NFL Nation: AFC Roster Analysis 2011

Oakland Raiders cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Oakland Raiders’ roster moves.

Surprise move: Oakland cut several defensive backs, including Lito Sheppard, Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware, Stevie Brown and camp star Sterling Moore. Veteran running back Michael Bennett and receiver/returner Nick Miller survived the cuts, which was somewhat unexpected. Oakland kept linebacker Darryl Blackstock, who had been out of the league. He played for Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in the UFL. Quarterback Trent Edwards was cut after he was signed this summer with designs of being the backup. But Kyle Boller separated himself from Edwards. It’s a bit surprising Edwards was cut now with Terrelle Pryor starting a five-game suspension. Still, if he’s not picked up (perhaps Kansas City will be interested), Edwards could always be brought back to Oakland before Pryor joins the roster.

No-brainers: There was speculation receiver Chaz Schilens and safety Mike Mitchell (a second-round pick in 2009) could be on the chopping block. They made the team as they have. Both have been dealing with injuries, but both players have potential. Now, if we’re still talking about injuries and untapped potential this time next year, their futures could become cloudy. But they both deserve to be in Oakland this season.

What's next: I think Oakland will continue to look for cornerbacks and safeties. They will also still look at weakside linebackers, and they will look to upgrade the offensive line. And I know Oakland likes its receivers, but I could also see it keeping an open mind about the position.

Jacksonville Jaguars cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Click here for a complete list of Jaguars' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Three undrafted rookies stuck -- offensive linemen Cameron Bradfield, receiver Jamar Newsome and cornerback Kevin Rutland. The Jaguars already have a deep IR, with running backs Rashad Jennings and Richard Murphy, defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith (for the second year in a row), corner David Jones, end Aaron Morgan.

No-brainers: Getting another defensive back in a trade with the Jets for Dwight Lowery was a good mover. With Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, Drew Coleman and Lowery the team is deeper at corner than it was last year. But Lowery has some safety experience. Could the Jaguars want him there? The Don Carey experiment in the defensive backfield depth mix needed to end.

What’s next: This has to be the only team in the league with more fullbacks (three) than running backs (two). No matter how much Jack Del Rio talks of giving the fullbacks carries, a run-based team needs another running back. It should upgrade offensive line depth too.

Cleveland Browns cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here and here for a complete list of the Cleveland Browns' roster moves.

Surprise moves: I may be on an island with this one, but I thought offensive tackle Branndon Braxton had a chance to make the team. Braxton is raw, but the Browns are thin on the offensive line. They could have taken on a project. Braxton has good size and decent feet.

Cleveland also released third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown. He had the strongest arm on the team and showed flashes. The Browns are hoping to get him back on the practice squad.

Terminating the contract of Demetrius Williams was a mild surprise. The former Baltimore Raven is experienced and made a few plays in camp. But it wasn't enough to take playing time away from youngsters like rookie receiver Greg Little.

No-brainers: Cornerback Coye Francies is a 2009 draft pick under former coach Eric Mangini who barely hung onto a roster spot for two years. But with the coaching change, you had the sense Francies' days were numbered. He was released.

There was only one tailback spot open behind Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Armond Smith beat out Quinn Porter in a close race that came down to the final preseason game.

Tailback Brandon Jackson (toe) also was put on injured reserve. Jackson, a free-agent pickup from the Green Bay Packers, will be out for the season.

What's next: The Browns will scan the waiver wires in search of depth. The preseason proved depth is desperately needed at several positions, particularly on the offensive line. Cleveland's backups have been thoroughly outplayed in exhibition games. This team isn't built to sustain many injuries.

Houston Texans cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Click here for a complete list of Houston Texans’ roster moves.

Surprise moves: After cutting rookie punter Brett Hartmann last week, the team cut veteran Brad Maynard. The Texans do not have a punter. One fan quickly joked that a high-powered offense doesn’t intend to punt. But the Texans clearly have their eye on someone and will be adding a punter in the next couple of days. They've left a roster spot open for him. Fifth-round safety Shiloh Keo, a Wade Phillips favorite who was supposed to be a special teams demon, didn’t make it. Raw, undrafted outside linebacker Bryan Braman did make it.

No-brainers: Deciding Steve Slaton was one of their best 53 players and keeping four running backs seemed prudent to me. Deciding Trindon Holliday wasn’t going to help as a return man or receiver makes sense too.

What’s next: The team has only Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and newcomer Bryant Johnson at receiver and could be looking for a fifth option, thought their pass catching tight ends ease the concern. Houston is thin on the offensive line, too.

