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10 NFL roster spots in jeopardy following 2021 NFL Draft

Vincent Frank

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The NFL Draft always has an impact on veteran players attempting to keep their roster spots. This year’s iteration of the annual event was no different.

The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears selected quarterbacks they envision to lead their franchises moving forward. The Dallas Cowboys surprisingly added two linebackers to the mix. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons’ decision to go tight end at four could have wide-ranging ramifications.

Below, we look at 10 NFL players who could see their roster spots be in jeopardy due to what we saw happen during the annual event in Cleveland recently.

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Gardner Minshew, quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL trades: Gardner Minshew
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It was a foregone conclusion for months that Jacksonville was going to select Clemson product Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Once that came to fruition in ho-hum fashion, the future of this former sixth-round pick and Jaguars starter became an open question. Lawrence is slated to start Week 1. Jacksonville added veteran C.J. Beathard as a backup.

All the while, Gardner Minshew could provide some value on the trade block. He’s played well in two seasons (37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 20 starts). The former Washington State standout is also due a combined base salary of $1.825 million over the next two seasons — making him a valuable option for other quarterback-needy teams. Depending on what happens with the Jimmy Garoppolo situation in San Francisco, he could make sense for the 49ers in a trade.

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Hayden Hurst, tight end, Atlanta Falcons

NFL players: Hayden Hurts, Atlanta Falcons
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Atlanta’s decision to decline the 2022 option on Hurst’s contract can’t be considered too much of a surprise despite the fact that he put up 56 catches in his first season with the Falcons. The former Baltimore Ravens first-round pick will now hit the open market next March and should be in line for a huge payday.

Obviously, the selection of a generational tight end product in Kyle Pitts at No. 4 in last week’s NFL Draft also plays a role here. The Falcons are not going to be running a bunch of two tight end sets with Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones (maybe) on the outside and Russell Gage slated to man the slot. Trading a talented Hurst for a mid-round pick could make sense.

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Jaylon Smith, linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

NFL trades: Jaylen Smith, Cowboys
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Not only did Dallas select former Penn State All-American linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round of the NFL Draft, it doubled down at linebacker with the ultra impressive Jabril Cox in Round 4. Cox starred at LSU this past season after making a name for himself with North Dakota State. He’s a sideline-to-sideline backer with tremendous athleticism and ball skills — something the Cowboys viewed that they had in Smith.

A Pro Bowler back in 2019, the 25-year-old Smith struggled big time this past season. His issues were primarily tackling and in coverage. After signing safety convert Keanu Neal in free agency and with the expectation of playing him at linebacker, there’s really no room on Dallas’ roster for Smith. Set to count $9.8 million against the cap in 2021, the Cowboys would save $7.2 million if they were to trade Smith following June 1.

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Jarrett Stidham, quarterback, New England Patriots

New England Patriots: Jarrett Stidham
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With Cam Newton and rookie first-round pick Mac Jones likely battling it out for the starting job during training camp this summer, it’s an open question whether Stidham will return to the Patriots as their No. 3. quarterback. A fourth-round pick from Auburn back in 2019, some within the Patriots’ organization viewed Stidham as a potential heir-apparent to Tom Brady. That never came to fruition with him falling out of favor in New England.

Now that Jones is aboard as the future face of this organization, it would not be a surprise if New England looked to pick up a late-round selection for Stidham.

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Greedy Williams, cornerback, Cleveland Browns

NFL player trades: Greedy Williams, Cleveland Browns
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Already boasting elite cover guys in Denzel Ward and the recently-signed Troy Hill, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that Cleveland added former Northwestern star Greg Newsome in the first round of last week’s NFL Draft. It also means that this former second-round pick from LSU could be on the chopping block.

Williams struggled with consistency under a horrible head coach in Freddie Kitchens as a rookie back in 2019 before missing his entire sophomore season to a shoulder injury. Not only might Williams miss out on a starting job in 2021, he could very well be battling for a roster spot with the likes of M.J. Stewart and Brian Allen. A substandard performance during training camp could lead to a trade.

