10 NFL veterans on the roster bubble
Training camp presents a bit of a mixed bag for NFL players. Every team enters the season with the potential to go on and win the Super Bowl, which is a good feeling. But before the regular season begins, players have to fight for jobs. Making an NFL roster is extremely difficult as even veterans are not safe from being cut.
Each year there are countless surprises when final cuts come through and teams break camp. Here’s a look at 10 NFL veterans who are on the roster bubble and in danger of potentially being cut, released or traded.
10. Geno Smith, QB, New York Giants
When the Giants initially signed Geno Smith, the move came as a surprise to many. But despite inking a one-year deal, Smith’s spot on the 53-man roster is far from guaranteed. In fact, he finds himself in an uphill battle, working to overcome a torn ACL while needing to beat out fellow quarterback Josh Johnson, who has experience in the Giants’ offensive system.
After having selected California quarterback Davis Webb in the third-round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Giants will have only one spot available to back up iron-man quarterback Eli Manning.
Smith, who was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2013, never materialized for Gang Green and has been widely considered a bust. However, on the other side of town, Smith has embraced his situation and worked hard this offseason to revitalize his career and prove he’s worthy of another chance in the NFL.
So far in training camp, Smith has looked healthy and, at times, quite capable. However, he hasn’t completely separated himself from Johnson and will remain very much on the bubble throughout camp and the preseason.
9. Graham Gano, kicker, Carolina Panthers
Graham Gano has been the Panthers’ kicker since 2012, but his struggles in 2016 were well-documented. He made only 78.9% of his field goal attempts — his lowest mark as a Panther — and missed six field goals from over 40 yards. He also failed to convert on three point after attempts.
In response to Gano’s struggles, Carolina did something they had never before done in their history: they selected a kicker in the NFL Draft.
The Panthers snatched up Harrison Butker in the seventh round, which isn’t considered a throw-away pick. Although he’s since been fired, general manager Dave Gettleman values every pick and uses them on players he believes will help the team.
Although Gano embraces the training camp competition, it’s the first time he’s faced legitimate heat as a Panther. He’ll need to win the kicking job outright or he’ll be given a pink slip on cut-down day.
8. DeAngelo Hall, FS, Washington Redskins
In 2015, DeAngelo Hall switched from full-time cornerback to safety for the Redskins, which was done to prolong the 33-year-old’s career. However, after suffering a torn ACL in 2016, Hall has now missed 31 of the last 48 regular season games. Add in that he’s got a salary cap hit of $3.11 million (dead cap of only $812,500) and it’s a potentially rough situation for the veteran.
The Redskins also signed D.J. Swearinger and moved Su’a Cravens from linebacker to safety, further boosting competition at the position. The competition includes Will Blackmon, who has served as their primary backup.
Given that Hall is relatively inexperienced at the position, is oft-injured and comes at a fairly high cost, he could be on the hot seat. As it stands, Hall opened up camp on the PUP list. If he’s not able to come back healthy, perform well during the preseason and beat out some of the younger players, his future could be in jeopardy.
7. Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears
Kyle Fuller was a first-round pick of the Bears in 2014 and appeared in 32 games (30 starts) over his first two seasons, recording 119 tackles (98 solo), three interceptions and 19 passes defensed. However, he missed the entire 2016 season after having his knee scoped and fell out of favor with the team’s new coaches/front office.
This offseason, Chicago went to work on their secondary, adding projected starters Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. They also declined Fuller’s fifth-year option.
The Bears may owe Fuller a $1,740,954 guaranteed salary in 2017, but he may not be with the team much longer. He’s essentially lost his starting job, does not appear to be in the team’s plans for the future, and is now a lame duck at his position.
If Fuller does not come out and perform well in both training camp and the preseason, it’s possible the Bears cut him loose. But even if he does play solidly, Chicago could look to trade him.
6. Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Ryan Mathews is a rather obvious addition to this list given that his release is already expected. However, with training camps underway and the preseason in its early stages, Mathews has hung onto a roster spot, ironically, because of an injury.
Because Mathews is still nursing a herniated disc in his neck — an injury suffered in Week 16 of last season — the Eagles can’t afford to release him. If released now, he would count for more than $1.1 million against their limited cap space.
Although Mathews would have a dead cap hit of $1 million is released while healthy, it makes more sense for the Eagles to wait until he can pass a physical — which is exactly what they’re doing.
With the additions of veteran LeGarrette Blount and rookie Donnel Pumphrey, coupled with a total cap hit of $5 million this season, it’s clear that when Mathews is finally healthy enough to play, he’ll no longer be an Eagle.