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Saturday Preseason Blog: Looking Back at Cutdown Day

Saturday was the most dreaded day of the summer for many players, as well as an intriguing one for fantasy aficionados everywhere. The initial versions of teams' 53-man rosters were set, leading, as customary, to some surprise cuts and a reshuffling of depth charts. Additionally, there was major news on the quarterback injury front Saturday, with those developments bringing some long-awaited positive news. Without further ado, let's dive in to the multitude of relevant happenings around the NFL on a busy day:

AFC News and Transactions

Baltimore Ravens

  • The most notable news coming out of Ravens headquarters involved the trio of offensive players that returned to practice Saturday: Joe Flacco, Danny Woodhead and Breshad Perriman. Flacco's presence is naturally the most relevant of those three, although each player certainly has a varying level of importance to the Ravens' offensive plans in 2017. All three are currently expected to be ready for Week 1.
  • Second-year receiver Chris Moore was able to survive final cuts, but he isn't expected to serve as more than a fifth receiver to open the season.

Buffalo Bills

  • The Bills kept both Taiwan Jones and Joe Banyard as reserve running backs for the time being, along with three quarterbacks– Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman and T.J. Yates.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • The Bengals chose veteran Randy Bullock over fifth-round rookie Jake Elliott for their starting placekicker job. Bullock has bounced around over the last two seasons, making 27 of 32 field-goal attempts in stints with the Texans, Jets, Bengals, Giants and Steelers. He went 56-for-70 over his first two pro seasons with Houston.
  • Cincinnati opted to keep seven receivers for the time being, with 2017 first-rounder John Ross (knee), fourth-round pick Josh Malone, Cody Core and Alex Erickson rounding out the latter portion of the depth chart at the position.

Cleveland Browns

  • The biggest news of the day in Cleveland came by way of trade, as promising Sammie Coates was obtained from the Steelers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2018. Coates made some noise early last season with a whopping six catches of over 40 yards, and he finished his second pro campaign with 21 receptions (on 49 targets) for 435 yards and two touchdowns and another 14 yards on four rushes. He also showed some upside as a kick returner, compiling 150 yards in that capacity. Coates is expected to serve as a valuable downfield threat for rookie QB DeShone Kizer, although his top two targets, Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman, are expected to see a heavy workload.
  • The Browns kept three quarterbacks on the roster for the time being, with Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan slotting in behind Kizer at present.

Denver Broncos

  • Saturday in the Mile High city was marked by both a notable departure and arrival. The Broncos released veteran safety T.J. Ward, who'd racked up 222 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions over the last three seasons in a Denver uniform. Ward is just 30 years of age, so he's certain to draw interest from around the league.
  • Meanwhile, in the wake of the news that Paxton Lynch will miss at least the first few weeks of the season with a shoulder injury, Brock Osweiler returned to the team that drafted him back in 2012. Trevor Siemian remains the clear-cut starter for the time being, and it remains to be seen if Osweiler's tenure with the Broncos would extend beyond Lynch's recovery period.

Houston Texans

  • The Texans handed veteran quarterback Brandon Weeden his walking papers, meaning they'll enter the season with Tom Savage as the starter and promising first-round pick Deshaun Watson as his primary backup. There's likely a certain amount of risk associated with that decision, but both players showed enough in the preseason to apparently convince Houston brass that the quarterback position is in good hands.
  • Incumbent kicker Nick Novak lost out on his preseason battle to Ka'imi Fairbirn, who made over 80 percent of his field-goal attempts at USC in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Given that the Texans attempted the second-most field goals in the NFL in 2016, Fairbirn is an intriguing fantasy prospect at a minimum heading into the regular season.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Andrew Luck officially came off the PUP list Saturday, a clear indicator that he would be expected to be healthy enough to play within the season's first six weeks. His Week 1 availability looks increasingly in doubt, however, with Saturday's acquisition of quarterback Jacoby Brissett from the Colts in exchange for Philip Dorsett serving as yet another indicator of his likely absence. The addition of Brissett brings the number of quarterbacks on the roster to four, as Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris remain alongside Luck. A Week 1 starter should be announced very early in the week at the latest.
  • Dorsett's departure means that Chester Rogers and Kamar Aiken are the top two options at wideout behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Meanwhile, the team has announced that Quan Bray has won both returner jobs and will also serve as a fifth receiver.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • There were no notable releases in Jacksonville, but third-year receiver Rashad Greene was placed on injured reserve. That played a small part in dynamic 2017 fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook apparently securing the fourth receiver job to open the season. The Oklahoma product wowed during the preseason with a pair of 100-yard games after hauling in 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns during his final college season in 2016.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • The Chiefs announced veteran linebacker Tamba Hali will begin the season on the PUP list after failing to practice or play all summer due to troublesome knees.
  • Spencer Ware was officially placed on season-ending injured reserve, a move fully expected after he suffered a devastating knee injury in preseason. However, they also released veteran C.J. Spiller on Saturday, meaning that rookie Kareem Hunt and Charcandrick West are slated for plenty of work as the only two running back options at present.
  • Cairo Santos, who's made over 80 percent of his field-goal attempts in his first three pro seasons, has won the job after returning from a groin injury in the exhibition finale. Sam Ficken had been serving as camp competition until his release Saturday.