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Jamison Crowder, wide receiver, New York Jets

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One of my favorite receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft, former Mississippi star Elijah Moore fell to these Jets early in the second round. Moore jumped out big time on tape and during a stellar Senior Bowl week in Alabama. A true gamebreaker, the 5-foot-9 Moore is a perfect fit in new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system out of the slot.

If the Jets want to find an immediate pairing with Moore and rookie No. 2 pick Zach Wilson, they could very well look to move off the highly-productive Crowder as the NFL offseason continues. The still-young 27-year-old Crowder has recorded a combined 137 receptions for 1,532 yards in his first two seasons with the Jets. He’s also slated to count $11.35 million against the cap in 2021. Should the veteran restructure his deal, a trade could be in the cards here soon.

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Nick Foles, quarterback, Chicago Bears

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles trade
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We have to give embattled head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace credit in pulling off the blockbuster trade for quarterback Justin Fields during the 2021 NFL Draft. Some had Fields as high as the third-best quarterback in the draft. Being able to land him at 11 could be the real steal of the annual event.

Even then, it creates some major questions at quarterback. Chicago has noted that the recently-signed Andy Dalton will be its starter next season. Fields will likely back him up initially. Where does that leave former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles? Firmly on the NFL trade block. Set to count just $6.67 million against the cap in 2021, Foles could make sense for a team like the San Francisco 49ers who could be looking for a veteran stopgap depending on the Jimmy Garoppolo situation.

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Marcus Davenport, defensive end, New Orleans Saints

NFL trades: Marcus Davenport
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Rumors persisted leading up to last week’s draft that the Saints were looking to move a starter in order to acquire a higher pick. That did not come to fruition. Instead, New Orleans seemingly reached for former Houston standout edge rusher Payton Turner at 28. This leads us to believe that general manager Mickey Loomis could move of Davenport after he paid a bounty to trade up for the edge rusher during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Let us explain. New Orleans is not in the greatest of cap situations. It has cornerback Marshon Lattimore and All-Pro offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk set to hit free agency next March. As for Davenport, he recorded less than two sacks a season ago and has yet to pan out. The former first-round pick is also slated to count $9.55 million against the cap in 2022 after New Orleans picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. It could lead to a shocking trade.

Read More: What the Atlanta Falcons’ decision on Calvin Ridley means for Julio Jones trade

Julio Jones, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons

NFL trades: Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders
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Any trade involving Julio Jones won’t happen until after June 1 due to NFL salary cap restrictions. This has not stopped rumors from picking up steam regarding a trade of the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. Following Atlanta’s selection of Kyle Pitts at No. 4 in the 2021 NFL Draft and decision to pick up Calvin Ridley’s huge option for the 2022 season, there’s a good chance Jones will be moved.

Let’s look at this realistically. Ridley, Jones and incumbent starting quarterback Matt Ryan will take up a combined 35% of the Falcons’ salary a cap in 2022. For his part, Jones seems to be the odd-man out as Atlanta transitions to a new era with Pitts and Ridley leading the charge. Still as productive as they come when heathy, the future Hall of Fame receiver would also net Atlanta a nice return in a trade.

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Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo NFL trade
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San Francisco’s decision to select a quarterback No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft isn’t a surprise. In fact, that was a foregone conclusion after they yielded two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-rounder to move up from the 12th selection. It’s who the 49ers selected and his perceived readiness that could change the dynamics here.

Despite having not thrown a pass in live-game action since 2019, Trey Lance looks every bit the part of a pro-ready quarterback. The former North Dakota standout could also be that multi-dimensional generational quarterback the 49ers have been looking for. Despite not having much of a trade market for Jimmy Garoppolo, it would not be a surprise if the 49ers moved off him during training camp or the preseason should another starter go down. They could also release him outright. Lance is ready to take over.