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NFL Roster Odds – Big(ish) Names on the Bubble

Matt McEwan

by Matt McEwan in News

Sep 1, 2016 · 2:48 PM PDT

Unless you graduated from the Homer Simpson school of football, roster cuts are never a day that a coach looks forward to. For us non-NFL coaches, however, cuts provide necessary drama in the laborious preseason.

NFL teams were just forced to trim their rosters down to 75 players and will have to submit their 53-man rosters on September 3. As is the case every year, most of the players getting cut are not exactly household names. Yet, a few well-known names have already been sent packing, and a handful more will be looking for a new team soon enough.

With that in mind, here are the odds of being cut or traded for some of the bigger names who find themselves caught up in the roster bubble rumors.


Geno Smith (Jets)

The Jets, like any sensible team, are not keeping more than three quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie second-round pick Christian Hackenberg are locks for two of those spots. That leaves last year’s third-round pick, Bryce Petty, and Geno Smith to duel it out for the final spot.

While neither has been great in the preseason, Petty’s passer rating is 86.4 compared to Geno’s pitiful 62.0. Not only is Geno the inferior quarterback, but his release would also save the team a little over $1 million. Cutting Petty would only save about $500,000.

Geno’s best asset is his institutional knowledge. He’s been in the offense longer and has a better grasp on the playbook. However, he certainly doesn’t have a firm grasp on the football and is likely on his way out.

Odds to be cut/traded: 2/5

Mark Sanchez (Broncos)

The short-term forecast for Mark Sanchez in the Mile High City is cloudy. Trevor Siemian won the battle for the Broncos’ starting job and rookie Paxton Lynch had an impressive preseason. The Broncos did keep three quarterbacks on their roster last season, but may not do so in 2016. Even if they do want three in the mix, there’s little reason to keep Sanchez. He’s proven to still be his unreliable self and cutting him would save the team $3.5 million.

Trading Sanchez to, say, the Vikings would save Denver the full amount of his contract ($4.5 million) depending on the terms of the deal. If a trade cannot be worked out, his release will likely follow, and the Broncos would opt for a much cheaper option behind both Siemian and Lynch.

Odds to be cut/traded: 3/7

Colin Kaepernick (49ers)

By Mike Morbeck (Flickr)
By Mike Morbeck (Flickr)

Generally, if your spot on an NFL roster is safe, you don’t suit up for the fourth and final week of the preseason. Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to play for the 49ers, while Blaine Gabbert sits out.

However, this is a slightly different situation, as Kaepernick missed the first two weeks of the preseason and was underwhelming in his return to the field last weekend. Head coach Chip Kelly wants an extended look at Kaepernick to determine which quarterback is better suited to start in Week 1.

Despite the extra attention Kaepernick is bringing the organization, there’s still a good chance that he will be taking the snaps down in the Bay Area. Even if he doesn’t start Week 1, Gabbert hasn’t done anything this preseason to instill confidence in his coaches.

Do you believe the 49ers will rely on either Jeff Driskel or Christian Ponder as their primary backup? Me neither.

Odds to be cut/traded: 5/2

Josh McCown (Browns)

Entering training camp, the Browns’ quarterback battle was one of the more attractive stories of the offseason. Yet, Hue Jackson anticlimactically settled the battle well before the preseason began, naming RGIII his starter.

Did anyone really think Josh McCown would be given a legitimate chance to lead the Browns in 2016? I know I didn’t. But I did believe McCown would nip at Griffin’s heels during the preseason and make it a tough call for Jackson. That has not been the case. Griffin has significantly outplayed McCown in the first three weeks of the preseason.

McCown’s weak showing, along with injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Tony Romo, have led to some rumors surrounding a possible trade or outright release of the 13-year vet.

But with the team recently releasing Austin Davis, McCown’s departure would leave third-round pick Cody Kessler as the only other quarterback on the roster. Hue Jackson has made it clear that he does not want Kessler to be thrown in the fire this quickly, and with RGIII’s history of injuries, it wouldn’t make sense to have McCown pack his bags.

McCown will stick around for another season, unless the Cowboys or Vikings are that interested in acquiring the veteran quarterback.

Odds to be cut/traded: 3/1

Running backs

Bishop Sankey (Titans)

It wasn’t too long ago that Sankey, a 2014 second-round pick, was poised to take the lead role in the Titans backfield. Now he finds himself listed as the fifth back on their depth chart, miles behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

Sankey quickly lost the trust of his coaching staff in the preseason. Yes, he rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on just three carries in the opener. But which Titans back didn’t run wild against the Chargers? Since then, Sankey received two carries in Week 2, which he turned into two yards, and did not see a single snap in Week 3.

