One question I often receive for my Eagles mailbag posts is: “Which surprise cuts do you think the team is going to make this year?” It’s an interesting topic to think about. We usually have a good idea of what the 53-man squad will mostly look like, but sometimes there are a few moves that catch us off guard. Here’s my best guess at projecting some of Philadelphia’s surprise cuts that could take place later this summer. And note that the word “surprise” is used somewhat liberally here. It’s not about being totally shocked as much as it’s highlighting some potential cuts that are notable.
Johnston hasn’t been overly impressive in practice. Even our good friend Dave Spadaro has questioned Johnston’s roster security.
It might seem like Johnston is in good standing since the Eagles haven’t brought anyone to compete with him yet. But it’s not like Johnston is running totally unopposed. As Jimmy Kempski discussed with Jack Fritz in the latest BGN Radio Counterpoint podcast episode, Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said Johnston is competing against all the other punters that could shake free later this summer.
There could be a team that currently has two punters that are both better than Johnston. The Eagles could find themselves in a 2014 Cody Parkey situation where they pick up a specialist right before the season starts. Johnston could end up being the Alex Henery of that situation.
Now that we’ve got some exciting punter talk out of the way, let’s shift over to the offensive line.
On one hand, I doubt Warmack is going to get cut because he’s a favorite of Eagles o-line coach Jeff Stoutland. Warmack got the first crack at replacing Isaac Seumalo last year, even if he didn’t hold on to that job. Warmack also lined up at first team left guard when Stefen Wisniewski shifted to first team center when Jason Kelce missed one spring practice last month.
But while I don’t think it’s likely, I think there is a case to be made for cutting Warmack. First of all, he wasn’t all that great last year. He also doesn’t offer tackle-guard or guard-center versatility. Warmack can be released for a savings of $1.2 million compared to $875,000 in dead money.
Perhaps the more realistic option is a Warmack trade. The Eagles would save $1.7 million compared to only $375,000 in dead money in that case. The cap savings and the potential late Day 3 pick could be worth more than keeping Warmack around for one year.
Seumalo has seemingly been in the dog house ever since falling out of favor last year. He went from being the unopposed Week 1 starting left guard to the fourth overall guard option behind Brandon Brooks, Stefen Wisniewski, and Warmack.
During spring practices this year, Seumalo barely participated in team drills. He ended up being the guy snapping the ball in 7-on-7 ... until undrafted free agent rookie Ian Park took his place.
Seumalo doesn’t seem like he’s in great standing with the team. I don’t think they’re quite ready to give up on their 2016 third-round pick just yet, especially since he’s versatile, but his outlook isn’t awesome. Like Warmack, he could be a potential trade candidate. The Eagles will probably only get rid of one of those guys, at most, though. Not both.
The Eagles’ safety position provides some challenges whenever I’m doing a 53-man roster projection. I feel like I can usually only keep four by that point in my process. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are locks. Who do the final two spots go to? I think the team is high on Tre Sullivan, who stood out last summer and this spring. That’s three. Who is the fourth guy? It could be Maragos. But what if the Eagles bring Corey Graham back? Graham does provide special teams value in addition to being able to play defensive snaps. Maragos, meanwhile, is really limited to just playing on specials.
Part of me feels like the Eagles will be reluctant to cut their special teams captain. But the other part makes me thinks about how Maragos, who is 31 years old and is coming off a knee injury that prevented him from participating in spring workouts, can be released for a savings of $1.5 million compared to only $500,000 in dead money.
This could be a tough decision for the Birds.
Walker wasn’t able to participate much in spring workouts. He’s now suffered a couple serious injuries since being selected by Philadelphia late in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Walker is firmly on the bubble as linebacker depth right now. He apparently has some clout in the locker room considering he was named he team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner last year. That might not mean much when it comes to saving his job this year. Walker needs a strong summer or he could be gone. Remember when he showed some nice flashes back in the 2016 preseason? Maybe he peaked too soon.
