15 NFL veterans on the bubble entering training camp
Training camps have officially opened across the NFL, and that means at least 90 players on every single team are vying for a spot on the regular season 53-man roster. Some spots may be more set in stone than others, but everyone has a real chance to make an impression.
For rookies and other young players, that breeds excitement. On the opposite end of that spectrum, it could also mean the end for several aging players and long-time veterans.
Here’s a look at 15 NFL veterans who are on the bubble as training camps get underway.
15. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Michael Johnson has meant a lot to the Bengals during his two stints with the team and was even their Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2017. However, the NFL is a business, and at 31 years old with a diminishing snap count and a cap hit of over $6.1 million, his time in Cincinnati may be nearing an end. The Bengals have young players like Sam Hubbard, Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson who will push Johnson for playing time and likely render him expendable.
14. Brett Hundley, QB, Green Bay Packers
When Aaron Rodgers went down a season ago, it was Brett Hundley who got the nod and ended up starting nine games. Unfortunately, he was less than impressive, failing to throw a touchdown at home (compared to seven interceptions in those games), and could now be looking ahead to unemployment. He did manage to keep Green Bay in the playoff hunt, but the team’s trade acquisition of DeShone Kizer earlier this offseason does not bode well for Hundley moving forward.
13. Dominique Easley, DL, Los Angeles Rams
Dominique Easley faces a legitimate uphill battle in Los Angeles, not just because he’s returning from a torn ACL, but also because he has to compete for playing time with All-Pros Aaron Donald (holdout not withstanding) and Ndamukong Suh, as well as veteran Michael Brockers. That’s a tall order for anyone, let alone a player who has now had three serious knee injuries and compiled just 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles during the last (and only) season in which he was healthy.
12. Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have added Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead to their roster, which is a testament to Breshad Perriman’s struggles. He’s rapidly approaching — if not already achieved — the label of “draft bust,” with some in Baltimore even crediting him with being the worst bust in team history. The former No. 26 overall pick has had his career repeatedly derailed by injury, inconsistency and dropped passes — a problem that plagues him in both practice and in games. Needles to say, his Ravens tenure could be coming to an end shortly.
11. Manti Te’o, LB, New Orleans Saints
Manti Te’o returned from a torn Achilles in 2017 and had a strong debut season with the Saints, appearing in all 18 games (including playoffs) and playing well. However, New Orleans spent big money on Demario Davis this offseason and A.J. Klein is returning from injury. That will likely relegate Te’o to a backup role, but his lack of special teams skills makes him a bit of a roster liability if he’s not producing on defense. Unless something changes in camp, Te’o could be one-and-done with the Saints.
10. John Jerry, G, New York Giants
The Giants have had issues along their offensive line for years and John Jerry has certainly contributed to that. It’s for that reason New York went out and signed guard Patrick Omameh and drafted guard Will Hernandez, who are both projected starters entering training camp. Jerry has also seemed better suited for the backup role, but whether or not he fits what general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur are looking for remains to be seen. However, a potential dead cap hit of $2.525 may save Jerry for at least one more season.
9. Donald Penn, OT, Oakland Raiders
Jon Gruden and Donald Penn know a bit about each other given that Gruden signed the then-undrafted rookie free agent more than a decade ago. But the NFL is a business and that loyalty may not persist after the team selected Kolton Miller in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The 35-year-old Penn is also coming off of Lisfranc foot surgery, so he’ll have to prove to the team he’s both healthy and capable of starting over Miller. Of course, he may be helped by finances; $3 million of his $6 million salary is guaranteed.
8. John Simon, DE, Indianapolis Colts
John Simon played especially well for an otherwise forgettable Colts defense in 2017, but he missed seven games due to injury and is now adjusting to a move from outside linebacker to defensive end as Indianapolis transitions to a 4-3 defense. Simon hasn’t played on the line since attending college at Ohio State, and one of the knocks against him entering the NFL was that at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, he was undersized for the role. Simon is a good player, but he may no longer be a fit in Indy.