Either Sankey or Dexter McCluster will be shown the door. (Realistically, it could very well be both.) Even though cutting McCluster would save the team more than $2.5 million, he at least provides some value as a return specialist.

Sankey probably has more trade value than McCluster, too. There are some running back-needy teams (from D.C.) out there, and a third-year pro who hasn’t been given much of an opportunity in the league would net a bigger return.

Odds to be cut/traded: 1/3

Ronnie Hillman (Broncos)

By Arnie Papp (Flickr)
By Arnie Papp (Flickr)

After leading the Broncos in rushing during the 2015 season, Ronnie Hillman was given a one-year deal to remain with the team in the offseason, but now finds himself on the verge of looking for work.

Hillman is locked in a battle with Kapri Bibbs and Juwan Thompson for a roster spot, as C.J. Anderson takes lead-back duties and fourth-round pick Devontae Booker assumes the backup role.

Although he has always been viewed as too small to run between the tackles, Hillman has provided the Broncos with a change-of-pace back who excels in the passing game. Without Peyton Manning leading the charge, Hillman’s abilities as a receiver have less value, but his proven ability to succeed in a zone-blocking system give him a good chance to win a spot in Denver.

Cutting him would only save the team $1.4 million this season. That’s not too steep a price for a proven, reliable third-option, especially for a team that wants to run the ball early and often.

Odds to be cut/traded: 5/3

Wide Receivers

Justin Hunter (Titans)

Hunter’s first three seasons in the league have been quite a let-down, and it should come as no surprise that the second-round pick now finds himself fighting for his job.

Although the Titans just traded away fellow receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, Hunter’s status still remains up in the air. The fourth-year receiver currently finds himself battling for the fifth receiver spot on a team that has committed to a run-first style (dubbed “exotic smashmouth” by head coach Mike Mularkey).

How many roster spots will be available for receivers in this offense? Certainly no more than five, and maybe fewer, considering they will likely keep at least four tight ends.

The preseason has been decent, but not great, for Hunter, who needed to do something spectacular to maintain a spot on the Titans’ roster. He’ll have one more opportunity to prove he deserves a roster spot in Week 4 of the preseason, but it’s not looking promising.

Odds to be cut/traded: 3/8 

Davante Adams (Packers)

By Kyle Engman (Flickr)
By Kyle Engman (Flickr)

Was there a player who had a more disappointing season last year than Davante Adams? An injury to Jordy Nelson gave Adams an opportunity to prove he was a legitimate no. 2 receiver in the NFL. The only thing he managed to prove was that he could not beat press-man coverage.

The third-year receiver, who’s living off the promise he flashed in the 2014 playoffs, now finds himself on the roster bubble (sort of).

Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery, and Jeff Janis have all proven to be more reliable, but none have Adams’ big-play ability. The Packers won’t cut ties with the inconsistent receiver just yet. It will take at least one more season littered with costly drops to end his time in Green Bay.

Odds to be cut/traded: 7/1


Alterraun Verner (Bucs)

Verner was benched for the majority of 2015, starting just six games in the second year of his four-year, $25.75 million contract.

Heading into 2016, the Buccaneers drafted corner Vernon Hargreaves in the first-round, and the rookie started opposite of Brent Grimes in the ever-telling third week of the preseason. Verner is now fighting to hold onto a nickel spot, but is being paid a lot of money for a guy who isn’t on the field for the majority of snaps.

Parting ways with Verner would save the Bucs nearly $5 million this season, and the full $6.5 million he’s owed next season. Verner’s active status for Week 4 of the preseason makes it obvious that he’s lost his starting role. He will need to prove to the team that he’s worth keeping around.

Odds to be cut/traded: 2/3 

Dee Milliner (Jets)

The ninth-overall pick in the 2013 draft has done absolutely nothing to prove he can start in the NFL. Health has been a major part of that, but his time on the field has not served him well either.

Milliner has now lost the nickel corner spot on the Jets’ defense and is in jeopardy of losing his job entirely.

Unfortunately, cutting the fourth-year corner would result in around $4 million of dead cap, and virtually no savings at all for the team. For this reason alone, Milliner will likely play out the final year of his rookie contract, but don’t expect the Jets to roll out the red carpet for him once the season is over.

Odds to be cut/traded: 5/1

Photo credit: Zennie Abraham (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/].

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