The most surprising cuts from cut down day
Sometimes when roster cut down day comes, there are are usually surprise names among the group. This year is no different, and PFF has coverage of eleven of the most surprising cuts this year:
Listen in detail as the PFF Podcast talks the final 53-man rosters, and cut day:
T.J. Ward, S, cut by the Denver Broncos
Key Stat: Produced 79 total stops in his three seasons in Denver, the 11th most among safeties during that time.
- In perhaps the biggest move of the day, the Denver Broncos released veteran strong safety T.J. Ward, in a move that saves the team $4.5 million in cap space and turns towards the younger players at the back end of the defense. Over the last three seasons, Ward has been a solid contributor to Denver’s renowned “no fly zone,” producing 79 total stops (solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure), the 11th most among safeties over the last three seasons.
- While his overall grade of 75.9 was the lowest of his career to date, Ward has been one of the most consistent safeties in the league since 2011, grading in the top-10 four of the past six seasons and top-20 in all but one. The Broncos will especially miss his effectiveness in the blitz. Ward has produced 37 quarterback pressures over the last three seasons, tied for most among the league’s safeties.
Jonathan Williams, RB, cut by the Buffalo Bills
Key Stat: Average of 3.57 yards after contact per attempt ranked sixth of 61 running backs with at least 20 carries this preseason.
- After Mike Gillislee’s offseason departure to New England, Williams appeared ready to be the Bills No. 2 running back behind LeSean McCoy, which made his release on Saturday particularly surprising. Williams saw limited action as a rookie in 2016, but performed well on his 27 carries, gaining 94 yards, 50 of which coming after contact.
- Williams further impressed during the preseason, gaining 121 yards on his 21 carries, while averaging 3.57 yards after contact per attempt, and forcing five missed tackles.
Dorian Johnson, OG, cut by the Arizona Cardinals
Key Stat: Allowed only 15 pressures (two sacks, 13 hurries) in the last three seasons in college.
- Before being diagnosed with a liver condition, many thought Johnson would go much higher than his fourth-round selection. After a stellar three-year college career in which he allowed just 15 pressures on 1039 pass-blocking snaps, Johnson reportedly struggled through training camp and preseason.
- Through four preseason games, Dorian allowed three pressures on 41 pass blocking snaps, for a pass-blocking efficiency of 94.5 that ranked 109th of 131 guards with 35 or more snaps, and his PFF run blocking grade of 44.6 ranked 68th of 99 qualifying players at the position.
Alex Boone, OG, cut by the Minnesota Vikings
Key Stat: 2016 pass-blocking efficiency of 97.7 ranked fifth among 77 qualifying offensive guards.
- Less than 18 months after signing Boone to a four-year $26.8M contract, the Minnesota Vikings released OG Alex Boone as a part of their offensive line overhaul.
- Boone had good year as a pass-blocker in 2016, ending the year with a pass blocking grade of 79.9, after allowing just 16 total pressures from 528 pass-blocking snaps. However, he struggled in the run game, earning a run blocking grade of just 49.3.
Shilique Calhoun, OLB, cut by the Oakland Raiders
Key Stat: 76 total pressures ranked second among the nation’s 4-3 defensive ends in 2015.
- A year after being selected in the third round of the NFL draft, Shilique Calhoun was waived by the Oakland Raiders. Calhoun enjoyed a successful final year at Michigan, where he racked up 76 total pressures and ended the season with the fifth-highest pass-rushing grade in the nation (88.2).
- However, his success at the collegiate level has not yet transferred to the NFL. Calhoun managed 173 snaps in a reserve role last season, while picking up just four total pressures on 85 pass rushing snaps, and ending the year with a PFF overall grade of just 46.8.
Jeremy McNichols, RB, cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Stat: PFF overall grade of 86.5 was the sixth best mark among draft-eligible running backs.
- McNichols was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft after a stellar college career that saw him emerge as one of the best three-down running backs in college football. From 2014-2016, McNichols ranked third in receptions, fourth in receiving yards, and first in receiving touchdowns among draft-eligible running backs. On the ground, he forced the seventh most missed tackles (62) and racked 1703 yards, the sixth-most in the nation.
- However, during the preseason, McNichols struggled mightily picking up the NFL offense and aspects like pass blocking. In four preseason games, McNicholas was trusted with just four pass blocking snaps, and allowed one quarterback hit and two hurries. He rushed 24 times for just 79 yards and did not have a single reception in four games.
Chris Johnson, RB, cut by the Arizona Cardinals
Key Stat: 1.92 yards after contact per attempt ranked 90th of 135 running backs with at least 10 carries this preseason.
- The Cardinals re-signed Johnson prior to training camp, in the hope he could return to his back-up role behind starter David Johnson. However, his release means that he’s been beaten out by Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, and Elijhaa Penny.
- While its surprising the team didn’t opt for Johnson’s experience at the position, his performances in the preseason did not help his case. Johnson rushed 13 times this preseason for just 41 yards, while forcing just one missed tackle and averaging just 1.92 yards after contact per attempt.
Eric Winston, OT, cut by the Cincinnati Bengals
Key Stat: Pass block efficiency of 95.7 ranked 23rd of 76 offensive tackles with at least 150 pass blocking snaps in 2016.
- Winston recently signed an extension with the Bengals, after spending the last three seasons with the team as a depth asset along the offensive line. In 2016, Winston played 151 pass-blocking snaps at right tackle, and allowed just eight pressures.
- Having lost tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency, it’s surprising that the Bengals would opt to lose another veteran along the offensive line. The move now puts pressure on former second-round draft pick Jake Fisher to cement his place at right tackle, after a season where he ranked 24th of 74 offensive tackle with a pass-blocking efficiency of 95.5 and achieved a ‘poor’ overall grade of 47.8.
Kasen Williams, WR, cut by the Seattle Seahawks
Key Stat: Led the league’s wide receivers after totaling 167 deep yards this preseason.
- After a strong preseason showing in Seattle, third-year wide receiver Kasen Williams was waived from the team, much to the surprise of his teammates. Through four preseason games, Williams gained 208 yards on 13 targets, with 167 of those yards coming from deep passes (passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air.)
- He led all Seahawks wide receivers with 3.85 yards per route run, and when targeting Williams, Seahawks quarterbacks posted a passer rating of 105.4, the second highest mark among his teammates.
Kyle Sloter, QB, cut by the Denver Broncos
Key Stat: Passer rating of 94.1 on throws under pressure ranked ninth among 84 qualifying quarterbacks this preseason.
- Sloter was arguably the Broncos best signal-caller this preseason, and ended his four games ranked 11th of 114 qualifying quarterbacks with a PFF overall grade of 76.8. He was particularly impressive while throwing under pressure, posting a passer rating of 94.1 on such throws, bettering the mark of teammates Trevor Siemian (55.4) and Paxton Lynch (39.6).
- Despite a strong preseason showing, the Denver Broncos opted to waive quarterback Kyle Sloter in favor of former-Bronco Brock Osweiler. After a poor season in Houston, Osweiler has continued his struggles this preseason, ranking 89th among the league’s quarterbacks with a PFF overall grade of 49.9.
Austin Carr, WR, cut by the New England Patriots
Key Stat: WR rating of 132.1 ranked fifth among 68 receivers with at least 11 targets this preseason.
- After Julian Edelman was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL, many thought rookie receiver Austin Carr played well enough to at least provide depth at the position. Carr caught all 14 catchable targets thrown his way this preseason, and when targeting him, Patriots quarterbacks posted a passer rating of 132.1, the fifth-best mark among receivers with at least 10 targets.