NFL Nation: NFL Roster Analysis 2012

Cleveland Browns cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
12:49
AM ET
Click here for a full list of the Cleveland Browns' roster moves.

Significant move: The Browns made some headway in resolving their backup quarterback position when they cut Seneca Wallace. There are conflicting reports whether Colt McCoy will be the primary backup to rookie Brandon Weeden. A Philadelphia radio station is speculating the Browns might trade for Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley, but The Plain Dealer disputed that rumor. It makes sense for the Browns to chose McCoy over Wallace. He is seven years younger than Wallace and costs almost $1.9 million less this season. Cleveland retained Thad Lewis as its developmental third quarterback.

Onward and upward: Evan Moore was released by the Browns, and he should catch on with another team seeking a pass-catching tight end. It had to be a difficult decision for the Browns because they signed him to a three-year deal 11 months ago. Moore also will account for $1.1 million in dead money this year. He caught a career-high 34 passes last season, but there are questions about his blocking. The Browns moved on to Jordan Cameron, a 2011 fourth-round pick, to be their third tight end early in training camp when Moore was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

What's next: The Browns already have started making moves, trading backup safety David Sims to the Eagles for a conditional draft pick. Sims turned heads this preseason with two interceptions (a third was negated by a penalty), returning one for a 38-yard touchdown. Cleveland also has begun to address depth at linebacker, bringing in Solomon Elimimian for a physical after the CFL veteran was waived by the Vikings. The Browns could be without starting outside linebacker Scott Fujita, who is on the suspended list (he doesn't count against the roster right now), for the season opener as well as rookie James-Michael Johnson, who suffered an oblique injury Thursday night.

Jacksonville Jaguars cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
12:47
AM ET
Click here for the complete list of Jacksonville Jaguars' roster moves.

Most significant move: The team kept six wide receivers as it looks to make dramatic strides in the passing game with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Laurent Robinson was the big free-agent acquisition and Justin Blackmon was the high draft pick. Brian Robiskie is a reclamation guy and Mike Thomas is a survivor who needs to regain form from early in his career. Cecil Shorts seemed to have stage fright a year ago when he got chances. Kevin Elliott is an undrafted rookie free agent who often shined and is deserving of a spot and some playing time. Only Thomas and Shorts are holdovers from a year ago.

Onward and upward: Several underdogs fill in some roster cracks, including three who caught my eye early in training camp -- Elliott, undrafted rookie linebacker Julian Stanford and running back Jalen Parmele. Parmele is one of four running backs the team kept with Maurice Jones-Drew holding out, along with Rashad Jennings, Montell Owens and Keith Toston. They’ve also got fullback Greg Jones. Other underdogs still standing are undrafted rookie safety Antwon Blake and defensive end George Selvie, who’s already spent time with three different teams, including the Jags once before.

What’s next: Guard Will Rackley was placed on injured reserve. He suffered a high ankle sprain early in camp and, according to AP’s Mark Long, reinjured the ankle. Eben Britton, who the team projected as the right tackle all offseason and at the start of the preseason, is now the left guard. Cameron Bradfield, undrafted a year ago, is now the right tackle and the backup left tackle. Middling veteran Guy Whimper is the backup right tackle, while undrafted rookie Mike Brewster and Josh Beekman, formerly of the Bears, are the interior backups. It sure looks like the team would benefit from adding someone with more of a resume.

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
12:23
AM ET
Most significant move: For weeks, outsiders have called for the Packers to make a trade or look outside of the organization for a backup quarterback. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy put all of their faith in Graham Harrell as the backup to Aaron Rodgers. They even raised the stakes by cutting seventh-round choice B.J. Coleman, leaving the Packers with only two quarterbacks on the roster. Harrell doesn’t have a strong arm, but he has been in the system. He finished the preseason with a strong showing. Rodgers has been able to stay healthy, only relying on former backup Matt Flynn to fill in for him for two starts. Many felt the Packers needed to make a move for a Colt McCoy or another veteran who would fit in the West Coast offense. It’s a gamble, but one the Packers were willing to make

Onward and upward: You have to figure the Packers go for offensive line help. They only kept two backups, veteran Evan Dietrich-Smith and Don Barclay. Derek Sherrod went on the physically unable to perform list so he’s unavailable until mid-season. The Packers are solid for starters with Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga at tackle, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton at guard and Jeff Saturday at center. It’s not surprising the Packers cut most of the backups they brought to camp. Many were undrafted players from the past couple of years. It was a little surprising they released Andrew Datko, but they could be trying to get the seventh-round choice on the practice squad. The Packers figure to bring some of the released linemen to the practice squad.

