Each year, big-name players are cut by their respective teams for a lack of production, large contracts or injuries. It’s a part of the NFL, which rewards unheralded players with roster spots and forces previously proven veterans to look for jobs with other teams if someone can get the job done cheaper and better. With training camps underway, all 32 teams will be taking hard looks at their rosters and making tough decisions with veterans and emerging young players. With that said, these 10 players with recognizable names are on the roster bubble and could be cut before the season kicks off.
Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets
The Jets completely remade their secondary in 2015, when they signed back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, among others. Both started for most of the season – aside from a few injuries – and though Revis was his typical self, Cromartie struggled. That opened the door for 2013 first-round pick Dee Milliner, but he was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. He’s played just 21 games since 2013 and hasn’t had an interception since his rookie year. The former No. 9 overall pick has been nothing short of a bust in the NFL, and it may be time for the Jets to move on. Revis and Buster Skrine are locked in as the top corners, with Marcus Williams No. 3. Milliner will have to stay healthy and play well in camp to make the team.
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Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys shored up the running back position this offseason by drafting Ezekiel Elliott and signing Alfred Morris. Elliott is the No. 1 back entering the season with Morris likely to be his backup. That leaves McFadden left to battle Lance Dunbar for the third-string role despite having completely different skill sets. McFadden, who’s still recovering from a freak elbow injury, may be on the outside looking in given his injury history and age (28). Morris is a more talented back who fits Dallas’ scheme much better and would give Dallas a great one-two punch with Dunbar being a third-down receiving back. McFadden is on a team-friendly deal that wouldn't result in much of a cap hit if he were released, and that could work against him in camp.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
The Giants have reworked Cruz’s lucrative contract into one that doesn’t hurt their cap as much as it once did. That may not be enough to keep Cruz on the roster, though. Cruz, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012, has played just six games in the past two seasons --including zero in 2015. His production has dropped significantly in each of the past three years, and he hasn’t been the same player he once was. Rookie Sterling Shepard is a similar player to Cruz and will see plenty of playing time in his first season. Dwayne Harris also emerged as more than just a return man, and Geremy Davis warrants playing time, too.
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Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns
Gilbert was drafted eighth overall by the Browns just two years ago, and like Milliner he’s struggled to remain on the field. He’s played just 23 games in two seasons, recording one interception and 39 tackles. With Joe Haden, Tramon Williams and Pierre Desir all performing better (and more reliably) than Gilbert to this point, Gilbert faces an uphill battle to crack the starting lineup. Furthermore, he could be cut before the season begins. Gilbert has reportedly done well this offseason, but he’ll have to prove he can cover even the Browns’ wideouts before facing better competition this season.
Getty ImagesJason Miller
Matt Elam, S, Baltimore Ravens
Elam was dealt a serious blow last season when he tore his biceps, forcing him to miss all of 2015. He entered the year with high expectations after a few disappointing seasons to start his career, and the injury has had a significant impact on his chances to make an impact in 2016. The 2013 first-round pick out of Florida will need a strong performance in training camp to find a place in Baltimore’s crowded secondary with Lardarius Webb moving to safety. Elam is better suited as a strong safety, which Webb will play with newcomer Eric Weddle handling the free spot.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints
Along with Jairus Byrd, Spiller has been a huge letdown for the Saints since signing a four-year, $16 million contract last offseason. He started just two games in 2015, rushing for 112 yards on 36 attempts. He’s nowhere close to being the 1,000-yard threat he was in Buffalo, though he does help in the passing game and returning kicks. At running back, Mark Ingram is the starter with Tim Hightower and Travaris Cadet behind him. That leaves Spiller battling Cadet for the third-string spot, which he very well could lose.
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Josh McCown, QB, Cleveland Browns
By all accounts, Robert Griffin III will be the starting quarterback for the Browns when the season begins. Griffin is still battling McCown for the job, but RG3 has the upper hand in Hue Jackson’s offense. As a result, McCown could be sitting on the bubble in a few weeks. The Browns spent a third-round pick on Cody Kessler and still have Austin Davis on the roster – and both are cheaper than McCown’s $5 million cap hit. If Griffin plays well and proves he can handle the starting job, there will be little reason to keep McCown around.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Davis has always been a fun player to watch in Kansas City, with his lightning-quick feet and explosiveness, but he’s far from safe. Jamaal Charles is returning from his knee injury, and the Chiefs have a strong stable of backs behind him. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware played extremely well in Charles’ absence last season and solidified their roster spots for 2016 in doing so. Davis, on the other hand, played in 14 games and averaged 2.6 yards per carry. His impact was absolutely non-existent last season, and there seems to be little reason to retain him given the emergence of West and Ware.
Getty ImagesThomas B. Shea
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Injuries provided Adams with an increased role on the Packers’ offense last season, and the 2014 second-round pick squandered the chance. He caught 50 passes for 483 yards and just one touchdown despite mutiple targets, proving he’s nothing more than a third- or fourth-string option. Now, the Packers are reloaded at receiver with Jordy Nelson back to go along with Randall Cobb, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery. And that doesn’t even include emerging rookie Trevor Davis out of Cal. Adams isn’t the likeliest candidate on this list to be cut, but he’s certainly one to watch.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans
The Titans are going to play an “exotic smashmouth” style of football this season under coach Mike Mularkey. That will come in the form of Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray, which leaves former second-round pick Bishop Sankey firmly on the roster bubble. He was expected to get more carries in 2015, but he rushed only 47 times for 193 yards in 13 games despite the Titans being thin at running back. Now he’ll need to outperform Antonio Andrews, David Cobb and Dexter McCluster to remain on the team, which will be no easy task.
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