New York Jets cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the New York Jets' roster moves.

Surprise moves: With a surplus of defensive backs, the Jets traded Cornerback/safety Dwight Lowery to the Jaguars for a conditional draft pick. They will miss his versatility and his penchant for making clutch plays, but they felt comfortable with four safeties and six corners.

That they didn’t acquire an experienced backup offensive lineman was a surprise. They’re perilously thin on the line. They acquired rookie guard Caleb Schlauderaff from the Packers, but he’s a project. He’s nasty run blocker but extremely limited in pass protection.

Former Bills bust Aaron Maybin made the 53, but the undersized pass-rusher isn’t a lock to make the opening-day roster despite a flashy performance in the final preseason game.

No-brainers: None of the 26 cuts shocked anyone. Going into the final preseason game, 50 of the 53 spots were decided, according to Rex Ryan. The Jets are playing the continuity card this season, which makes sense in the post-lockout world. In fact, they have 19 returning starters.

What’s next: With rookie quarterback Greg McElroy (thumb surgery) out indefinitely, they need a No. 3 quarterback behind Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell. Possibilities include two former Jets -- Kellen Clemens and Kevin O’Connell, both of whom were released Saturday. They’re still looking for experienced offensive linemen, but it’s a thin market.

Kansas City Chiefs cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Chiefs kept Keary Colbert ahead of fellow receivers Verran Tucker and Jeremy Horne. Colbert signed during the summer. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2008. Yet, Colbert became a favorite of Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Defensive tackle Amon Gordon is another vet enjoying a career resurgence in Kansas City. He has played in just 17 games since entering the league in 2004. The Chiefs like Gordon as a run stuffer.

No-brainers: The big news out of Kansas City on Saturday is that standout tight end Tony Moeaki was put on the injured reserve with a knee injury he suffered at Green Bay on Thursday. Thus, the Chiefs kept both backups Jake O'Connell and Anthony Becht. Both players were considered bubble players but they are needed now.

What's next: It starts at tight end. The Chiefs could use a pass catcher. They could look at Donald Lee, who was cut Saturday, among other players. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could also make a run at safety Brandon Meriweather. He was cut by New England. Pioli was part of the team when it drafted Meriweather. The Chiefs also could scour the waiver wire at receiver, offensive line, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. So, yes, the Chiefs could look to upgrade throughout the roster. Also, if an interesting backup quarterback becomes available, the Cheifs could pursue him in favor of current backup Tyler Palko.

Miami Dolphins cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Miami Dolphins' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Although I wouldn't call either move shocking, the Dolphins terminated the contracts of big-name veterans Larry Johnson and Will Allen.

Johnson was trying to restart his career and had a chance to be Miami's third tailback. Instead, Miami will go with Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lex Hilliard. Allen was prone to injuries in recent seasons, and his release could be a financial move. He was slated to make $1.5 million in 2011.

Miami also terminated the contract of starting fullback Lousaka Polite, which was a curious move. Fullbacks are decreasing in value in today's pass-happy NFL, but Polite was a popular player in Miami.

No-brainers: The Dolphins didn't like what they saw in backup quarterbacks Pat Devlin and Kevin O'Connell. Some NFL teams are going into the season with two quarterbacks. But the Dolphins probably will look for another player to develop behind starting quarterback Chad Henne and backup Matt Moore.

What’s next: Do not be surprised if the Dolphins are one of the teams in the market for a big name. Given Bush's durability questions and Thomas' rookie status, free-agent running back Chester Taylor should at least be up for discussion in Miami. The Dolphins do not need a primary tailback but could use someone proven to add stability. The New England Patriots also confirmed safety Brandon Meriweather's release on Saturday evening. He is an upgrade over what the Dolphins currently have and would provide an opportunity to take a good player from a division rival.
Check here for a complete list of the New England Patriots‘ roster moves.

Surprise move: There was plenty of speculation about safety Brandon Meriweather's future after he played into the fourth quarter with the second unit in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the New York Giants, but it was still a surprise when the Patriots outright released the former first-round pick (24th overall in the 2007 draft) on Saturday. After releasing veteran James Sanders as part of the previous cutdowns, the Patriots further turned over that position, waving goodbye to a player who’s been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons.

The team also raised some eyebrows by releasing defensive end Eric Moore, a starter at season’s end last year, but the additions of veterans such as Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis on the defensive line made him expendable. Wide receiver Brandon Tate, who was the team’s primary kick returner and No. 3 receiver last year, got edged by more versatile bodies, and veteran running back Sammy Morris was a victim of an influx of young talent at running back.