Los Angeles Chargers

  • The Chargers were plenty busy on Saturday, making three notable cuts. Veteran safety Dwight Lowery, who played a team-high 961 defensive snaps last season, was one of those. He lost out on the starting free safety job to Tre Boston, who was an offseason signing following his release from the Panthers. Lowery showed he had plenty left in the tank last season while compiling 60 tackles, defending nine passes, and notching a pick-six, so there should be plenty of interest in him around the league.
  • Josh Lambo put up identical 26-for-32 tallies in his two seasons with the Chargers, but he had trouble with kicks of 50 yards and longer. Younghoe Koo, who was a stellar 19-for-20 at Georgia Southern and won the Lou Groza award as the nation's best kicker in 2016, was the victor in their summer-long competition. Considering the high-powered nature of the Chargers offense, he could see plenty of opportunities to put up points this season.
  • Veteran quarterback Kellen Clemens also received a pink slip, meaning that former Bills fourth-round pick Cardale Jones is now the primary backup to Philip Rivers. However, Clemens may return to the roster in the near future, according to reports.
  • Rookie receiver Mike Williams was activated from the preseason PUP list, although he reportedly remains at least a week away from practicing. Despite his first-round pedigree, Williams will have to carve out a niche on a Chargers wideout depth chart that includes the talented trio of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin as its top three options.

Miami Dolphins

  • There were no notable releases among the Dolphins' cuts, with the team's depth chart pretty much set heading into the regular season.

New England Patriots

  • Julian Edelman officially went on injured reserve Saturday, which was certainly expected. What was a bit more surprising was the acquisition of promising-but-underwhelming (thus far) Philip Dorsett from the Colts in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The move made sense for both clubs, and gives the Patriots an extended look at a 2015 first-round pick who totaled 51 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns in his first two pro seasons. Dorsett may be able to offer something as a returner as well given his speed, and he can certainly serve as a downfield threat on offense.

New York Jets

  • The Jets didn't really make any waves with their cuts, though they officially anointed Chandler Catanzaro the winner of the preseason kicking contest with Ross Martin. Although Martin reportedly outperformed Catanzaro, there were apparently concerns with his leg strength. After an impressive first two seasons in Arizona , Catanzaro slumped to a 21-for-28 performance on field goals last season and was released. It remains to be seen how many point-scoring opportunities he'll have on an offensively-challenged Jets squad.

Oakland Raiders

  • There were no releases of true fantasy relevance among the Raiders' transactions, with the team's depth chart set heading into the regular season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • The Steelers made a majority of their news over the previous couple of days, obtaining cornerback Joe Haden, trading for tight end Vance McDonald, seeing Le'Veon Bell report for duty after his extended absence and announcing that Martavis Bryant had received his official clearance for regular-season play from the league office. The aforementioned trade of Coates to the division-rival Browns was the most significant development coming out of an otherwise quiet cutdown day, and his departure ensures that promising rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and veteran Justin Hunter are in line to potentially play important backup roles in the coming season.
  • Cobi Hamilton, who notched 17 receptions and two touchdowns in the regular season and had a touchdown in the AFC championship game against the Patriots, was among those released.

Tennessee Titans

  • The Titans placed receiver Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve after he aggravated a stress fracture in his foot in the exhibition finale. After an explosive senior season at UMass in 2015, Sharpe wowed in preseason last year before turning a relatively modest 41 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns on 83 total targets in his rookie campaign. Journeyman Harry Douglas appears to have been the biggest beneficiary, as the injury seems to have been the pivotal factor in him securing a roster spot for the time being.
  • Reserve quarterback Alex Tanney was also placed on IR, while veteran return man Eric Weems was given a pink slip.

NFC News and Transactions

Arizona Cardinals

  • The one move of modest note for a Cardinals team whose depth chart is considerably stable was the placing of receiver Aaron Dobson on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. The former Patriots second-round pick was trying to latch on with the Cardinals after three disappointing campaigns in New England, but injury derailed those plans.

Atlanta Falcons

  • The defending NFC champs unsurprisingly boast a stable depth chart, and as such, there were no notable releases on their end Saturday.

Carolina Panthers

  • Brenton Bersin, a fourth-year reserve receiver, hit IR with a shoulder injury Saturday. The development doesn't really shake up the Panthers' wideout depth chart much, as he was likely in line to be no more than the sixth wideout.
  • The team has opted to keep two kickers, incumbent Graham Gano and rookie Harrison Butker, for the time being, although that will naturally change before Week 1. The Panthers are reportedly trying to trade one of them and it could well be Gano, who carries a higher salary and hit just 78.9 percent of his 38 field-goal attempts last season, his first campaign under 80 percent in five seasons in Carolina.

