Lead Draft Writer
We’ve now had two straight weeks with roster cutdowns, and yet, there are many more to come. NFL teams must reduce rosters to 53 players by the Aug. 30 deadline.
That means more cuts.
And perhaps more trades, too.
We’ve already had a few deals happen this preseason, including a trade involving a quarterback. We expect more activity to come at that position, as well.
So here are some better-known veterans who could be on the move prior to the deadline — either by getting released or via trade.
If Nick Mullens can be traded, then Rudolph certainly can. I’m not at all certain that a deal will come together, and he’s played well this August. Yet, Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett represent the present and future, respectively, at QB in Pittsburgh.
Pickett’s strong play of late could compel the Steelers to go with two QBs on the 53-man roster to start the season, with seventh-round pick Chris Oladokun a candidate to join the practice squad after being released this week. Trading Rudolph would free up a roster spot and allow Pittsburgh to potentially recoup something of value in return for him now as opposed to hoping he’ll factor into the compensatory-pick formula for 2024.
The biggest question: Do the Steelers want to trade him?
One of the following:
Either Bowden or Williams could be on the move, as Miami has more WR depth than it has in years. The strong summer showing of fourth-rounder Erik Ezukanma, who had 114 yards receiving in Saturday’s game versus the Raiders, could help convince the Dolphins to move a receiver or two.
Bowden, who also can play running back, has made a little noise this summer, but it’s been inconsistent. Williams remains listed with the second-team offense after expressing some disappointment over his usage. The Dolphins also have Trent Sherfield and River Cracraft battling hard for roster spots, and neither would be a terrible WR5 option to open the season.
The Dolphins already have shown they’ve been working the phones with the recent trade of Adam Shaheen, even if the deal was later voided. I think they’ll make a noteworthy move or two at cutdowns.
Two of the team’s recent first-round picks have uncertain futures in Philadelphia and figure to open this season as backups if they stick around. Could one or both be moved? It’ll be fascinating to see how general manager Howie Roseman handles the final touches on the initial 53. Dillard and Reagor both reportedly have done good things in camp. But Dillard is something of a one-position backup to standout LT Jordan Mailata, and Reagor might not be a top-three receiver on the roster.
The Eagles believe they can contend in 2022. Thus sparks a great debate: Better to have insurance at a few key positions? Or would they rather have future trade assets for a team that might not have Super Bowl potential this season?
It’ll also depend on what a team might offer the Eagles in any hypothetical trades and whether they’re comfortable with the other reserve WR and OT options. But I’d venture to guess both players can be had at the right price.
Wynn’s status in New England has been murky since almost the start of the offseason. He’s been shuttled between left and right tackle, was a no-show at some offseason workouts and hasn’t received an extension, due to play on his fifth-year option salary this season. So it’s no shock his name has reportedly been floated in trade talks.
Yodny Cajuste and Mike Onwenu, who also can play guard, both have looked better than Wynn at right tackle this summer, per reports. Trading Wynn also could help get the cap-tight Patriots in better shape financially.
The Cowboys, who just lost Tyron Smith for an extended period, might have to make a call to the Patriots about Wynn if they don’t promote someone internally at left tackle. Could Josh McDaniels and the Raiders be interested? With Alex Leatherwood’s continued struggles, the right tackle job in Las Vegas remains undecided.
This is pure conjecture here; we’ve heard no credible reports the Panthers are shopping Marshall. But it’s hard not to see Matt Rhule’s frustration mounting with the 2021 second-rounder, who has battled a hamstring injury.
Marshall was back in action last week during the Patriots’ joint practices, but he tweaked the hamstring and did not play in the game. “We need Terrace to start practicing,” Rhule said. “We need him to step up.”
A trade might be a bit of a dramatic step to take at this stage, unless the Panthers truly don’t believe Marshall can overcome the health issues that apparently have followed him from LSU to Charlotte. Other Panthers receivers, including Shi Smith and Rashard Higgins, have stepped up in Marshall’s absence. But is it enough to convince GM Scott Fitterer to trade away one of his first Carolina draft picks?