Gibson also made the 2017 edition of this list. Now, with that said, Gibson is much further along in his development than he was at this time last year. He couldn’t even catch a cold. His hands look much improved, though the drops haven’t totally gone away.
I think Gibson is currently in the driver’s seat for the fifth receiver job. That could change, however. Markus Wheaton, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, and Rashard Davis are all pushing for those fifth/sixth receiver spots and it could be a close race. Marquess Wilson might even might some noise in that battle. Jobs could be won and lost based on how things go in training camp and preseason.
It’d hardly be a shock to see the Eagles cut a guy who was their fifth-string running back last season before he was placed on injured reserve. Still, cutting Pumphrey would be notable considering the Eagles TRADED UP in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft to get him.
Pump’s 2017 preseason showing was incredibly uninspiring. He just didn’t look like an NFL player out there. Pump stans have defended him by attributing his struggles to a hamstring issue.
Pump deserves the chance to prove himself this summer. But if he doesn’t, he could be gone. Word is the Eagles favor Matt Jones as the fourth running back right now.
There was a point last offseason when Dave Spadaro projected Smallwood to lead the team in rushing yards. That wasn’t just Spadaro being recklessly optimistic as much as it was reflective of the team being high on their 2016 fifth-round pick.
Smallwood’s stock took a hit when he missed a big chunk of training camp and preseason action for the second year in a row. He then landed in the dog house during the regular season after failing to make the most of his touches. Smallwood was kept as a healthy scratch on game day after the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi.
This summer is Smallwood’s last chance to impress. It won’t be all that surprising if he falls short, but it will be notable.
I love watching Means so I don’t enjoy putting him on this list. I’d be pretty surprised if the Eagles cut him outright.
I can see how it would happen, though, if the Eagles are really impressed with Sweat’s development. Means turns 28 in September and is set to play out the final year of his deal. He can be released for a savings of $900,000 compared to a mere $55,000 in dead money.
I think it’s much more likely that Means is traded than he’s cut. Pass rushers are a premium in the NFL so he should generat some interest. The combined value of cap savings and a trade asset could be worth more than the 5% of the defensive snaps Means might play in 2018.
Playing time might not matter to the Eagles. The team does really value how he challenges the offensive line during practice.
For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus graded Vaeao 61st out of 73 defensive tackles in 2016. Then he was 69th out of 79 in 2017. This matches the impression that Vaeao just hasn’t been a very useful contributor.
Despite this, Vaeao received a number of first team reps with Haloti Ngata missing spring practices. With Tim Jernigan expected to miss time, I guess Vaeao is the current No. 3 defensive tackle behind Fletcher Cox and Ngata. Not super inspiring.
It’s possible one of the other defensive tackles steps up. Elijah Qualls showed some good flashes in the preseason last year. The Eagles gave Bruce Hector the biggest guarantee out of all of their undrafted free agent signings. And then there’s Aziz Shittu, whom Doug Pederson specifically singled out at the end of minicamp.
Maybe the young guys step up and push Vaeao out. You also can’t rule out the Eagles signing another veteran (Cedric Thornton?) to the mix.
Not so surprising cuts
Jordan Mailata - The Eagles’ seventh-round pick is an intriguing project but he’s just not ready to suit up in 2018.
Josh Adams - The Eagles gave Adams one of the biggest undrafted rookie signing bonuses but he missed all of spring practices while recovering from a foot injury. It’s unclear exactly when the Bucks County native will be back on the field.
Why weren’t these players included?
Richard Rodgers - I wouldn’t say this one is impossible but I don’t think it’s likely. Rodgers was getting some first teams reps in the spring while the rest of the tight ends (Billy Brown, Adam Zaruba, Joshua Perkins) really struggled to stand out at all. Maybe one of those guys really turns it around in training camp but I’m not counting on it.
Darren Sproles - I’ve seen a few people suggest that Sproles could get cut (looking at you, Solak!). Not happening. It’s Darren Sproles, guys.