No-brainers: First-year players like offensive lineman Thomas Austin, running back Eric Kettani, and defensive back Ross Ventrone, as well as rookies linebacker Markell Carter, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, defensive end Alex Silvestro, tight end Lee Smith and tight end Will Yeatman were longer shots to make the roster. The release of two young tight ends (Smith and Yeatman) is a bit surprising given New England’s love of three tight-end sets and no pure fullback. (Could veteran Alge Crumpler be on the radar?)

What’s next: The Patriots are certainly in the market for safety help, and with backup guard Rich Ohrnberger placed on season-ending injured reserve, the team is thin on the interior line. Remember that this team rarely sits idle after cutdowns. Expect the Patriots to tweak their roster further based on what becomes available from cutdowns across the league.

San Diego Chargers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the San Diego Chargers' roster moves.

Surprise move: There were some familiar names on the Chargers’ cut list. Defensive end Ogemdi Nwagbuo was productive last year, and he was a popular member of the team. Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu also made some plays last season when the Chargers’ receiving crew was depleted. There was also a thought that undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien would be kept after a strong summer. I’m sure the Chargers will try to put him on the practice squad.

No-brainers: In the end, receiver/returner Bryan Walters and linebacker Darryl Gamble, an undrafted rookie, were too good to cut. Anyone who paid attention to San Diego in the preseason saw these two youngsters make play after play. Now, they have jobs. Expect them both to contribute on special teams this season.

What's next: The Chargers on Saturday signed veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs. The 12-year veteran is a leader, and he could push for playing time at inside linebacker. San Diego will probably look at the waiver wire for help in the secondary, offensive line and receiver.

Tennessee Titans cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Click here for a list of Titans' roster moves.

Surprise move: Ahmard Hall was suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL’s policy against performance enhancers. The Titans traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Packers for Quinn Johnson, a fifth-rounder out of LSU in 2009. Johnson will serve as lead blocker for Chris Johnson while Hall is out. So the Titans have a running back and a fullback learning the team’s offense in a little over a week. Undrafted rookie corner Chris Hawkins made the team.

No-brainers: Time had come for receiver Justin Gage, a nice guy with good size who could block and be in the right spot, but dropped too many balls and was not enough of a threat. The entire nine-man draft class stuck, and it’s hard to say any one of them is around simply because of that status.

What’s next: Six defensive tackles is a luxury the team may not be able to afford for long, though one of them, Malcolm Sheppard, has been working at end. With only four true ends on the roster and Derrick Morgan out for the opener, the team either has faith in Sheppard or plans a move. The Titans’ fourth and fifth corners -- Tommie Campbell and Hawkins -- are rookies who were judged beter than Frank Walker.

Buffalo Bills cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Buffalo Bills' roster moves

Surprise moves: The Bills cut veteran center Geoff Hangartner, who started 28 games the past two seasons. Hangartner was beat out this summer by center Eric Wood but shouldn't have a problem finding another job. Hangartner reportedly was scheduled to make $2.55 million this season.

Some might classify tight end Shawn Nelson as a surprise cut. But I'm not shocked. Nelson started 12 games as a rookie in 2009. Since then, it's been one bad thing after another. He's been suspended and had trouble staying healthy. The Bills simply ran out of patience.

Defensive back Reggie Corner also was released, which hurts the team's depth at cornerback.

No-brainers: Quarterback Levi Brown was a long shot from the beginning. The 2010 seventh-round pick had his moments in the preseason but didn't do enough to warrant a roster spot.

Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and backup Tyler Thigpen were locks. Utility player Brad Smith can also play some quarterback, if needed. So Brown had an uphill battle to persuade Buffalo to keep three true quarterbacks (four if you count Smith).

The Bills also waived injured 2010 fifth-round pick Ed Wang (shoulder). The offensive tackle received a lot of press for being the first player of Chinese descent drafted in the NFL. Wang struggled to stay healthy.

What's next: The Bills' first order of business is to try to get rookie defensive tackle Michael Jasper and receiver Naaman Roosevelt on the practice squad. After that, Buffalo's options should be pretty open. Look for the Bills to scan the waiver wires in search of depth and experience, particularly on the offensive line after the loss of Hangartner.

Indianapolis Colts cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Indianapolis Colts' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Tommie Harris seemed to play well enough to stick, but the former first-round defensive tackle apparently wanted to be treated like the team’s top defensive linemen and the team didn’t like the attitude. Defensive end John Chick had solid games but couldn’t get past Jerry Hughes. Undrafted rookie tight end Mike McNeill made it, as did four others who were not April selections: running backs Darren Evans and Chad Spann, linebacker Adrian Moten and safety Joe Lefeged.

