NFL cutdown deadline preview

All NFL teams must get down to the 75-player limit by Tuesday, August 31 at 4 p.m. ET. That deadline typically does not bring many surprises.

However, the next deadline could yield raised eyebrows. On Saturday by 6 p.m. ET, all NFL teams must be down to the mandated 53-player limit. So, 704 players will lose their jobs over the next five days.

Let’s take a look at some name players who could be released or traded by the final player reduction:

Who could be cut

Matt Leinart, Cardinals QB – Despite throwing for a high completion percentage (82.6%) during the preseason, Leinart actually has not performed at an acceptable level. The southpaw has continued to check the ball down, an indication that he’s not seeing the field clearly.

Because of that and other factors, the coaching staff has decided to move veteran QB Derek Anderson ahead of Leinart on the depth chart. Anderson also started last week’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears. One thing to keep in mind is that the current coaching staff was not around when Leinart was drafted in 2006, so they have no allegiance to him. He’s scheduled to earn $2.845 million this season in base salary.

Willie Parker, Redskins RB – When the Redskins signed Parker in April to a one-year deal, the hope was that he would add some badly needed speed to the running back position. But Parker has been battling Ryan Torain for the third job on the depth chart, and some team insiders have suggested that Torain holds the advantage. Parker needs to impress the coaches during Thursday’s final preseason tilt against the Cardinals, or the veteran could be looking for a job this weekend.

Michael Clayton, Bucs WR – It came as a big surprise in league circles last year that the team decided to re-sign the former first-round pick out of the 2004 draft considering his career seemed to be on a downward slide. It became almost shocking that Tampa Bay re-signed him to a five-year, $24 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. Despite looking like he would be no better than Tampa Bay’s fifth receiver this season, he still may stick on the roster. That’s because, as two sources confirmed, all $3 million of his base salary for 2010 is guaranteed. As some have suggested, Tampa Bay should just accept that he can’t help them and move on.

Dennis Northcutt, Lions WR – The veteran has made his money in the NFL for many years as a productive slot receiver. But because of the addition of veteran WR Nate Burleson this year, who should see time in the slot, Northcutt’s role could be significantly reduced — if he makes the team. Northcutt is also competing for the punt return job against second-year WR Derrick Williams. If he can’t win that special teams role, he could be on the outside looking in this weekend.

Brandon Stokley, Broncos WR – For many years, the veteran was widely recognized as one of the better slot receivers in the NFL. But Stokley has dealt with a lingering groin injury which has caused him to miss the last two preseason games and practice time in training camp. The decision to move third-year WR Eddie Royal primarily to the slot could play into the coaching staff’s choice to keep Stokley around. But if he winds up getting cut, he certainly could find a job elsewhere rather easily. Personnel sources said he still moves around enough and works well in confined areas just like he did years ago with the Indianapolis Colts.

Clint Ingram, Saints LB – When the team signed the veteran linebacker to a one-year deal back in May, the belief was that he would take over on the strong side for veteran Scott Fujita, who signed with the Cleveland Browns. The reason that Ingram merely signed a one-year deal could be attributed to his knee surgery earlier this year. He has remained on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list since the beginning of training camp. There is no timetable for his return, but the team has to decide on his future by Saturday’s roster deadline — either moving him to the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, to the active roster or releasing him. The coaches moved veteran LB Scott Shanle from WLB to SLB weeks ago, so they’re prepared in case Ingram can’t play this season.

Darren Sharper, Saints S – When looking at the turnaround of the New Orleans defense last season, you would be hard-pressed to find a player who meant more to that side of the ball than Sharper. His leadership and nine interceptions went a long way during their Super Bowl run. While Sharper re-signed for one season at $1.575 million, he had microfracture knee surgery earlier this year, leaving his future a bit cloudy. Sharper could not practice in training camp and remains on the Active/PUP list. By Saturday, the team must move him to the Reserve/PUP list, add him to the active roster or release him — potential moves head coach Sean Payton discussed with reporters earlier this week. The team does have an option to replace him in second-year DB Malcolm Jenkins, who was selected in the first round last year, but as a cornerback.

Who could be traded

Sage Rosenfels, Vikings QB – The coaching staff decided to move fifth-year QB Tarvaris Jackson over Rosenfels to begin the offseason practices. That decision raised eyebrows based on Jackson’s inconsistency over the first four years of his career. Rosenfels really did little to earn the demotion, and because he’s well respected around the league, he could easily handle a No. 2 job for another team or a spot-starting role if needed. The only issue in trading him is if his $2.6 million base salary for 2010 could be deemed a bit exorbitant. However, if a team wants to solve their backup QB problem, he’s probably worth the investment. And, as a scouting source said, Rosenfels has experience in just about any offensive system.

Gosder Cherilus, Lions OT – He’s appeared in 31 games and has started 28 of them since being selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. It was believed that Cherilus would be the cornerstone of the right side of the offensive line for many years to come. But personnel sources said Cherilus has been no better than average in his first two years of play. He’s been challenged by veteran OT Jon Jansen, who, at 34, has shown that he still has something left in his tank. Cherilus still has the advantage, but the current coaching staff wasn’t involved in his draft selection, so his long-term outlook is a bit fluid.

Jake Grove, Dolphins C – Underrated OL Joe Berger looks to have the advantage over Grove for the starting center job. When Grove signed a five-year, $29.5 million deal with Miami in March of 2009, the belief was that he would help solidify the interior of their offensive line. Unfortunately, he dealt with injuries and inconsistency last season. Because of that, the door was opened for Berger, who signed a modest three-year, $2.775 million deal — also with Miami in March of last year. Grove is slated to earn $2.66 million in base salary this season, a number which could be palatable for teams who are looking for competition at the center position.

Jason Spitz, Packers G-C – The talented interior lineman is slated to be a backup for the team this season after not being able to win the center or left guard jobs during training camp. It appears the coaching staff has targeted Spitz to be their top swing lineman on the interior this season. But Spitz, 26, is well respected in scouting circles, so he could yield some interest from teams over the coming days who think he’s capable of starting. The indication from league sources is that Green Bay does not want to trade Spitz, but he’s on a one-year deal. It will be interesting to see what Green Bay winds up doing with the fifth-year player.

Alphonso Smith, Broncos CB – The second-round pick out of the 2009 draft has fallen down so far down the cornerback depth that he’s now not a certainty to make the 53-man roster. In fact, fifth-round pick Perrish Cox, who the team is very high on, is listed ahead of Smith. But what could keep Smith on the roster is the fact that Denver traded its first-round pick in the 2010 draft in order to be able to select him. Smith’s base salaries are pretty low (2010 – $395,000, 2011 – $480,000, 2012 – $565,000), so trading him shouldn’t be prohibitive. And Smith is actually a player that was very well liked by scouting sources prior to last year’s draft.