5 roster cuts that can make an impact elsewhere
The first round of roster cuts have been made, with NFL teams going from 90 players to the 75-man roster limit.
Another round of cuts looms on the horizon to get each team to the final 53-man roster limit for the start of the season, but already some interesting players have been cast aside and could provide a needed boost for other teams out there.
Here we look at five players that could still make an impact in 2016 and should be picked up sooner rather than later.
1. John Sullivan, C
Cut by the Minnesota Vikings
In 2013, John Sullivan was as good as any center in the game, and at that point, had three straight seasons graded among the top three centers in the league. Coming off knee problems, his 2014 season was less impressive, and he missed the entire 2015 season with back issues, but at only 31 years old, chances are that Sullivan can still be a very effective player. His issue in Minnesota was that Joe Berger—the player that replaced him at center in 2015—played at an All-Pro level in his stead, surrendering just one sack all season and ending the year with a PFF grade of 88.0, trailing only Cowboys C Travis Frederick. Sullivan was going to have his work cut out for him winning back his job anyway, but Minnesota bringing on board Tony Sparano to the coaching staff—who has history with Berger as a player in Miami—seemed to seal his fate. Sullivan hasn’t enjoyed the best preseason of his career, earning poor grades in the 44 snaps he has played so far, so his best football may still be some time away, but for any team in need of a center, the chance of acquiring a potential All-Pro heading into September should prove a very attractive proposition. Sullivan may not be ready to hit the ground running at that level, but he should be able to upgrade several situations around the league.
2. Paul Kruger, OLB
Cut by the Cleveland Browns
Sometimes a player just doesn’t live up to the contract he signs, and that’s the case with Paul Kruger, who was more a poor value for money proposition for Cleveland than he was a bad player. In 2015, he only recorded three sacks, but notched 54 total pressures to lead the team by a distance (the next best mark was Desmond Bryant, with 33). He has never matched the season that earned him the big-money contract from the Browns, but he has been better than average, or even good, for every season in Cleveland. The Browns, though, are going all-in with youth, and have more than one rookie pass-rusher that needs playing time. Kruger just didn’t make sense from a financial standpoint for a team looking to the future, but he can still provide some useful depth to any side needing bodies in their pass-rush rotation.
3. Stephen Paea, DE
Cut by the Washington Redskins
Stephen Paea is one of the strongest men in the NFL. He still holds the NFL combine bench-press record with 49 reps, the only player to come within five reps of the elusive 50 mark. When you see him in person, his arms are big enough to each deserve their own first, middle, and last name, and he spends all practice essentially bench-pressing linemen away from him on his way to the ball carrier. His last season in Chicago was his best year, with five sacks, two batted passes, and 47 total pressures to his name; while his time in Washington seems to have been a disappointment, he graded well when on the field. Last season, Paea played just 221 snaps, seeing less than half the playing time in Washington than in Chicago, but he still earned positive grades against the run and pass, notching 15 total pressures in only 136 pass-rushing snaps. Paea may not have been a great fit in that defense, but his raw power has a role in the NFL.
4. Brandon Tate, WR/RS
Cut by the Cincinnati Bengals
Brandon Tate has been on the Bengals’ roster as a wide receiver and return specialist for five seasons since coming over from the Patriots, and has stuck around because he’s a very useful return man on both kicks and punts. He scored two kick return touchdowns in his final season in New England and a punt return score in his first season in Cincinnati, but hasn’t found pay dirt since. That being said, he has impressive special teams grades in every single season of his career, and has a nice ability to make people miss. Tate is less impressive as a receiver, and only saw nine snaps in 2015; in those nine snaps, though, he was thrown at three times, catching two of those targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. He won’t shoot to the top of anybody’s depth chart, but Tate can provide a solid and stable influence for a team struggling with their return men, and bring a little something to the passing game as well.
5. Terrance Knighton, NT
Cut by the New England Patriots
At this point in his career, Terrance Knighton is a run-stuffing specialist, a player who exists on early downs and can plug a hole, but will offer little as a pass-rusher. He only played 33 snaps for New England this preseason before being cut, and didn’t post a single pressure. The Patriots were a poor fit schematically from the outset, as last season they deployed five or more defensive backs on a massive 83.6 percent of their snaps, the highest figure in the league. League-wide, two-down nose tackles are being used less and less frequently, but the Patriots have less room than any other team for that kind of player because of how often they are in sub packages. That’s not to say that the league has no place for Knighton, as other teams (the Colts, for example) run with sub packages far less often. In 2015, Indianapolis had five or more DBs on the field for just 41.1 percent of its snaps, potentially turning a player like Knighton into a far bigger contributor.