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Lot of juggling, surprise moves on NFL cutdown day

Sportsnaut
Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Las Vegas Raiders guard Alex Leatherwood (70) reacts after their loss against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a whirlwind every year when the NFL cutdown to 53 arrives with teams juggling numerous balls.

Who to cut? Which veterans to inform they are being released, but will return when players can be placed on short-term reserve/injured after the close of business Wednesday. Hoping players will clear waivers so they can be signed to the practice squad.

The numbers are large. Tuesday, there were 599 players waived, 36 of whom were injured and 113 with partially guaranteed contracts. There were also 150 vested veterans that had their contracts terminated, 10 with injury settlements. Add to that eight players traded, 32 placed on reserve lists (including six suspended).

Wednesday morning, 33 players were assigned to teams on waivers, meaning that same number had to come off rosters believing they had made it.

There are always surprises, although some of those are only because they have recognizable names.

The Eye-Openers

Tennessee punter Brett Kern: He played 13 seasons with the Titans and is fourth in club history with 197 games played, having punted a franchise-most 923 times. Kern also owns the best all-time team average (45.9) and net average (40.8) and was a captain the last two seasons. His replacement will be Colorado State rookie free agent Ryan Stonehouse, who had a 50.2 average, 41.3 net and landed six of his 13 preseason punts inside the 20-yard line.

Arizona edge rusher Devon Kennard: The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones in free agency and Kennard accepted a pay cut from $6.75 million to $1.12 million with $600,000 guaranteed in March. He was cut anyway. The Cardinals selected pass rushers Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders in the third round of the draft, but the player that knocked Kennard off the roster was Victor Dimukeje. A sixth-round pick in 2021, he was credited with making huge strides in the offseason and with his speed had two sacks in the preseason opener against Cincinnati.

Detroit quarterbacks Tim Boyle and David Blough: Boyle had his contract terminated Tuesday and then Blough was waived Wednesday when the Lions signed Nate Sudfeld. Blough has been featured frequently on Hard Knocks, not that it has anything to do with roster decisions. It’s simply odd that a team would cut its two backup quarterbacks to sign someone totally new that has a lot to learn in his new surroundings. Sudfeld has been in the NFL since 2016 and had his contract terminated by the 49ers on Tuesday. It’s possible Blough could be signed to the practice squad.

Buffalo tight end O.J. Howard: He has never lived up to expectations after being a first-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2017. He was able to command only a one-year contract with the Bills as a free agent this year, and despite being guaranteed nearly $3.2 million, he was cut. Howard was reportedly visiting Cincinnati on Wednesday, but by the end of the day, there had been no signing.

Las Vegas tackle/guard Alex Leatherwood: Ouch! Selected 17th overall by the Raiders in 2021, he changed positions as a rookie and then was waived by the team’s new coaching staff Tuesday. Las Vegas failed to find a trade partner before cutting him and the Bears claimed him on waivers Wednesday. His salary is guaranteed for this season, but it’s only $1.3 million. Can Chicago get out of him what the Raiders couldn’t? The odds are low because there were a lot of raised eyebrows when he was drafted at that spot.

–By Howard Balzer, Field Level Media