Every summer around the NFL, there are a certain number of veteran players sent packing. These veterans are released for numerous reasons, including their own struggles and other youngsters that have made them expendable.
This year promises to be no different. From a veteran quarterback in Buffalo struggling to prolong his career to an injury-plagued running back in Dallas, here are five veterans that could be released during training camp.
Matt Cassel, Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
Reports from Buffalo’s camp this summer have not been too encouraging regarding Cassel. In fact, there have even been rumblings that he might not make the 53-man roster.
This is a far cry from a few short months ago when Buffalo acquired the veteran in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. At that point, suggestions seemed to indicate that Cassel would be the Day 1 starter under center. However, he’s since been surpassed by both EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor.
Set to count $4.8 million against the cap with a small $500,000 dead money hit, the Bills would be better served releasing the veteran should he fall all the way down to No. 3 on the team’s depth chart during camp and the preseason. If so, it could be the end of the line for a quarterback that has thrown more interceptions (34) than touchdowns (30) since a Pro Bowl performance back in 2010.
Darren McFadden, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
McFadden’s situation is rather interesting. Depending on how he performs in training camp and during the preseason, the veteran could either be starting or completely off the roster when Week 1 comes calling. Dallas doesn’t have that true No. 1 running back it possessed in DeMarco Murray last season, but there’s a ton of talent here.
Despite off-field issues, third-year running back Joseph Randle has to be considered the favorite to land the starting gig. He averaged a ridiculous 6.7 yards per attempt in limited action last season.
“I think Joe (Randle) really has to make sure he takes care of everything on and off the field,” Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown said back in June, via Dallas Morning News. “We want to trust Joe. We like Joe, but we want to make sure he’s going to be with us at all times.”
Meanwhile, the injury-plagued McFadden missed most of OTAs with a hamstring injury prior to returning to full health during minicamp last month. If McFadden shows even the slightest inability to remain healthy during camp, there’s a chance the Cowboys move on from him. That would only be magnified if the talented Ryan Williams continues to impress while looking to overcome his own injury-riddled career.
McFadden, 27, has missed 29 games in his seven-year career. And while he’s coming off his first full 16-game slate, the former top-five pick is averaging just 3.3 yards per rush since the start of the 2012 campaign. Despite a smallish annual salary of $1.5 million, the Cowboys can get out from under McFadden’s two-year deal with a dead cap hit of just $200,000. If he’s seen battling with Lance Dunbar and Lache Seastrunk for the No. 3 running back job, there would be no reason for the Cowboys to keep him on the roster.
Matt Barkley, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
There’s a good chance that Tim Tebow will beat out Barkley for the Eagles third-string quarterback job. If that’s the case, we can pretty much close the book on what has been a disastrous NFL career for the former top recruit of the USC Trojans. Stats will tell us a story of a quarterback that has thrown zero touchdowns compared to four interceptions in 50 career passing attempts. However, they don’t even begin to explain just how bad Barkley has been behind the scenes in Philadelphia.
How bad has it been? Philadelphia looked to trade Barkley during the 2015 NFL draft, but couldn’t even find a suitor to offer a low-round pick for his services. It then added Tebow in order to create some competition in camp. And while all has been quiet on the Barkley front, the team seems to be praising Tebow left and right.
Short of Sam Bradford continuing to show signs of injury, the Eagles have no real reason to keep Barkley on the roster. Teams simply don’t carry four quarterbacks in today’s NFL.
Ahmad Brooks, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) May 7, 2015
There are extenuating circumstances outside of football field here. While that process has yet to play out, San Francisco might decide that Brooks just isn’t a fit for the team anymore. Interestingly, most of that could have to do with his salary and on-field competition.
Brooks is set to count $7 million against the cap in 2015, $5 million of which would come off the books if San Francisco released him. With Aldon Smith returning after struggling with off-field issues over the past year or so and Aaron Lynch showing signs of progress in his first full off-season, San Francisco may have no real need to keep Brooks on the roster.
In addition to this, the 49ers added former Virginia standout Eli Harold in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft and have Corey Lemonier potentially looking to up his game after a solid stretch as a rookie two years ago. If Brooks is left fighting for the third outside linebacker in San Francisco, the team could very well look to cut ties with him.
Fred Jackson, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
At 34 years old, Jackson is one of the rare running backs that have proven to be successful past the age of 30. Though, that might have to be a different place than Buffalo in 2015. Jackson is set to count $2.7 million against the cap, but has zero dead money remaining on his deal. This means that Buffalo could release the veteran without paying him a penny.
After adding LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams to an already talent-laden running back group, there just might not be any room for Jackson here. Heck, Anthony Dixon might offer more value for the Bills considering he can play special teams and act as a short-yardage back as well as a fullback—three things Jackson just doesn’t bring to the table.
Jackson even admitted his roster spot is not necessarily locked up:
“We’ll see what happens with me getting cut or not,” the veteran said back in June, via the Bills official website. “I’ll go out and do whatever I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. We’ve got to compete every year. This year is no different than any other year. I’ve got to go out and compete for my job.”
If Jackson is shown the door, he will likely get some play on the open market. Despite his advanced age, the veteran has proven to be more than capable of taking on a part-time role.
Photo: USA Today Sports