Training camps are now underway all across the NFL, and soon enough rosters will be trimmed down to 53 men per team. Unfortunately for some of the teams with a lot of depth up and down their rosters, they'll be forced to part with good players that would otherwise be contributors for many other teams. Conversely, teams lacking depth will be looking to find treasures out of other teams' trash.
I was interested in identifying teams league-wide that had an overabundance of talent at a particular position, and what players might become available upon final cuts. For this task, I asked SB Nation writers of all 32 teams who they thought might fit this criteria. (Apologies to the writers that contributed, by the way - I'd like to list you all, but I'm having trouble matching up your real names in my inbox with your SB Nation names). But thank you all again for your insights.
Before we get started, let's briefly note that teams do have limited options other than cutting players they'd otherwise keep, if not for the 53-man limit...
1) They can of course look for a trade partner in an attempt to salvage some value. However, this is often difficult to accomplish, since the potentially interested trade partners are often more inclined to see what players will become available before they give up value of their own to acquire a player via trade.
2) They can place the player on their NFL practice squad if they're a rookie or a vet with very little game experience. However, these players are allowed to sign contracts with other NFL teams that are interested in adding them to their 53-man rosters.
3) They can place the player on injured reserve. By placing a player on injured reserve, that player becomes ineligible for game action for the remainder of the season, but other teams are not able to sign them away.
Some All teams illegally stash players on IR that aren't really seriously injured to circumvent rules on roster limits.
Let's get right to it with a position-by-position look...
Dolphins - An over-abundance of QB's is a very rare phenomenon in the NFL. Last year it was the Eagles with Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, and A.J. Feeley. Feeley was cut, and scooped up immediately. He's now actually the starter in St. Louis until Sam Bradford can get up to speed. This year it's Miami, with Chad Henne as the starter, and Chad Pennington as the mentor/backup. That leaves Tyler Thigpen, who would be a major upgrade as a 2nd QB for half the league's teams, and a wildcard (or wildcat) in Pat White. White was the Dolphins' 2nd round pick last year (44th overall), and cutting him might be giving up on the kid far too early. Will the Dolphins keep 4 QB's? That's tough to do. White's potential far surpasses Thigpen's, so Thigpen may be auditioning to the rest of the NFL in preseason games. And if in fact Tyler Thigpen is cut, a note to the QB's around the league that are battling for the 3rd QB spot on their own teams. You don't just have to beat out the guys on your own roster - You're also battling guys like Tyler Thigpen that may be thousands of miles away.
Bills - The Bills have 2 locks in Fred Jackson and first round pick C.J. Spiller. They also signed Chad Simpson, who was mainly a kick returner (and a good one) for the Colts. The wildcard here is Marshawn Lynch. Lynch's career has stalled after his first 2 NFL seasons, in which he looked like a budding star. There's little chance the Bills would cut Lynch, but he could be available in a trade. Otherwise, Simpson could become available as a camp cut.
Lions - Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith will make the team for sure. The only real question mark is Smith. He reportedly is ahead of schedule recovering from an ACL tear last season, but if he has a setback, it's possible that Smith could land on the PUP list, which would leave a spot open. Assuming that doesn't happen, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown and DeDe Dorsey will probably be competing for one spot.
Browns - At Running Back, Jerome Harrison is probably the starter, but Hardesty could be the bell cow by the end of the season. They also have James Davis and Peyton Hillis. It is possible that James Davis could be cut, although the Browns are likely to keep all 4 players due to lack of depth elsewhere.
Redskins - The Redskins have the best trio of running backs in the history of the NFL... if it were 2005. Clinton Portis remains the unquestioned starter. Behind him are Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, and Ryan Torain. The early favorite to be cut was initially thought to be Willie Parker, but the word from Redskins training camp is that he's been impressive. Mike Shanahan has traditionally stockpiled RB's, so it's possible they may all stick.
