The last week has been an exciting time in the NFL, with 253 players drafted and hundreds more signing as undrafted rookies with a chance to live their dreams and embark on a professional football career.
But there are only 1,696 roster spots in the NFL, and there is a strict one-in, one-out policy. For every rookie who is given a chance, there is a veteran who may find himself squeezed out of a roster spot.
Let’s take a look at some notable veterans who are in trouble following the NFL Draft.
We’re not saying each of these players will be cut before the regular season, but at a minimum these guys have been put on notice:
Geno Smith, QB, Jets — Smith’s failure to develop into a franchise quarterback is a big reason the Jets just drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round (51st overall). Most around the league still expect the Jets to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep the seat warm in 2016, which would give the Jets four quarterbacks — Hackenberg, Smith, Fitzpatrick, and Bryce Petty. Given that Smith was drafted by a previous regime and is in the final year of his deal, look for the Jets to trade him for a seventh-round pick before granting his outright release.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks — Graham was a poor fit for the Seahawks last year after they obtained him in a trade with the Saints. He can’t block, and isn’t nearly as effective with scrambling Russell Wilson as he was with timing-and-precision passer Drew Brees. Three factors are working against Graham: The Seahawks just drafted Nick Vannett in the third round, Graham has no dead money on his contract, and the Seahawks can save $8.9 million in cash and cap with a trade or release.
Eugene Monroe, T, Ravens — The Ravens just drafted Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick, and it wasn’t to stand on the sideline. It’s possible that the Ravens envision Stanley taking over at right tackle for fourth-year pro Ricky Wagner, but they can save $2.2 million in cap space and $6.5 million in cash by trading or releasing Monroe, who is entering his eighth season.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots — Dobson has barely produced since being drafted in the second round in 2013, failing to get into the end zone in each of the last two years and ending each season on injured reserve. Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Danny Amendola are roster locks, fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell is basically a lock, leaving Dobson to battle Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, Chris Harper, and seventh-round pick Devin Lucien for one receiver spot. Dobson’s lack of special teams ability is probably the nail in the coffin.
Chance Warmack, G, Titans — The Titans’ 2013 first-round pick has started 46 games in three seasons, but has not lived up to the billing of a top-10 pick. The Titans re-signed versatile lineman Byron Bell, who can easily shift inside to guard with the Titans also drafting right tackle Jack Conklin with the No. 8 overall pick. The deadline for Warmack will be the fifth day of training camp, when he has a $1.39 million bonus due.
Paul Posluszny, LB, Jaguars — Posluszny has been a tackling machine, racking up 133 last year, but he’s turning 32 this year and is not the swiftest of foot. The Jaguars might bring second-round pick Myles Jack along slowly because of his knee injury, which could save Posluszny’s job for 2016, but his time in Jacksonville will be up soon.
Andre Roberts, WR, Washington — The Skins took TCU receiver Josh Doctson in the first round, so someone has to go. That someone is most likely Roberts, who can provide $4 million in cash and cap savings if he is a post-June 1 release. Pierre Garcon ($7.6 million in cash savings, $8 million in cap savings) is also a name to watch.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings — One of the Vikings’ 2013 first-round picks has been an unmitigated bust, catching just two passes last year and providing little value other than his kickoff return skills. The Vikings already declined his fifth-year option, and drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round this year. They can save $1 million in cash and $1.39 million in cap if they don’t keep Patterson this year.
Alterraun Verner, CB, Buccaneers — The Bucs signed Brent Grimes in free agency, drafted Vernon Hargreaves No. 11 overall, and still have 2013 second-round pick Johnthan Banks. Verner does have $2 million of his $6.75 million salary guaranteed, but he started only six games last year and would provide $4.75 million in cash and cap savings.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Panthers — The Panthers did pick up his fifth-year option last week, but Lotulelei’s star isn’t looking too bright in Carolina. He’s been outperformed by Kawann Short, who was drafted a round behind him in 2013, and the Panthers added defensive tackle Paul Soliai in free agency and drafted Vernon Butler with their first-round pick this year. Lotulelei probably survives this year, but we’d be shocked if the Panthers keep him for a fifth season.