No-brainers: Veteran additions on defense made good impressions in the preseason and are sticking around -- ends Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton and linebacker Ernie Sims. Anthony Gonzalez may be injury prone, but none of the other options at receiver is a better player.

What’s next: They’ve got only four defensive tackles in Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson, Eric Foster and Drake Nevis. It could be a spot where they look to add or upgrade on Foster. Offensive linemen Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard will have to prove they deserved to stick ahead of Kyle DeVan.

Pittsburgh Steelers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here and here for a complete list of the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster moves

Surprise move: I liked cornerback Crezdon Butler. He performed well for the Steelers and made a very strong case to make the team with his performance in the preseason. This was probably the most surprising cut in the AFC North on Saturday.

Offensive lineman Tony Hills was a candidate to start just a couple weeks ago, which made his release pretty surprising. But Hills didn't perform well after numerous opportunities the past few years. The Steelers ran out of patience.

Punter Jeremy Kapinos was edged by Steelers veteran Daniel Sepulveda. Both had solid preseasons. Kapinos has a good chance to land somewhere else.

No-brainers: Despite showing flashes, Tyler Grisham had no shot with Pittsburgh's numbers game at receiver. The Steelers are very deep at the position. Receivers Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery were guaranteed to make the team.

The same goes for running back John Clay, who couldn't work his way past talented running backs Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore. Jonathan Dwyer beat Clay for the final spot with a productive preseason.

What's next: The Steelers won't do much. Their roster is stable and the team escaped the preseason relatively healthy, with the exception of backup quarterback Byron Leftwich (broken arm) and cornerback Ike Taylor (broken thumb). At most, Pittsburgh could add a player or two for depth, perhaps on the offensive line.

Cincinnati Bengals cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Cincinnati Bengals' roster moves

Surprise move: The biggest surprise was a suspension. Starting guard Bobbie Williams will be out four games for violating the NFL's performance enhancement policy. Williams brings stability and leadership to the Bengals. He will be out until Cincinnati's game Oct. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bengals also cut offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles. The team went after Jean-Gilles in free agency, but he didn't perform well in the preseason. Cutting cornerback Brandon Ghee was a mild surprise after the Bengals spent a third-round pick on him last year.

No-brainers: Fui Vakapuna began training camp with a chance to win the starting fullback job. But he was thoroughly outperformed by new starter Chris Pressley.

Dan LeFevour beat out Jordan Palmer for the No. 3 quarterback role. But LeFevour didn't do enough to warrant the Bengals' keeping three quarterbacks. Cincinnati cut LeFevour and used the extra roster spot on another position. The Bengals also terminated the contracts of cornerback Jonathan Wade and defensive end Victor Adeyanju.

Cornerback Adam Jones (neck) hasn't practiced this summer and will start the year on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Linebacker Keith Rivers (wrist) also will be out for a significant period of time.

What's next: The Bengals have plenty of cap room if they want to make a move. They recently spent money on their own players by giving extensions to cornerback Leon Hall, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center Kyle Cook.

Cincinnati is going young this season. But it wouldn't hurt the Bengals to scan the wires to see what's out there.

Baltimore Ravens cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Baltimore Ravens' roster moves.

Surprise move: Cutting linebacker Tavares Gooden wasn't a surprise from a production standpoint. But I was somewhat surprised the Ravens gave up on him. Baltimore took Gooden in the third round of the 2008 draft. Fellow Miami Hurricane Ray Lewis tried to take Gooden under his wing, but Gooden was hampered by injuries and inconsistency. The Ravens were tired of waiting.

Running back/kick returner Jalen Parmele was beat out by seventh-round pick Anthony Allen for the third tailback spot. Receiver LaQuan Williams also rode the wave of a great training camp and preseason to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

No-brainers: The Ravens were too deep at tight end to keep Davon Drew. Second-year players Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta were locks, and Kris Wilson made more plays in the preseason to win the final roster spot at tight end.

Third-string quarterback Hunter Cantwell had a chance to showcase his skills with plenty of playing time in the final preseason game. But Cantwell struggled and was released. The Ravens wisely chose to use the roster spot on another position.

What's next: The Ravens still have to complete a contract extension with Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. Getting rid of the franchise tag would free up several million dollars in cap room to make another solid signing or two. The Ravens were expected to have this completed weeks ago.

Baltimore hasn't been shy this offseason in improving its roster. So look for the Ravens to try to add depth and patch up some holes.