What's next: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers ended up with six rookie draft choices and two undrafted rookies, safety Sean Richardson and rookie linebacker Deszman Moses, among the 26 defensive players on the roster. Caper’s mission is getting those eight young players to contribute to a defense that was one of the worst in football last season. The Packers have to feel good about the depth along the defensive line. C.J. Wilson moved into a starting role at defensive end and is backed up by veteran Phillip Merling and second-round choice Jerel Worthy. They also have fourth-round pick Alex Daniels. That’s so much better than a couple years ago when they had to take a veteran or two off the street to fill in at end. Capers has two rookies starting at linebacker, D.J. Smith on the inside and Nick Perry on the outside. Draft choices Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian offer plenty of skills for the secondary but they aren’t being asked to start, yet.

Oakland Raiders cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
12:05
AM ET
Click here for the complete list of Oakland Raiders' roster moves.

Most significant move: Putting starting linebacker Aaron Curry on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. He has been out all camp with knee problems. This is good news, because there was a thought he could end up on the injured reserve. Now Curry can come back to practice Oct. 16. He will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by fourth-round pick Miles Burris. I think Oakland will look for some linebackers in the coming days as well. As expected, young tight end David Ausberry made the team and he will continue to develop. They are high on sixth-round pick, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. He is raw, but he has big potential and he can learn without urgency because he is on a top-notch line. Cornerback Bryan McCann made the team and he could be the starting punt returner. As expected, punt returner Roscoe Parrish, who was cut by the Chargers on Monday and quickly signed by the Raiders, was cut after he fumbled two punts Thursday at Seattle.

Onward and upward: Defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton was caught in a numbers game. He was impressive in the preseason but he is likely headed to the practice squad. Rookie free-agent receiver Derek Carrier is probably not headed to the practice squad at this point. The team was very high on him after the draft, but he fell behind other rookie receivers such as fifth-round pick Juron Criner and fellow undrafted rookie Rod Streater. Both those players made the team and should be part of the rotation. However, rookie receiver Brandon Carswell could be practice-squad bound. Rookie linebacker Chad Kilgore could also be headed to the practice squad. He looked good in the preseason. Linebacker Nathan Stupar, a seventh-round draft pick, was a surprise cut after he had a strong preseason. I could see him being claimed elsewhere. If not, I'm sure Oakland will try to put him on the practice squad.

What’s next: I expect the Raiders to be very busy in the next few days. Depth is a big problem because of a salary-cap issue and a lack of draft picks the past two years. The Raiders’ lack of depth was a serious problem in the preseason. I think the Raiders could use help at running back, tight end, the offensive line, and linebacker and in the secondary. Yes, they could be busy. Among the players Oakland could look at include Rock Cartwright, Tim Hightower, Joselio Hanson, Justin Miller and Chris Cooley. Oakland could also be on the lookout for a pass-rusher. It worked out Andre Carter recently, but he reportedly isn’t healthy enough to sign anywhere.

Minnesota Vikings cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:28
PM ET
Most significant move: Following the lead of other teams around the NFL, the Vikings decided to go young at quarterback. The plan all along was to have Christian Ponder as the starter, but the surprise was letting veteran backup Sage Rosenfels go, leaving Joe Webb and McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the roster. Webb is making the transition from wide receiver to quarterback. Thompson is only 23 and hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season. Webb has three starts and 152 pass attempts during his NFL career. The Bears and Colts found out last year it can be tough to go young at quarterback. The Bears lost Jay Cutler and their season was over. The Colts were without Peyton Manning and the season was lost with Curtis Painter.

Onward and upward: Starting wide receiver Jerome Simpson went on the three-game suspension list, so Leslie Frazier has to make sure he doesn’t have to look for receiver help during his absence. Veteran possession receiver Michael Jenkins was retained after a contract reduction and should fill the void. Keeping Devin Aromashodu gives Ponder a solid option in the slot. Percy Harvin is the team’s No. 1 receiver, but is sure to draw double coverage. The concern is what happens if there is an injury. Jarius Wright, the team’s fourth-round pick, is raw. Stephen Burton, a seventh-round pick from last year, is the fifth option.

