Unless you have been living under a rock, you might have heard about some NFL news over the weekend. Though, considering it is Labor Day weekend, the difficult decisions every NFL team was faced with in order to trim their roster down to 53 players might not have been your top concern. Fortunately, we’re here to consolidate a three-day span of non-stop news to a few paragraphs. Happy Labor Day!
This year, the NFL made some changes to the way teams managed their roster through the preseason, eliminating the early cut down process, which formerly narrowed rosters from 90 to 75 players. Instead, each team was required to cut from 90 to 53 as of September 2nd. This means over 1,100 players getting the bad news. With such a high number, we should not be surprised that some relatively big names, from rookies who failed to impress to veterans who refused to take a pay cut could be given their walking papers. Information on nearly all of the 1,184 players waived or released over the weekend can be found on the Rotoworld Player News page, but here’s more on the news free agents you should know about as you prepare for Week One.
The Cardinals cut veteran RB Chris Johnson, formerly known as CJ2K. This means veteran Kerwynn Williams will serve as the backup to starter David Johnson. ... The 49ers parted ways with veteran QB Matt Barkley after rookie C.J. Beathard won the backup job behind Brian Hoyer. ... Even with an injury to WR Cameron Meredith that left the Bears thin at the receiver spot, former Giant Victor Cruz couldn’t make the team. This could be the end of the road for the Salsa dancing wideout. ... The Niners like undrafted rookie Matt Breida as their top RB backup, meaning veteran Tim Hightower was expendable. ... Fifth-rounder Jeremy McNichols seemed to draw the ire of HC Dirk Koetter from day one, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bucs dumped him. After clearing waivers, McNichols was claimed by San Francisco and added to their practice squad. ... The Giants spent an early pick on TE Evan Engram, making it easy to say goodbye to veteran Will Tye, who will stay in the city after the TE needy Jets claimed him. ... RB Matt Jones showed promise as a rookie for the Redskins in 2015, but has disappointed since and was waived. The Colts claimed him and he could compete with rookie Marlon Mack and veteran Robert Turbin for backup (and possibly successor) duties to Frank Gore. ... The Seahawks suddenly have a lot of depth in their backfield, so they gave up on 2016 draft pick Alex Collins, who flirted with the Jets before signing on with the Ravens' practice squad. He could see some playing time this season considering the state of the Baltimore backfield. ... Former University of Miami QB Brad Kaaya was once projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. Instead, he fell to the sixth round and the Lions couldn’t sneak him through to their practice squad, as he was claimed by the Panthers, who cut Joe Webb. ... Veteran Jeremy Kerley led the 49ers in targets and receptions in 2016, but that means little now as he was cut, meaning rookie Trent Taylor won the slot job as a fifth-round pick. ... Speaking of UDFAs, many projected the Patriots to keep WR Austin Carr, but once he hit the streets, the Saints scooped him up. ... Former North Carolina RB Elijah Hood didn’t make the Raiders' final roster, but was added to their practice squad. ... The Bears cut former starter Jeremy Langford, paving the way for rookie Tarik Cohen to play meaningful snaps behind starter Jordan Howard. ... In a surprise move, the Seahawks cut preseason standout Kasen Williams and in the domino effect that is cut down day, the Browns claimed him and then dumped 2016 draft pick WR Rashard Higgins. ... The Broncos reportedly tried to trade S T.J. Ward and when that didn’t work, they cut him. Ward was not out of work long though, signing a one-year, $5 million deal with Tampa Bay. ... A final surprise came Sunday when the Bills cut backup RB Jonathan Williams, who was slated to be the top backup to starter LeSean McCoy. This is a surprising move considering the Bills' obvious turn towards rebuilding. It was so surprising in fact that many assumed there must be some off-field issue with Williams, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport insists this was simply a football decision. Another team is sure to quickly claim Williams, who could retain or even improve on his fantasy value for this season. ... The Browns, unable to trade former Texans QB Brock Osweiler, cut him and took the cap hit that came with the move. Surprisingly, Osweiler wasn’t on the streets for long, as he was signed by his original team, the Broncos, to backup Trevor Siemian. Osweiler will have five weeks to prove he is worth keeping before second-year man Paxton Lynch is expected to return from his shoulder injury.
A Banner Weekend for NFL Trades
NFL fans are always asking for more trades, like we see in other professional sports leagues and this weekend, they got their wish. While many involved backup lineman being swapped for conditional picks, a few deals could prove to be impactful.