Saints - Heath Evans is coming off a major knee injury, but if he can come back even close to 100% he's the unquestioned starter. Jason McKie was a starter for the Bears last year and he's a very reliable lead blocker, should Evans not be able to come back from his injury. The Saints have traditionally only kept one fullback on the roster in the Sean Payton era, so there's a good chance one of these guys will hit the open market as a quality starting fullback.
Chargers - The Chargers have 3 good FBs. Mike Tolbert is the starter and a special teams stud. Jacob Hester is versatile (good FB, decent HB, great on ST), so his job is probably safe, which leaves Billy Latsko as the odd man out. Latsko is highly likely to catch on with a new team.
Cowboys - The Cowboys have 6 good receivers in Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Sam Hurd, Patrick Crayton, and Kevin Ogletree. They may find it difficult to keep all six. During perhaps the slowest time this offseason, Patrick Crayton was dominating the headlines for his trade demands and he has a contract that's a bit more than what he's worth, so he's the most likely to go if they only keep 5 receivers. However, with Dez Bryant recently suffering a high ankle sprain, it's less likely the Cowboys will cut Crayton.
Patriots - Do the math - Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are obvious locks. Behind them, you have special teams captain Sam Aiken, 2009 4th round pick Brandon Tate, 2010 3rd round pick Taylor Price, and the Pats signed a couple vets you may have heard of by the names of Torry Holt and David Patten. Something has to give.
Bengals - The Bengals a looooaded at WR. Just like the Patriots' WR situation, do the math - The starters are Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens (may God have mercy on your soul, Carson Palmer), and Antonio Bryant is locked in as the 3rd WR, assuming he's not just into cashing checks and can get back on the field. The Bengals would love to take a mulligan on the Bryant signing (4 years, $28M and change, $8.5M guaranteed), and there's no way in hell they'll pay him $8.5M just to cut him. His terrible contract and issues with his knee also make him untradeable, so the Bengals will just have to settle for potentially having 3 stud WR's. Jordan Shipley was a 3rd round pick this year and should be a lock. Jerome Simpson was a 2nd round pick in '08 (drafted ahead of DeSean Jackson), and thus far has been disappointing - Cutting Simpson would be a tough pill to swallow. Dezmon Briscoe was a potential steal in the 6th round this year, and would be snatched up immediately from the practice squad, should he become a victim of the numbers game and not make the team. Quan Cosby was a good punt returner for the Bengals last year, and saw significant game action vs. the Jets in the playoffs last year (3 catches). Note that I haven't even gotten to Andre Caldwell yet, who caught 51 catches last year as the Bengals' 3rd WR. And oh by the way, the Bengals also signed Matt Jones, who's almost assuredly going to get cut. Actually, has he been cut already? Not sure... and I'm not even going to look it up. I think the Bengals will be burning up the phones of the other 31 teams looking to recoup some value for one or two of the above players, but any WR-needy team will likely just sit back and wait to see who's cut, since there are so many teams with WR talent to burn.
Falcons - Even though wide receiver isn't thought of as a major strength for the Falcons, they're certain to lose one or two receivers that they'd like to keep. Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and Harry Douglas are the only locks. 5th round pick Kerry Meier and longtime NFL pro Brian Finneran are likely to stick around, leaving one (at most) spot for last year's return man Eric Weems, rookie Ryan Wolfe, or minicamp sensation Brandyn Harvey, a fan favorite. Of those three, they may keep the 6-foot-4, hard-working Harvey, because Weems is less explosive Harry Douglas knockoff.
Broncos - Even with the departure of Brandon Marshall, the Broncos have some depth at WR. Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, and rookies Damaryius Thomas (1st round pick) and Eric Decker (3rd round pick) are locks. Kenny McKinley (a 2008 5th round pick) is a speed guy that got some looks as a kick/punt returner last season, and he'll be competing with Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Stokley for the final 2 WR slots.
Colts - Dallas Clark is a star of course, and rookie Brodie Eldridge as well as Jacob Tamme and the favorites to land roster spots. Behind them is 3rd year pro Tom Santi, who has some experience, and actually had a 6 catch, 80 yard game vs Baltimore last season.