What's next: Protecting Ponder is the key to the season. Right guard Geoff Schwartz has fought off a lot of injuries during camp. The backup corps of Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger and Patrick Brown isn’t the most distinguished. The significant improvement is having rookie Matt Kalil at left tackle and moving Charlie Johnson from left tackle to left guard. John Sullivan, a journeyman, needs to have a career year to make it all work. The Vikings also need a big year from right tackle Phil Loadholt.

Miami Dolphins cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:21
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of Miami Dolphins' roster moves.

Most significant move: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, head coach Joe Philbin and the rest of his coaching staff warned their wide receivers that they needed to step up. This is Miami's weakest area, and week after week, receivers dropped balls and failed to make plays. Still, it was surprising that Miami cut two receivers of significance: Clyde Gates and Roberto Wallace. Both were on the bubble, but at least one was expected to make the cut -- especially on a receiver-deprived team. The Dolphins also released fellow receivers Chris Hogan, B.J. Cunningham and Jeff Fuller. The Dolphins said in the spring that they liked their receivers group; clearly, those opinions changed after training camp and the preseason.

Onward and upward: Miami made two free-agent additions to help the team’s depth at linebacker this offseason: Jamaal Westerman and Gary Guyton. Both players had starting experience and had played in the AFC East. But neither fit well with Miami’s new 4-3 defense. The Dolphins decided to cut their losses and not take either on their 53-man roster. There’s a good chance other teams will be looking for veteran linebackers, and due to their experience, both have a chance to land elsewhere.

What's next: Miami should be one of the busiest teams in free agency and scanning waivers. The Dolphins are rebuilding and need a lot of upgrades and depth. Wide receiver and safety are two positions Miami certainly will have its eye on. The Dolphins have a long way to go to make their roster into a contender. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs some assistance in his first season. So expect more changes in Miami before its Week 1 game against the Houston Texans.
Click here for the complete list of Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster moves.

Most significant move: The Bucs released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who at one time appeared to be headed for significant playing time in the rotation or maybe even a spot in the starting lineup. Okoye is healthy enough that he reportedly is ready to turn around and sign with the Chicago Bears. But I think this move is another example of what coach Greg Schiano is all about. Okoye missed a lot of time in training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He might have been one of those guys that could have gotten through the season by taking a lot of days off practice and showing up on Sundays. I don’t think that system is going to fly with Schiano (see Kellen Winslow). Although they might not be former first-round picks like Okoye, I think Schiano would rather have Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry, who show up for practice each day, as the starters behind Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller.

Onward and upward: Receiver Tiquan Underwood played for Schiano at Rutgers. Underwood seemed to have a good shot at making the roster with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. But Underwood was released Friday night as the Bucs decided to keep Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter for the final roster spots at wide receiver. Underwood likely would be a guy the Bucs would bring back if they have any injuries at receiver. But that will only happen if another team doesn’t scoop Underwood up first.

What’s next: The guys that made the latter parts of the roster shouldn’t get too comfortable. General manager Mark Dominik has a history of bringing in guys that are cut by other teams and I think that trend will only continue this year as he and Schiano try to fine tune a roster that still could use more depth in several areas. I think there still could be movement on the defensive line, at guard and at tight end.

Seattle Seahawks cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:13
PM ET
Click here for the complete list of Seattle Seahawks' roster moves.

Most significant move. The Seattle Seahawks emerged from last season with high hopes for Josh Portis as a developmental quarterback. The arrival of Matt Flynn in free agency and new starter Russell Wilson through the draft left Portis on the outside. The Seahawks released him, leaving Wilson and Flynn as the only quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster.

Some teams with rookie starters brace themselves for what they know will be a long season. The Seahawks think Wilson upgrades the position immediately. They appear unworried by rookie walls and all the other ominous metaphors that typically pop up with inexperienced players behind center. The team could always consider adding a third quarterback in the future, but the value wasn't there given what Seattle thinks about its top two quarterbacks.

Onward and upward: Portis, cornerback Phillip Adams, guard Rishaw Johnson, linebacker Korey Toomer and defensive tackle Pep Levingston (injury settlement) have all shown positive signs. Toomer in particular appears to have practice-squad potential, at least.

The cut list also included Pierre Allen, Cordarro Law, Allen Bradford, Paul Fanaika, Jermaine Kearse, Kyle Knox, Sean McGrath, DeShawn Shead, Lavasier Tuinei, Cooper Helfet (injured) and Vai Taua (injured).