Slayton turned in very respectable first and second seasons in 2019 and 2020, but that feels like ages ago — and they didn’t happen with the coaching staff that’s in power now. The Giants suddenly have a glut of wide receivers and are tight against the salary cap, so moving Slayton — if they’re able — feels like a no-brainer.
The return wouldn’t be all that exciting for the former fifth-rounder. But the Giants are building for the future, and they very much plan to do it through the draft. That’s the method new GM Joe Schoen helped oversee in Buffalo the past several years, with the Bills emerging as Super Bowl contenders.
They’ll likely take what they can get for Slayton or cut him.
One of the following:
The Chiefs are always a team to watch this time of year, given GM Brett Veach’s track record of making trades around cutdown time.
This year, Kansas City has a bit more D-line depth than it might have anticipated at one point, especially after the arrivals of Carlos Dunlap and Danny Shelton. Inside, there’s a glut, and it might be tough for both former third-rounder Saunders and summer standout Stallworth to make the initial roster.
Neither would net a ton in return, one might safely assume, although the athletically gifted Saunders could offer a bit more value.
Colleague Gregg Rosenthal had a line in his NFL Preseason Week 2 recap that caught my eye: “Blacklock, the No. 40 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, appears to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot.” It’s always notable when a former top-40 overall pick is on the bubble two years after a team selected him.
After watching him versus the Rams, we can see why — getting flagged three times in a two-play span late in the fourth quarter of a preseason game is quite the accomplishment for a bubble player.
Complicating matters: Head coach Lovie Smith said Blacklock, who is nursing a leg injury, won’t play against the 49ers in the preseason finale, eliminating the possibility of a Thursday night showcase.
Texans OL Max Scharping, a 2019 second-round pick, might also be in trouble for a roster spot.
Garoppolo is a candidate to be cut or traded, but it’s pretty obvious which is more likely. Of course, if something dramatic happens to a team’s QB depth chart over the next week or so, we can’t rule out a desperation deal. But right now, it’s hard to imagine a team giving up much of anything for Garoppolo, who is coming off shoulder surgery and carries a quite prohibitive $24.2 million salary. Yes, he’s still in his prime years at age 30 and he plays the most important position in sports, but we need to be realistic here.
It also hurts the possibility of a trade that the most likely future destination for Garoppolo might be a division rival in the Seahawks. The Browns also could consider him a bridge option if they’re worried about Jacoby Brissett taking over for 11 games while Deshaun Watson serves his suspension.
UPDATE: The 49ers and Garoppolo are finalizing a new contract that will make him the highest-paid backup QB in the league, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported Monday. Garoppolo’s new deal is worth $6.5 million fully guaranteed with incentives that can push it to close to $16 million, Garafolo added.
The 2021 fourth-rounder started a game for the Saints as a rookie but might have a hard time finding a roster spot in 2022. The health of Jameis Winston is one factor in the situation, but New Orleans might be comfy with Winston and Andy Dalton as the only two true QBs, along with break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option Taysom Hill, now nominally a tight end.
Book can scramble. But he hasn’t been overly impressive in two preseason games, taking seven sacks, throwing two picks and averaging less than 5 yards per pass attempt. Still, if cut, Book certainly would be a candidate for the Saints’ practice squad. They appear to value him a bit more than other clubs might.
The handwriting appears to be on the wall for Jones. He entered camp with a shot to unseat Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the starter, but the fifth-year veteran might end it on the cutdown list. Jones clearly has fallen behind CEH, Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco on the depth chart and appears to be too much of a luxury to guarantee a roster spot.
