Teams need to get their roster trimmed down to 53, and the math means countless players are now out of a job. Some of them will find work quickly, whether it be through another team or the practice squad. For others, this is as close as they’ll get to making it in the National Football League.
Just because a player is cut doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. It just means that either there was too much competition at one team, or he didn’t fit in with the front office.
With that in mind, here’s 10 guys who were cut yesterday and could make an impression in 2012 and beyond.
Antonio Dixon, Defensive Tackle
Jim Washburn has helped many a defensive linemen reach their potential with his wide-9 scheme, but it’s safe to say Dixon wasn’t one of them. He looked like a bad match from the start, and it didn’t help that he was limited to just 86 snaps in 2011 before injury ended his season. That’s a shame, because we saw how destructive a player he could be a year earlier when he had our seventh highest grade of any defensive tackle against the run. We even declared him our Secret Superstar last year, so you can be sure some team is going to find themselves a guy who can help in the ample form of Antonio Dixon.
Chauncey Davis, Defensive End
He’s not going to blow you away but fans of the Falcons and Bears would (or at least should) tell you that when Davis spells a starter, the drop off isn’t hugely noticeable. In Chicago, the starting ends rarely come off the field while by bringing in Shea McClellin they have a situational rusher eating up snaps. There simply wasn’t much point in keeping a 29-year-old defensive end who didn’t figure to see much time. Over the past three years Davis has achieved grades of +0.1 (2011), -0.1 (2010) and +2.8 (2009), hardly earth shattering, but an indication he doesn’t let you down. That’s more than a lot of guys scheduled to see time offer.
Danny Ware, Running Back
You can call him Danny or D.J. but you can no longer call him a Giant. In a mild surprise the G-Men decided to cut ties with the former undrafted free agent who got on the field for 348 snaps (including the postseason). He never lit it up as a rusher, but his skills in pass protection were evident, and that’s what could see him latch on to another team. Obviously, for New York that wasn’t enough to keep him on the roster, but then not every team has Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson on the depth chart.
Ovie Mughelli, Full Back
For my mind there may not be a better pure blocking fullback than Mughelli. He doesn’t just attack defenders, but moves them in a way that is impactful and beneficial to his team’s running game. Back in 2010, that earned him our second highest run blocking grade for a full back, and so it was a mild surprise the Rams opted to go with Brit Miller (who looked poor on just 126 snaps last year). Of course Mughelli is 32 and coming off a serious injury, so it’s fair question to ask whether he is now the player he once was, or ever will be again. More than a few teams will try to answer that question.
Evan Moore, Tight End
You ever get the impression coaches don’t want a player to succeed? I can’t speak for how he played in practice, but Moore, as atrocious a run blocker as he is, was always productive catching passes. The four penalties and sack he gave up last year wouldn’t have endeared him to coaches, but in a league where teams are looking to find mismatches at the tight end position, have the Browns let one slip through their fingers? He spent 61.5% of his snaps last year lined up tight, hardly putting him in position to be the Browns’ poor-man’s answer to Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez. Some team will be intrigued by his talents and may just put him in a spot where defenses have to worry about him.
Seneca Wallace, Quarterback
While everyone this offseason has taken to feeling bad for Colt McCoy, there’s another Browns quarterback who warrants some sympathy. The truth is McCoy wasn’t all that good last year. He earned a -19.0 grade with bad decision-making and poor throws. Indeed, when he was replaced by Seneca Wallace, you’d be hard pressed to say Wallace didn’t look better. That’s been the story of Wallace’s career; a player goes down, he comes in and, by and large, does well, before a new season rolls around and he’s deemed surplus to requirements. He’ll make some mistakes, but when you look at some of the backup quarterbacks out there, are you really saying Wallace wouldn’t provide a better safety net?
Dominique Franks, Cornerback
It’s all change in Atlanta as the Falcons said goodbye to a player who got on the field for 413 snaps in 2011 (including postseason). Franks ended the year with a -3.7 coverage grade, but, with that coming largely in one game, he showed at the very least he’s solid depth. Indeed, when he came in to replace the injured Brent Grimes, he didn’t look out of place, and it was noticeable he did so in front of Christopher Owens (who remains on the roster). What’s more, he brought with him the versatility of being able to play in the slot, something plenty of teams covet. He may not be a starter, but you need guys who can come in when others go down for a period of time. Franks has the look of being that type of player.
Jordan Shipley, Wide Receiver
Maybe I’m kidding myself here because I’m not a doctor and I don’t know just what kind of shape Shipley is in. It’s a pretty big red flag that two teams have given up on him, in spite of the talent he demonstrated as a rookie. But in a league that is featuring more and more multiple receiver sets, having a hard to cover guy in the slot is becoming less of a luxury, and more of a necessity. Shipley looked like that player in 2010, and he’s well worth a kick of the tires to see if the medical team can get him back up to that level.
Dan Koppen, Center
Aging linemen aren’t always an attractive prospect. However, the 32-year-old Koppen who is coming off a broken ankle that forced him to miss all of 2011, has some pedigree. It’s not just that he’s won Super Bowls, but that he’s done it playing well. Sure, he’s never been the best pass blocker in the world, but he’s done his bit in the running game. Plus, if the only slightly younger Jeff Faine can get a deal when he’s stunk it up for the past three years, why wouldn’t teams take a chance on Koppen?
Bryan Kehl, Linebacker
The former fourth-round pick has been around for a while without ever really making an impact. He saw his most significant action under Steve Spagnulo for the Rams over the past two years, and rarely disappointed. Sure, he wasn’t the flashiest player, but he didn’t do an awful lot wrong and has some special teams value. The logical step is a reunion with Spagnulo in New Orleans with their linebacker group hit by injuries, but with teams short on linebacker depth there’s bound to be interest in Kehl.