Receivers Deon Butler and Kris Durham lost out as former mid-round draft choices. They remain young and could carry appeal, as could speed receiver Ricardo Lockette. But with veteran Braylon Edwards playing well enough to earn a roster spot comfortably, there were fewer spots for less-proven prospects at the position.

Note that the unspectacular but steady Ben Obomanu stuck on the roster, at least for now. Seattle hasn't fared as well upgrading depth at receiver as it has at other positions. Obomanu's continued annual presence as a 2006 seventh-round choice reflects that, in my view.

What's next: The Seahawks could use depth at linebacker, one reason I was a little surprised to see the team release Toomer, a rookie fifth-round choice with speed. Another linebacker, Matt McCoy, landed on injured reserve.

Seattle also could consider pursuing a slot receiver as insurance against lingering injury concerns for Doug Baldwin.

It's looking like running back Marshawn Lynch will avoid, for now, a suspension stemming from his DUI arrest earlier this offseason. That was a potential concern, mitigated some by rookie Robert Turbin's emergence.

While cornerback Walter Thurmond went on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, offensive lineman James Carpenter did not. With Carpenter available early in the year, the Seahawks appear relatively set on their offensive line. Rookie J.R. Sweezy's emergence as the potential starting right guard was another factor there, even with guard Allen Barbre going on the reserve/suspended list.

Carolina Panthers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
11:05
PM ET
Click here for the complete list of Carolina Panthers roster moves.

Most significant move: The biggest move of the day wasn’t the release of a player. Instead, it was a trade. The Panthers will send a future draft pick to San Francisco for safety Colin Jones. I don’t think the Panthers are looking for Jones to come in and start at safety. This move was more about special teams -- and if you saw Pittsburgh’s Chris Rainey have a long punt return against them Thursday night, you saw why the Panthers still have concerns with the unit. Jones should help solve that problem. He was a regular on special teams for the 49ers and had eight special-teams tackles last season.

Onward and upward: Throughout training camp and the preseason games, there was a lot of buzz about undrafted rookie receiver Jared Green. Part of it came because he’s the son of Hall of Famer Darrell Green. But part of it came because the kid can play. The Panthers had a numbers crunch at receiver and wanted to keep guys like Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams because they have invested draft picks in them in recent years, and both have abilities in the return game. But Green only helped himself with what he did in the preseason. Another team could take a shot and claim him off waivers. If not, Carolina almost certainly will try to get Green on the practice squad.

What’s next: As it stands, I’m not sure the Panthers are completely content with their cornerback situation. Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn are the starters with rookie Josh Norman and second-year pro Josh Thomas as the backups. The Panthers really would like to move Munnerlyn inside and let him match up with slot receivers as the nickel back. Heading into camp, they though Norman might be able to step straight into a starting job. But his development was slowed a little when he missed some practice time with an injury. Brandon Hogan and Darius Butler also were guys the Panthers had high hopes for, but both got injured. I’m not sure the Panthers want to put too much on Norman's plate right away. They could look to bring in another cornerback. I could also see them at least checking to see what’s available as far as defensive-line depth. I know a lot of Carolina fans are shouting for the Panthers to do something at kicker after Justin Medlock missed two long field-goal attempts in the preseason finale. But all indications are the Panthers are planning to stick with Medlock.

New York Jets cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:43
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of New York Jets roster moves.

Most significant move: There were no real significant cuts with the Jets, in my estimation. New York is a team that has a lot of talented starters but not much depth behind them. So, many of the Jets' cuts were predictable. Maybe cutting rookie sixth-round pick Terrance Ganaway was a mild surprise, but even that might be a bit of a stretch. Ganaway scored the Jets' only preseason touchdown. But the consistency wasn’t there for Ganaway all summer. Yet, it shows something that New York is willing to give up on a young draft pick so quickly and risk losing Ganaway to another team via a waiver claim. If Ganaway makes it through waivers, he is a prime candidate for the Jets' practice squad.

Onward and upward: Including Ganaway, the Jets cut three of their draft picks from this year's class. The list includes late picks Ganaway, Robert Griffin and Jordan White. Often, general managers like to hold on to their draft picks for at least a year, because it's difficult to come in and play well in the NFL right away. Maybe someone from this group will turn out to be a late-round surprise and be claimed by another team. Or maybe the Jets got the right read on three of their draft picks right away. Again, all three are practice-squad candidates.