Calais Campbell, DE, Cardinals — The Cardinals only have $6.1 million in cap space, not enough room to extend both Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu, which is high on their list of priorities. Campbell, entering his ninth season, has a whopping $15.25 million cap number, but the Cardinals can shave $9.5 million off it with a trade or release. The Cardinals probably want Campbell to stay this year and help mentor first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche, but need him to agree to a paycut or extension to do so.
Other candidates (with players drafted to replace them in parentheses): Texans WR Cecil Shorts (Will Fuller, Braxton Miller); Packers T David Bakhtiari (Jason Spriggs); Bears LB Lamarr Houston (Leonard Floyd); Broncos S Darian Stewart (Justin Simmons); Bengals WR Brandon Tate (Tyler Boyd); and Patriots RB James White (Donald Brown, free agent).
TAKE IT EASY
Rookie workouts not worth risk
The rookies hit the field for the first time as Jaguars.— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) May 7, 2016
Highlights » https://t.co/NW67e25scWhttps://t.co/Ff231lqqmv
Teams are holding rookie minicamps this weekend, traditionally a three-day period for the rookies to take their first practice reps as professionals and a good opportunity for teams to look at players on a tryout basis.
Malcolm Butler earned a spot on the Patriots after impressing the coaching staff during rookie minicamp, and we all know how that turned out.
But down in Florida, two teams are taking a much different approach to rookie minicamp.
Spooked by Dante Fowler’s injury last year — the No. 3 overall pick tore his ACL on the first day of rookie camp and missed the season — the Jaguars and Dolphins are taking a much more hands-off approach, turning rookie minicamp into more of a rookie orientation.
The teams will give out playbooks, introduce the rookies to their way of practicing and doing business, and go through a few formations in a walkthrough setting.
But neither team will have their players put on helmets or run around the field at full speed.
“It’s never really made a lot of common sense to me,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “You always just crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. I think [Fowler’s injury] gave us good reason to do it.”
The rookies are getting to work.https://t.co/4rpDoao7Kv— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 7, 2016
New Dolphins coach Adam Gase also is using rookie minicamp to teach players about nutrition, sports science, financial management, and dealing with the media.
He said he got the idea from Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who was the first coach to focus more on the off-field components of NFL life during rookie minicamp.
“Last year probably scared a few guys,” Gase said. “It kind of gets you thinking, ‘What’s the right thing to do at this point?’ ”
Don’t be surprised to see more teams take this approach in the coming years.
The traditional rookie minicamp was ripe for an injury such as Fowler’s — the players haven’t played actual football in five months, and compete with their hair on fire in an attempt to impress the coaches. Not much good can come from this approach, but a lot of bad can. Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman also tore his ACL in last year’s rookie camp.
“If a guy pulls a hamstring, then all of a sudden he spends the next six weeks rehabbing instead of getting better, stronger, and in shape,” Caldwell said.
Ordeal didn’t really cost Tunsil
No one should ever have to go through what Laremy Tunsil did on draft night. The talented left tackle was the victim of a social media hack, suffering embarrassment and becoming a national punchline after someone accessed his Twitter and Instagram accounts and posted a video of Tunsil smoking marijuana out of a gas mask bong, and of text messages he sent to his University of Mississippi coaches for money to help pay his rent and his mother’s bills.
Neither offense is too serious — he’s hardly the first college football player to smoke weed or request money from his coaches — and the real villain in this ordeal is whoever was sadistic enough to try to torpedo Tunsil’s image and draft stock.
As first reported by the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins and Tunsil’s agents think it was a business manager/financial adviser that Tunsil fired before the draft who is behind this mess.
But let’s please ditch the narrative that the video and text messages caused Tunsil to slide to No. 13 in the draft and cost him as much as $8 million. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said, “No,” point blank, when asked if he had planned to draft Tunsil but instead took Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 pick. John Harbaugh reiterated the same.