Cowboys - Witten and 3rd TE John Phillips are locks. However, 2nd string TE Martellus Bennett has been a major disappointment, and the team may be tiring of his act. They won't cut him, but he could potentially be had at a discount if Phillips continues to impress and undrafted rookie FA Scott Sicko flashes some ability in camp.
Bears - The Bears have 5 TE's in camp. Greg Olsen is the starter, although there were reports that he might be become unhappy in Mike Martz's style of offense, which under-utilizes TE's in the passing game. Desmond Clark will be back for his 12th NFL season and should be a contributor for the Bears. They also signed Brandon Manumaleuna, who is essentially an OT playing TE, and might be the best blocking TE in the league. That probably leaves Kellen Davis, a big (6'7, 262) athletic pass catching TE on the outside looking in.
Texans - There are potentially 4 NFL-worthy TE's on the Texans' roster - Owen Daniels is recovering from an ACL tear, but is expected to be ready to start Week 1. Joel Dreessen is a solid #2 TE, and James Casey is a very athletic 2nd year player that has some intriguing ability. The Texans also drafted a TE in the 4th round (scratching head), Garrett Graham. Evidently, the Texans like stockpiling TE's, but can they keep 4 of them?
Raiders (OT) - The Raiders went OT heavy in the draft this year, selecting Jared Veldheer workout wonder Bruce Campbell. Mario Henderson and Khalif Barnes are the starters, leaving rookies Veldheer, Campbell, and the versatile Eric Pears as the reserves. Pears can also fill in at G if need be, and the Raiders may try to get the same type of versatility out of Campbell. The Raiders will probably keep all 5, but it's certainly worth watching.
Cardinals (OG) - Alan Faneca came over from the Jets and will start at LG. Reggie Wells is the likely starter on the right side, with Herman Johnson serving as his primary competition. Rex Hadnot also provides valuable depth as a backup guard and center. The wildcard here is former 2nd round pick Deuce Lutui, who apparently has been eating small school children all offseason. The Cardinals would love to unload him for a draft pick, but I think interested teams might be wise to simply wait until he's cut.
49ers (all OL positions) - The Niners selected 2 offensive linemen (OG Mike Iupati and OT Anthony Davis) in the 1st round this year and now find themselves with a wealth of depth along their entire offensive line. They have 10 NFL-quality O Linemen, although they may very well keep all 10. The other 8 are OT's Joe Staley, Alex Boone, and Barry Sims; OG's Adam Snyder, David Baas, and Chilo Rachal; and C's Eric Heitman and Cody Wallace. With so many teams hurting for quality OL depth, there should be plenty of eyes on the Niners' training camp.
Giants (all DL positions) - If you lump all of the Giants defensive linemen in together (DEs & DTs) there are 10 guys who are at least capable NFL players. They are DE's Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dave Tollefson, and DT's Chris Canty, Barry Cofield, Linval Joseph, Jay Alford, and Rocky Bernard. If they don't keep 10, the 'bubble' guys are Tollefson and Bernard. Tollefson is a hard-worker, very good special teams player and he can rush the passer a little bit. He's only 255 pounds, though, so he will never be more than a backup. But, he is only in his fourth season, has the special teams ability and is a quality guy as far as I know. Somebody would snap him up, even if it is mostly for depth and special teams. Bernard is the tackle most likely to get cut. Guy was a good player for eight years in Seattle, came to the Giants and was awful. Apparently had a shoulder injury, but didn't do much more than cash checks from the Giants in 2009. He is going to have to earn his roster spot, I think. Again, though, just 31 and he was a very good player before 2009 so someone will add him to their defensive tackle rotation.
Redskins (DE) - In case you haven't been following the Albert Haynesworth saga, the Redskins are switching to a 3-4 defense. Although Haynesworth is getting all the attention for his changing role, there's another high-profile player that will also be significantly affected. Andre Carter could be expendable should a team make the Redskins and reasonable offer. Carter is better suited to be a 4-3 pass rusher than he is a 3-4 OLB, and the Redskins really like his current backup, Lorenzo Alexander, who has more speed than Carter.