What’s next: The Jets are similar to other AFC East teams. They are looking for depth at several positions. Look for New York to scan the wires and free agency for running backs, receivers and possibly offensive linemen. This is an offense that scored just one touchdown in four preseason games. The Jets need depth on that side of the football, to say the least.
Click here for the complete list of Kansas City Chiefs' roster moves.

Most significant move: I found it interesting that defensive tackle Amon Gordon was cut. Gordon is solid, but far from special. But it could open a spot for Shaun Smith. Smith, who was recently cut by the Titans, tried out for the Chiefs on Tuesday. He played for Romeo Crennel in both Cleveland and in Kansas City. Smith could be added to a defensive-tackle group that includes first-round pick Dontari Poe, Anthony Toribio and Jerrell Powe. It was also significant that rookie defensive back DeQuan Menzie was put on injured reserve. The Chiefs have a lot of injuries in the secondary (they also cut veteran Donald Washington) and will need to do something. Young running backs Cyrus Gray, Nate Eachus and Shaun Draughn all made the team, giving Kansas City some intriguing youth in the backfield. Interestingly, the Chiefs kept five tailbacks, but no fullbacks. What does it mean? The will be doing a lot of multiple-tight-end and -receiver sets. It’d also be nice to see Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis share a backfield on occasion.

Onward and upward: The Chiefs cut rookie receivers Junior Hemingway and Josh Bellamy. The Chiefs like both of those players, but they are deep at the position. Both should be headed to the practice squad. As expected, second-year quarterback Ricky Stanzi made the team. He will be the No. 3 quarterback and given another chance to develop. Defensive lineman Jerome Long, a draft pick, could also be headed to the practice squad.

What’s next: Whether or not the Chiefs sign Smith (doing so after Week 1 would avoid guaranteeing his 2012 contract), I think they could add to the defensive line. I think they certainly will look at help for the secondary because of injuries, and if the right linebacker becomes available, the Chiefs could add some depth. I also think the offensive line might be an area in which Kansas City looks for depth -- it has been trying to add a veteran all summer. One name to keep an eye on is former New England offensive lineman Dan Koppen. He has a history with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

San Francisco 49ers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:36
PM ET
Most significant move. The San Francisco 49ers' decision to keep running back Anthony Dixon played into a broader special-teams theme. Veteran fullback Rock Cartwright, once seen as a key special-teams addition following Blake Costanzo's departure in free agency, received his release. The 49ers traded another core special-teams player, safety Colin Jones, to Carolina for what was thought to be a 2014 seventh-round choice.

The 49ers' decision at quarterback was also among those I found most significant. The team kept Scott Tolzien over Josh Johnson in the No. 3 role even though Johnson played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Johnson also outplayed Tolzien in the final exhibition game. Keeping Tolzien appealed, however, because his ceiling appears less defined. Johnson has played in the NFL without setting a sharply upward career trajectory. Colin Kaepernick's emergence as a stronger No. 2 quarterback bought some insurance for carrying a less-experienced third-stringer, perhaps.

Onward and upward: Linebacker Michael Wilhoite, offensive lineman Mike Person and safety Michael Thomas appear to be young players with futures in the NFL. Defensive lineman Matthew Masifilo impressed in the final exhibition game. The 49ers' practice squad will be an option for some of the players let go, but I won't be surprised if waiver claims from other teams get in the way. The 49ers have done a good job building talented depth throughout their roster.

The team also released Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Brett Swain and Kenny Wiggins.

Reuland could get another chance. It was a mild surprise, perhaps, to see Garrett Celek stick ahead of Reuland as the third tight end.

What's next: The 49ers will watch closely to see which players clear waivers. Wilhoite is one they would like to re-sign, according to his agent, but teams looking for young depth at linebacker could submit claims. The team could use another outside linebacker, at least on paper, but the 49ers got through last season with only three of them.

The 49ers are carrying only eight offensive linemen. Their swing tackle, Alex Boone, is starting at right guard. If there's an offensive tackle out there worth claiming, the 49ers could consider adding one. But two of their division rivals, Arizona and St. Louis, have greater needs and higher waiver priorities.

Detroit Lions cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:32
PM ET
Click here for the complete list of Detroit Lions roster moves.

