into the rebuilding team’s plans at running back. Washington will move forward with 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson and 2019 fourth-rounder Bryce Love at the position along with offseason signings Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic.
Chicago Bears: Still questions at kicker
Bears fans have suffered plenty of heartbreak at the kicker position over recent years, and they exit Saturday without much clarity on the situation. With Eddy Pineiro dealing with a groin injury in camp, the team brought veteran Cairo Santos aboard. Even though Pineiro doesn’t yet appear healthy, the Bears made Santos one of their cuts, allowing him the freedom to sign with another team if he chooses (notably, the Patriots left Saturday’s deadline with zero rostered kickers). Santos may end up back on the team before the team’s Week 1 matchup, but if he winds up elsewhere, Chicago will be left searching for another option should Pineiro remain less than 100%.
Detroit Lions: Fifth-rounder fails to make roster
Running back Jason Huntley was a bit of a surprise draft pick for the Lions after the team already invested a high second-rounder on D’Andre Swift at the position, and despite having his moments in camp, Huntley wound up unable to crack the team’s initial roster. The rookie joins Wes Hills and Jonathan Williams as the team’s cuts at the position. That leaves Bo Scarbrough and 2019 sixth-round pick Ty Johnson as depth at the position behind Swift and 2018 second-rounder Kerryon Johnson. Scarbrough filled in as the starter for a portion of last year and finished the season with a 4.2 yards per carry average on his 89 attempts.
Green Bay Packers: Kumerow loses spot to Taylor
Aaron Rodgers lost a receiving option he considered reliable on Saturday, as the Packers decided not to carry Jake Kumerow on the team’s initial roster. The fan-favorite caught 12 of his 21 targets for 219 yards and a touchdown last year, but at 28 years old, the he was unable to stick on a Packers depth chart that will look mostly the same as it did last year at receiver, with Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown at the top of the depth chart. The final name taking Kumerow’s place: Malik Taylor, an undrafted player out of Ferris State in 2019.
Minnesota Vikings: Health critical at safety
The Vikings decided not to keep anyone behind their starting pair of safeties, with 2020 sixth-round pick Josh Metellus, UDFA Myles Dorn and Steven Parker among the team’s cuts on Saturday. That means Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, who are both excellent players, are going to be playing as many snaps as they can handle. Receiver Dan Chisena has also spent a little time at the safety position in camp, so he could help in a pinch, but we should expect Minnesota to find a more suitable backup plan for Smith and Harris before gameday.
Atlanta Falcons: Goodbye, all-first-rounder offense
Over the offseason, Atlanta’s additions left them in position to potentially run out an offense that featured first-round picks at every position. That dream came to an end on Saturday, as former Vikings first-rounder Laquon Treadwell was among the team’s announced cuts. Treadwell only made 16 starts in his four seasons with Minnesota and managed just nine catches last year before joining the Falcons this offseason. Treadwell’s release leaves Russell Gage as the team’s third receiver, with Olamide Zaccheus, Christian Blake and Brandon Powell also making the initial roster at the position.
Carolina Panthers: RB in flux behind McCaffrey
The Carolina run game begins and basically ends with Christian McCaffrey, but most of the leftover carries went to Reggie Bonnafon last year. He turned his 16 rushing attempts into 116 yards and one touchdown, while Jordan Scarlett and Mike Davis combined for just six rush attempts on the year. The depth chart got a shakeup on Saturday however, with Bonnafon finding himself on the chopping block. That leaves Davis as the No. 2 and former Jets back Trenton Cannon as the third option behind McCaffrey. Davis flashed for the Seahawks in 2018, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on his 112 totes, and he’s earned plenty of praise throughout camp.
New Orleans Saints: Team burns 2021 draft pick
Every cut day, we’ll see a handful of notable players who were just drafted wind up on the cut list on deadline day. In 2020, that group includes as high as a fifth-round pick, with Justin Rohrwasser and Jason Huntley failing to make their teams’ initial rosters. But it’s not often you see a team cut a player that cost them a pick in the following year’s draft. That’s what happened with the Saints, who traded their entire Day 3 draft haul to move up in the draft’s first two days, then spent a 2021 sixth-round pick to slide into the seventh round and select quarterback Tommy Stevens. With three quarterbacks on the depth chart ahead of him, Stevens began seeing work as a tight end, but apparently he didn’t show enough to stick around despite the Saints sacrificing a future draft pick just to land him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dust settles on RB changes
Once it was reported the Buccaneers would be the team to scoop up former top-five pick Leonard Fournette, many started trying to figure out what it meant for the team’s RB depth chart. After all, the Bucs had signed LeSean McCoy earlier in the summer to supplement a position that already featured presumed starter Ronald Jones, special teams ace Dare Ogunbowale and 2020 draft picks Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais. Surprisingly, Ogunbowale was one of the odd men out despite his special teams role, with seventh-round rookie Raymond Calais also failing to make the team. That leaves a depth chart (in some order) of Jones, McCoy, Vaughn and Fournette, once the latter officially signs.
Arizona Cardinals: Backup QB remains unsettled
Among the Cardinals’ cuts to get down to 53 players were 2019 fourth-rounder Hakeem Butler and 2020 sixth-rounder Evan Weaver. While the latter led the nation with 181 tackles last year, the biggest surprise may be not who was cut, but who wasn’t. The Cardinals signed former CFL quarterback Chris Streveler at the beginning of the offseason, and the ex-Winnipeg Blue Bomber signal-caller managed to stick on the team’s initial roster behind Kyler Murray and Brett Hundley. Streveler gives Kliff Kingsbury another mobile option under center in case of emergency.
Los Angeles Rams: Sam the Yam?
With Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein moving on in free agency this offseason, the Rams found themselves looking for a new kicker for the first time in years. The team staged a three-man battle in camp this summer, pitting seventh-round pick Sam Sloman against UDFAs Austin MacGinnis and Lirim Hajrullahu. The draft pick was able to hold off his competitors, who both found themselves waived by the team over the weekend. The Rams will hope Sloman, who connected on 87% of his field-goal attempts last year, can replicate the success of Zuerlein, their 2012 sixth-round draft pick.
San Francisco 49ers: Two former top-10 picks left out
The 49ers said goodbye to two former top-10 picks on cut day, with one caveat: both were picked off the scrap heap this summer after failing to live up to their draft status so far in their careers. Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan was unable to crack the depth chart on the defensive line, with the team electing to keep Kevin Givens and Kerry Hyder on the back end of the roster instead. Former No. 7 overall pick Kevin White was one of a number of receivers brought in to help the team deal with a trove of injuries at the position over the summer, but he joins River Cracraft, Shawn Poindexter and 2020 seventh-round pick Jauan Jennings as receivers to miss out on the initial roster.
Seattle Seahawks: Griffin squeezed off roster
Shaquem Griffin’s inspirational story was one of the highlights of the 2018 NFL Draft, when the Seahawks used a fifth-round pick to reunite the linebacker with his twin brother, cornerback Shaquill Griffin. While Shaquem had his flashes for the Seahawks over the last two years, he ultimately was unable to hang on to his roster spot on cutdown day. That has less to do with him and more to do with the depth the team has built at the position over the last few years, including bringing free agent Bruce Irvin back into the fold and spending a first-round pick on Jordyn Brooks in this year’s draft. Those two players join mainstays Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as featured players at the position, with 2019 draft picks Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven rounding out the depth chart.