Eagles (DT) - Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are the run-stuffing starters. 2008 2nd round pick Trevor Laws has been disappointing so far, but he's having a good camp, and is all but a lock to stick. This leaves a battle between Antonio Dixon, who was the Eagles 3rd DT last year, and 7th round pick Jeff Owens, who has also been very impressive in camp.
Packers (ILB) - Nick Barnett is a lock for one spot in the 3-4 defense, but a former top 5 pick (A.J. Hawk), LB Brandon Chillar (recently re-signed and due $9.5 million in 2010 on a front loaded contract) and fan favorite young veteran LB Desmond Bishop are all battling for one starting spot. It's expected that they'll all stay, GM Ted Thompson is a former LB and seems to love keeping his LB guys around, but they might decide they could let one go if an appealing trade presented itself.
Ravens (All LB positions) - The Baltimore Ravens always seem to have a glut of talent at the linebacker position, led of course by All Pro and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Currently the Ravens have OLB's Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs, as well as Dannell Ellerbe alongside of Ray. They also have Brenden Ayanbadejo, Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess, Tavares Gooden, Edgar Jones, Sergio Kindle, Paul Kruger, Jameel McClain and Jason Phillips. All of them can play, including on Special Teams. Second year LB Paul Kruger has bulked up and should earn more time this season and the team loves their 2nd round draft pick Sergio Kindle (who has since suffered a serious injury), but was a first round talent and is a physical freaky combination of speed and strength. Gooden was projected to be the starter last season and Ayanbadejo was an All Pro on Special Teams before breaking his leg last season. The others all have specific skills that could be appealing to other NFL teams.
Saints (all DB positions) - The Saints are absolutely loaded in their defensive backfield. At corner, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer are the unquestioned starters. If everyone makes it through camp healthy, there's a chance Randall Gay could be cut. Gay is a very reliable nickel cornerback veteran, but the Saints used their 1st round pick on CB Patrick Robinson, and 2009 1st round pick Malcolm Jenkins is capable of playing the nickel arguably better than Gay. The Saints might decide that Gay's salary (he signed a 4 year, $17.8M deal in '08) might make him expendable. Leigh Torrence is another decent role playing corner that is a special team standout. If he gets cut he could benefit many teams' depth at corner and give their coverage units a boost.
At safety, there are seven players on the roster (Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, Usama Young, Pierson Prioleau, Chip Vaughn, Chris Reis) that are all NFL players, and you figure the Saints will keep 5 at most. Reis, Prioleau and Young are all role players and backups, but all three of them are special teams standouts. They each played a role in the Saints' Super Bowl run last year and if one of them became available they could develop into significant contributors, and would make an immediate impact on special teams. Chip Vaughn was a high draft pick last year with lots of promise, but he could also get caught in a numbers game, and would be a terrific prospect for someone to pick up if the Saints decided to part ways with him.
Patriots (CB) - Darius Butler, Leigh Bodden, 1st round draft pick Devin McCourty and Jonathan Wilhite are favored to win roster slots, which leaves Kyle Arrington, Terrence Wheatley and Terrence Johnson (undrafted rookie free agent) to battle out any remaining spots. Arrington has special teams value, and Wheatley is a 2008 2nd-round pick that has not been able to get on the field
Redskins (SS) - Laron Landry, Chris Horton, and Reed Doughty are all players that can start (and have started) in the NFL. Landry isn't going anywhere, and the Redskins value Doughty's ability as a special teamer. If they don't keep all 3, the odd man out could be Chris Horton. Horton was a steal in the 7th round and he started as a rookie in 2008. In 2009, his season was cut short by a toe injury that landed him on IR. The Redskins could potentially recoup a late round pick in return for Horton in a trade.
And a special thanks to the writers of the teams that were honest in their assessments that their teams likely won't have player cuts that can contribute elsewhere - The Bucs, Jags, Seahawks, Jets, Steelers, Chiefs, Panthers, Rams, Vikings, and Titans