Most significant move: The Lions showed their commitment to fixing the secondary by keeping four new cornerbacks -- Kevin Barnes, Jacob Lacey and draft choices Bill Bentley and Jonte Green. They left themselves thin at safety, though. The Lions retained five safeties from last year -- Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey, Erik Coleman, John Wendling and Ricardo Silva -- but not adding a new safety is a little surprising considering the knee problems Delmas has dealt with. At corner, though, the Lions have a nice mixture of veterans and youth. Lacey is at least a solid third corner, Barnes came over from the Redskins in a trade, and Chris Houston is a solid starter. The Lions released Alphonso Smith, Justin Miller and Ross Weaver, who fell behind in the cornerback race.

Onward and upward: Defensive end Everette Brown and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen had decent camps and could be picked up by other teams. Brown was particularly solid as a pass-rusher during the preseason. Still, it was going to be hard for Brown to crack the top four at defensive end with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young ahead of him. Brown’s only hope was beating out fourth-round choice Ronnell Young, but the Lions wisely made a commitment to their draft board by keeping seven draft choices.

What next: The Lions need to start thinking about locking up some of their defensive starters. Avril, Corey Williams, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, Houston and Delmas are unrestricted free agents. Spievey is a restricted free agent. That won’t be easy. The Lions have less than $2.5 million of cap room, so they might be able to get only one deal done. They can’t do a long-term deal with Avril because they come to an agreement by July 15. Franchise players have to settle for the one-year deal after that date. The Lions may have to put the franchise tag on Delmas after the season and then get a long-term deal done with Avril in February.
Click here for a complete list of New England Patriots' roster moves.

Most significant move: New England cut three veterans who were important pieces the past few seasons: wide receiver Deion Branch, center Dan Koppen and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Koppen wasn't a huge surprise. New England played the veteran lineman extensively in the fourth preseason game -- and he was part of the issue with struggles on the offensive line this summer. But Branch and Hoyer were surprises. Branch battled some injuries but is reliable and brings plenty of leadership. The Patriots spent the past several years developing Hoyer behind quarterback Tom Brady and decided this was the time to go in another direction. Granted, Hoyer struggled this preseason and second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett played a little better. But it's a little surprising that New England didn't keep him as at least the third quarterback. Hoyer's salary probably has a lot to do with it.

Onward and upward: Jeff Demps' first attempt at the NFL was a short one. The Olympic sprinter suffered an unfortunate leg injury in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game and was put on injured reserve. Demps showed flashes in his limited time this preseason. New England signed him to a three-year contract, and now Demps has to rehab to get healthy for another try. Potential is there for 2013 with New England. I also expect Branch to be on the short list with New England if a receiver gets injured during the season. Branch might know this and not accept an offer from just any team unless it's a viable contender.

What’s next: There’s not much left to do for the reigning AFC champions. This roster is stacked and, based on their cuts, it's clear the Patriots like some of their young players. Cuts like Branch, Koppen and Hoyer prove that New England has a lot of confidence in its youngsters filling key roles.
Click here for the complete list of Baltimore Ravens roster moves.

Significant move: The Ravens surprisingly kept linebacker Sergio Kindle, their top draft pick in 2010, purely on his potential as a pass-rusher. Kindle's lasting impression from the preseason was a roughing-the-passer penalty in the finale that allowed the Rams to convert a third-and-22. Never showing any burst, Kindle didn't record a sack in the preseason and finished with four tackles. With Terrell Suggs out indefinitely with an Achilles injury, the Ravens probably don't want to part with anyone who can help pressure the quarterback. Kindle hasn't been the same player since falling down two stairs and fracturing his skull before his first training camp. On his reaction in making the team, Kindle said, "Jump for joy and do a back flip if I could. Wouldn’t want to land on my head though." ... Baltimore also released Curtis Painter and chose to go with Tyrod Taylor as its backup quarterback. Painter, who threw six touchdowns this preseason, threw countless interceptions in training camp.

Onward and upward: Undrafted safety Omar Brown is a likely target to return as a member of Baltimore's practice squad. He lacks ideal size for the position (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) but he has a knack for being around the ball. Brown had arguably the best preseason on the team, finishing third with 10 tackles, recording three fumble recoveries, intercepting one pass and recovering an onside kick. The Ravens need depth at safety because of the uncertainty surrounding Sean Considine, who has sustained two concussions in two weeks.

What's next: Don't be surprised if the Ravens look for an upgrade on the offensive line. Their depth at tackle is questionable with backups Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood. Reid has been limited all summer with a calf injury, and Harewood surprisingly made the team after spending the past two years on injured reserve. The Ravens also may look to add a defensive lineman. The team could move rookie defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, a seventh-round pick, to the practice squad.

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