“[Stanley] was right at the top row, with the top row of players,” Harbaugh said.
Several teams had Stanley ranked ahead of Tunsil — the Chargers almost took Stanley at No. 3 — and there’s no evidence that any of the teams that passed on Tunsil did so because of the video and texts. The Titans took Michigan State’s Jack Conklin at No. 8, and even traded up to do so. Since they already have Taylor Lewan at left tackle, who’s to say that they didn’t view Conklin as a better fit schematically and organizationally as a right tackle than Tunsil? The Giants avoided Tunsil because of his red flags, but the smoking video was hardly Tunsil’s only red flag. Giants GM Jerry Reese told WFAN on Monday that “he wasn’t off our board for anything like that.”
Here’s hoping that Tunsil pursues criminal charges and tries to make this scoundrel accountable for his actions. But to win a lawsuit to recover millions of dollars, Tunsil would need to prove that a team was planning to draft him but declined to do so specifically because of the video and texts. Don’t count on it.
Patriots prepared for no Cardona
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus dropped an interesting nugget Thursday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” saying that Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona has been assigned to a ship in Bath, Maine, and “he may need to leave the Patriots for a year or so in order to go fulfill that role.” The Patriots’ signing of former Browns long snapper Christian Young on April 22 didn’t seem like a big deal, but now the move looks like a sign that Cardona won’t be available in 2016.
The Patriots prepared for this inevitability, signing Cardona to a contract that called for him to make a $37,500 roster bonus in 2016 and $45,000 in 2017 only if he is with the team in the fall. But don’t feel too bad for Cardona — if he can’t play this fall, his contract simply tolls another year. His contract would run through 2019 instead of 2018, and he would still have an opportunity to earn his bonuses the next two years.
For the second straight year, no Massachusetts high school alums were taken in the NFL Draft. It also happened in 2010 and 2012. In fact, there were more kids from Maine, Australia, Germany, and Nigeria drafted than from Massachusetts. At least UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, a native of Piscataway, N.J., was taken by the Titans in the fifth round. The state of Texas edged out Florida for the most players drafted, 32-30 . . . The Patriots’ connections in Houston continue to grow. The Texans last week hired scout Frantzy Jourdain, who previously spent 13 years in the Patriots scouting department and is probably best known for discovering Malcolm Butler two years ago. He joins former Patriots Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel, Mike Vrabel, Larry Izzo, George Godsey, and Vince Wilfork in Houston . . . I don’t think the football public cares nearly as much for the breathless minute-by-minute updates we’re being provided on Johnny Manziel as some of the national news outlets want us to. Wake me up when he signs with an NFL team . . . Washington tight end Jordan Reed is a phenomenal player and deserves every penny of the five-year, $50 million extension he signed with $22 million in guarantees. But Rob Gronkowski should take that contract up into the Patriots’ offices and tell his bosses, “Please redo my contract, now.” Given that the Patriots rewarded Patrick Chung with more money this offseason and reworked Danny Amendola’s contract on Friday, it wouldn’t be a stretch for the Patriots to reward Gronkowski for his elite performance. Julian Edelman is due a bit of a raise, as well . . . It’s a good month to be a Tollner brother. Agents Bruce and Ryan Tollner of Rep1 Sports represent the top two picks from the NFL Draft, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Goff is in line for a four-year, $28 million deal, and Wentz a four-year, $26.7 million contract . . . Good to see the NFL do the right thing and rescind the 10-game suspension for Texans left tackle Duane Brown, who failed a drug test because of beef from Mexico tainted with clenbuterol. The league should also do the right thing and reduce Tom Brady’s suspension at the very least, but don’t hold your breath.
Small school, big talent
Carson Wentz was taken second overall by the Eagles in the NFL Draft. The North Dakota State product became the eighth quarterback from a non-FBS school (at the time of drafting) to be selected in the first round. He joins some elite company:
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.