The Jets continued their path towards the top overall draft pick in 2018 by shipping DL Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for WR Jermaine Kearse and a 2018 second round draft pick. Richardson is just another key piece of an already talented Seattle defense, while Kearse, who was bypassed by WR Paul Richardson, could end up being a factor for the Jets' rail-thin receiver corps. ... The Steelers dumped oft-injured WR Sammie Coates on division rival Cleveland, along with a future seventh-round pick, gaining a 2018 sixth-rounder. Coates will have a chance to see more playing time than he could’ve expected with the Steelers, but must prove he can stay healthy to gain any fantasy value. ... The Redskins reunited TE Derek Carrier with his former offensive coordinator, now HC of the Rams Sean McVay, in exchange for a future late-round pick. ... The Colts are looking to upgrade their QB depth with Andrew Luck’s status still unclear and they sent former first-round pick WR Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots in exchange for QB Jacoby Brissett, who saw significant action early last season with both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo out of the lineup.
Trades and cuts are not the only ways teams met the 53-man roster limit. This weekend, the season ended for many players before it began as they were placed on the injured reserve list. Here is the latest on that and other injury news.
As expected, the Ravens placed RB Kenneth Dixon (knee) on the IR. They’ll go with a combination of veterans Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. ... Chiefs LB Tamba Hali hasn’t practiced all preseason and he landed on the PUP list, meaning he could return after Week Six. ... A foot injury landed Titans second-year WR Tajae Sharpe on the IR, though the 2016 training camp standout was reportedly in danger of getting cut. ... San Francisco HC Kyle Shanahan pounded the table to draft RB Joe Williams, but the rookie disappointed in preseason and will be stashed away with a foot injury this season. The former Utah back will be 25 years old, at least, before he takes a regular season snap. ... The Vikings continue to insist QB Teddy Bridgewater be ready to play this season. Instead of the IR, he lands on the PUP list, meaning he is eligible to return in Week Seven. ... Denver placed LB Shane Ray on the IR with a wrist injury, though he is expected to be designated to return later in the season. ... Denver made moves with a trio of their rookies, placing WR Carlos Henderson on season-ending IR, while TE Jake Butt and QB Chad Kelly hit the reserve/NFI list, making them eligible, but still unlikely, to return in Week Seven. ... New England DB Cyrus Jones suffered a torn ACL that landed him on the IR list. ... Inexplicably playing in a meaningless preseason Week Four game, Bengals rookie WR John Ross banged up his knee and is expected to miss a couple of weeks. ... Ravens QB Joe Flacco finally practiced for the first time this off-season and is expected to play in Week One. Similar news for one of his WRs, Breshad Perriman, who also returned to practice. ... A pair of players whose status has been in doubt were activated from the PUP list, suggesting their teams expect them back prior to Week Six. The Chargers activated rookie WR Mike Williams, their first-round pick, while the Colts moved QB Andrew Luck off the PUP list. ... Redskins DB Su’a Cravens has dealt with a multitude of injuries throughout his career and that has him considering an early retirement. Just 22 years old, Cravens has been placed on the exempt list and will not return for at least a month. We shouldn’t be surprised if this is the last we see of Cravens on an NFL field.
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Steelers Back to Full Strength
There seemed to be little doubt in Pittsburgh’s camp, but the Steelers got a double serving of good news this weekend. First, RB Le’Veon Bell reported to the team, ending his long holdout following the end of preseason action, just as he had promised he would do. Bell signed his one-year, $12.12 million deal and is scheduled to become a free agent following the season. Pittsburgh WR Martavis Bryant also is back, fully and officially, having received complete clearance following his season-long suspension last year.
Snead Popped for Three Games
The Saints got under the 53-man limit in a way they didn’t want to as the NFL suspended WR Willie Snead for three games following an off-season DUI arrest. This announcement effectively came out of nowhere and was a major shock to fans and fantasy players, though the Saints evidently knew it was coming. As former Rotoworld writer Adam Levitan noted, the Saints had been primarily using Michael Thomas and former Panther Ted Ginn in their two WR sets, with Snead on the outside looking in. Also, Snead was the only WR not mentioned in a recent interview from HC Sean Payton. Like Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks before him, Snead may have worked himself into the Saints’ doghouse, which has proven difficult to come back from.