Widespread NFL roster cuts took place on Tuesday as teams trimmed their rosters to 53 ahead of Week 1 of the regular season. As is typically the case, there were some pretty big surprises.
A couple young pass-catchers found themselves on the unemployment line. One of the NFL’s best punters was a victim of finances. Meanwhile, a former early-round quarterback found himself out of a job after some major struggles. Here’s a look at the 10-most surprising 2022 NFL roster cuts.
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Sam Martin, punter, Denver Broncos
Typically, punters don’t make lists of surprise NFL cuts. But Martin himself is an exception. Denver opted to release the veteran after he refused to take a pay cut, saving the team $2.25 million in cap room.
Corliss Waitman or another outside candidate will now be brought on to replace a player who ranked in the top five of the NFL in punting a season ago and set a Broncos all-time record for net punting in 2021. This is no small thing given how the rare air of Mile High can be an added field possession advantage for the Broncos with a plus-level punter. Apparently, Martin wasn’t worth that extra $2-plus million.
Jaquiski Tartt, safety, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia signed Tartt this past offseason to compete for the starting strong safety spot after he was an underrated performer for the San Francisco 49ers thoughout the first seven years of his career. In fact, Tartt yielded a sub 58% completion mark in coverage for the 49ers in 2021. For an Eagles team with major question marks at safety, Tartt seemed to be a lock.
That’s until the Eagles pulled off a shocking trade for New Orleans Saints star Chauncey Gardner-Johnson as NFL roster cuts were trickling out on Tuesday. The team will now roll with Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps as its starting safeties heading into Week 1 against the Detroit Lions after also releasing Anthony Harris (more on that later).
Michael Schofield, guard, Chicago Bears
To say that Chicago had its offensive line issues in front of then-rookie Justin Fields a season ago would be an understatement. It’s one of the reasons why new general manager Ryan Poles added multiple veterans on the cheap during the offseason. Among them, Schofield was coming off a 2021 campaign in which he started 12 games for the Los Angeles Chargers and performed at a high level.
It seems that Chicago’s brass didn’t view a veteran with a ton of experience (81 career starts) as a fit heading into the 2022 season. Instead, the Bears will roll with a combination of Cody Whitehair, Teven Jenkins and Zachary Thomas at guard this season. They will also look outside of the organization for upgrades.
O.J. Howard, tight end, Buffalo Bills
A first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2017, Howard signed with Buffalo this past spring to help shed that bust label. Most figured he would play a big role in the Bills’ offense with Josh Allen tossing him the rock. We can include the brass in Western New York in that group as he received $3 million guaranteed to sign with Buffalo.
- O.J. Howard stats (2017-21): 119 receptions, 1,737 yards, 15 TD, 66% catch rate
It didn’t pan out. Despite playing pretty well during the preseason, Howard was the victim of a numbers game. Dawson Knox is TE1 in Buffalo. Tommy Sweeney showed enough to prove his worth as a top-end backup. Meanwhile, undrafted free agent Quintin Morris from Bowling Green opened some eyes during the summer. That left Howard out in the cold .
Marlon Mack, running back, Houston Texans
It now appears that rookie Dameon Pierce is going to shoulder a majority of the load behind Davis Mills in Houston. The fourth-round pick from Florida showed out big time during the preseason, especially in the finale against the San Francisco 49ers. While this creates a young backfield in Houston, that stands to reason given their rebuilding status.
Despite this, moving off Mack has to be seen as one of the most-surprising NFL roster cuts of Tuesday. Back in 2019, Mack registered 1,173 total yards and eight touchdowns with the division-rival Colts. That came eafter he put up north of 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns the previous season. One might think that the Texans would like to hold on to this type of experience. That did not come to fruition.
Anthony Harris, safety, Philadelphia Eagles
Harris might be the most-surprising of the NFL roster cuts that we saw on Tuesday. Of course, that narrative was before Philadelphia pulled off the deal for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Considered the Eagles’ starting free safety, the 30-year-old Harris manned that spot for 14 games (all starts) a season ago while registering three passes defended and an interception.
Sure Harris has seen his production decline after registering a league-high six interceptions with the Minnesota Vikings back in 2019. But having this veteran presence wouldn’t have hurt. That’s especially true with Harris playing under a mere one-year, $2.5 million contract. Alas, that wasn’t to be the case.
Tyler Johnson, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
To say that Johnson showed promise during his two years in Tampa Bay would be an understatement. The former fifth-round pick out of Minnesota recorded 36 receptions for 360 yards while catching 66% of his targets from Tom Brady a season ago. It seemed that he was ripe to progress moving forward.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s decision to bring in veterans Julio Jones and Russell Gage changed the dynamics big time when it comes to Tampa Bay’s roster construction. It leaves Johnson out in the cold for the time being. However, he’s going to catch on with another team. It’s just a matter of time.
Sony Michel, running back, Miami Dolphins
Again, this has to be seen as somewhat surprising. Last season with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, Sony Michel gained nearly 1,000 total yards and six touchdowns at a clip of 4.2 yards per touch. He was Los Angeles’ leading rusher.
Miami opts to go with Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds as its top two backs under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. In particular, Mostert could be an intriguing option given his success under McDaniel with the San Francisco 49ers. 2
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Josh Gordon, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
The many lives of one Josh Gordon. Suspended multiple times throughout his career due to substance abuse issues, this former NFL leading receiver got a new lease on life in Kansas City. In fact, he seems to have turned his life around off the field. Unfortunately, that was not enough for Gordon to earn a spot on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster.
On the field, Gordon has appeared in just 30 games since the end of the 2014 season due to those aforementioned off-field issues. One now has to wonder whether his career is over despite suggestions that the Chiefs might look to bring him back on the practice squad.
Kellen Mond, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
The writing seemed to be on the wall for both Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion leading up to NFL rosters cuts after Minnesota traded for Nick Mullens. One would likely be out of a job. With that said, we expected Minnesota to either retain Mond or look for a trade partner for the former third-round pick from Texas A&M. That didn’t happen.
Suggestions are that the Vikings will look to retain Mannion on their practice squad, pretty much leading to the end of Mond’s one-year tenure in Minneapolis. Whether he latches on with another team after having failed to show anything of substance with the Vikings remains to be seen.