One of the following:
Reading tea leaves with preseason usage is a notoriously unreliable exercise. Was it notable that Gaskin, a 10-game starter last year, was fourth in line at running back behind Chase Edmonds, Ahmed and Michel in the most recent preseason game? Perhaps that was less about Gaskin and more about getting Michel opportunities — and it’s not as if Michel has thrived, getting stopped for no gain on consecutive plays last week and posting a sub-zero preseason rushing average on four carries. The Dolphins will most likely end up having to cut at least one of Gaskin, Michel or Ahmed and could add some RB depth to the practice squad thereafter.
UPDATE: The Dolphins announced Monday that they have released RB Sony Michel.
Pittsburgh’s top three receivers are pretty much locked in: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens. It’s a bit unclear how the Steelers will stack the WR depth chart after that, but a spot figures to go to fourth-round rookie Calvin Austin III, who impressed prior to a foot injury (unless he’s placed on IR). There’s also Gunner Olszewski, who has been great this summer (despite a fumble last preseason game) and whose special teams ability will be difficult to replace.
That leaves Boykin in a tricky spot. He’s due to make more than $2.5 million this season, which is a bit rich for a player whose most projectable role might be as a gunner on special teams coverage. It’s a tough call for sure.
It’s quite clear Gordon is battling for a roster spot right now. The Chiefs might love to see him make it; after all, Gordon led all Kansas City wideouts in snaps against the Commanders with 27, including four with the first-team offense.
But the bad news is that Gordon has had a quiet camp, and he didn’t make much noise against Washington (one 10-yard catch on two targets). Could this be his final NFL shot after years of turmoil?
Cephus has started games for the Lions the past two seasons and has had some moments; he seems to do his best work versus NFC North opponents. But what is his future with the team? Durability has been an issue, and with August folk hero Tom Kennedy once again destroying the preseason, the Lions might want to keep a more reliable (the word Dan Campbell most often uses when describing Kennedy) option until Jameson Williams is healthy enough to play.
The Seahawks seemingly don’t know what to do with Collier, the team’s much-maligned first-round pick in 2019. He’s been kicked to multiple spots along the line, asked to gain or lose weight accordingly and hasn’t stayed healthy. That continued this summer with a nagging elbow injury. He has missed both preseason games. Is he a roster lock? I can’t say so for sure.
Perhaps there’s trade value here, or maybe the light comes on in Seattle. But we’re entering Year 4 here, and Collier hasn’t yet built on his semi-promising 2020 season.
The Steelers snagged Adams after the Saints cut him midseason, and he ended up starting four of his five games in Pittsburgh, earning regular snaps in the rotation and notching a sack of Patrick Mahomes in the playoff loss. But suddenly, Adams appears to be caught up in a numbers game on a fairly deep D-line. Pittsburgh has Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi and Tyson Alualu as roster locks, plus Chris Wormley, DeMarvin Leal and Isaiahh Loudermilk as younger players with more perceived upside. Adams might be on the outside looking in, though he likely can find work elsewhere.
One of the following:
San Francisco has a clear-cut top three on the edges: Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam and impressive rookie Drake Jackson. After that, there are some really appealing options, including Charles Omenihu, Hyder, Turay and Willis. Alex Barrett, who has put his best foot forward, also can’t be counted out.
That’s eight edge rushers; they’re not keeping all of them. After the three locks, it’s hard to say which two or three (or four?!) they’ll keep. If the 49ers can’t trade one of, say, Hyder, Turay or Willis — just a guess here — they almost certainly will be forced to make a tough cut of a player who has a high likelihood of being claimed.
Although Tartt signed a modest, one-year deal in June, it looked like there was an open freeway to a role on defense, considering safety was one of the Eagles’ few positions of need this offseason that had not been fully addressed. But best-laid plans and all, Tartt has struggled to consistently make his impact felt this summer. The good news, if you care to look at it that way, is that other than Marcus Epps, few other Eagles safeties have done much notable, either. Still, Philly could opt to go younger here or scour the wire for help.
Follow Eric Edholm on Twitter.
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