Chicago Bears

  • The rocky start to kicker Roberto Aguayo's NFL career continued Saturday, as the former Bucs second-round pick got the ax in Chicago after a brief preseason cup of coffee. As expected, Connor Barth will enter the regular season as the Bears' placekicker.
  • Cameron Meredith, who suffered a devastating knee injury this preseason, was officially placed on injured reserve Saturday, while one of the players that the Bears hoped could help fill the void in his absence, Victor Cruz, received his walking papers. Cruz doesn't currently resemble the player that put up back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns with the Giants in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and after mostly falling flat this preseason, he may struggle to find a new home.
  • Ka'Deem Carey, who's been a serviceable reserve running back option in his first three seasons, was placed on IR following wrist surgery. Rookie Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Jeremy Langford will serve as starter Jordan Howard's backups entering the season.

Dallas Cowboys

  • Not exactly known as a team that's risk-averse, the Cowboys rolled the dice again Saturday by releasing Kellen Moore and Luke McCown in favor of undrafted rookie Cooper Rush to serve as Dak Prescott's primary backup, at least for the moment. Rush wowed in preseason by completing 38 of 51 passes for 398 yards with an NFL-best six touchdowns. Moore could be brought back in the coming days, however, as the team is expected to open up a roster spot by placing tight end Rico Gathers (concussion) on injured reserve.

Detroit Lions

  • The Lions' most notable moves Saturday involved some offensive reserves they opted to hold on to. Former Packer Jared Abbrederis made the team as the fifth receiver, as did T.J. Jones, who'll slot in behind promising rookie Kenny Golladay as the fourth wideout.
  • Undrafted rookie running back Tion Green also snagged a spot, with his 150 yards of total offense in the exhibition finale undoubtedly helping his cause. However, Green opens the season no better than the fifth option on a crowded running back depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

  • The Packers currently have just Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis behind the starting receiver trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams after somewhat surprisingly cutting 2017 draft picks DeAngelo Yancey (fifth round) and Malachi Dupre (seventh round), along with former practice squadder Max McCaffrey, who had an impressive preseason.
  • Brett Hundley is the only other quarterback outside of Aaron Rodgers on the roster after both Taysom Hill and Joe Callahan were released.

Los Angeles Rams

  • The biggest development coming out of Rams headquarters Saturday may have been the continued absence of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald just two days prior to the beginning of the official practice week in advance of the season opener. The Rams continue holding out hope that Donald, who's tallied 28 sacks over his first three seasons, will report on Monday.
  • With projected third tight end Temarrick Hemingway going on injured reserve Saturday as a result of the fractured fibula he suffered in the third preseason game, the Rams made a move to acquire Derek Carrier from the Redskins. Carrier played under Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay in Washington the last two seasons and has 28 career catches. He'll serve as a depth option and on special teams, with the position firmly in the hands of Tyler Higbee and first-round pick Gerald Everett.
  • Lance Dunbar, an offseason acquisition from the Cowboys that was projected to serve as a valuable change-of-pace option out of the backfield, will start the season on the PUP list due to the knee injury that's prevented him from participating in training camp and preseason games this summer. He'll be eligible for activation in Week 7.

Minnesota Vikings

  • One of the Vikings' two moves of note was essentially a formality: Teddy Bridgewater was moved to the Reserve/PUP list on Saturday, which implies that he could conceivably return any time after Week 7 of this coming season. That, however, remains very much in the air, given the considerable damage Bridgewater sustained to his knee in last year's training camp.
  • Kai Forbath was declared the winner of the placekicking competition after a tough battle with Marshall Koehn this summer. Forbath was a perfect 15-for-15 last season after joining the team in Week 11.

New Orleans Saints

  • The Saints will go two-deep at quarterback with Drew Brees and Chase Daniel, releasing both Garrett Grayson and Ryan Nassib.
  • Undrafted rookie running back Trey Edmunds made the roster and is expected to play primarily on special teams.

New York Giants

  • Geno Smith has officially won the No. 2 quarterback job behind Eli Manning following the release of Josh Johnson on Saturday. Smith is looking to resurrect a career that seems to be in neutral following four largely difficult seasons with the Jets. The former first-round pick doesn't figure to see much playing time, however, as Manning has never missed a regular-season game.
  • Aldrick Rosas parlayed his 8-for-8 tally on field-goal attempts in preseason into the placekicking job. Veteran Mike Nugent was released as a result. Rosas is a first-time NFL kicker, so his progress under the bright lights of the Big Apple will interesting to monitor.
  • Despite catching 90 passes the last two seasons, Will Tye was released Saturday as well. Matt LaCosse beat him out for what is expected to be the fourth tight end spot.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • The Eagles are keeping five running backs for the time being, with fourth-rounder Donnel Pumphrey, the FBS career rushing yards leader (6,405) and undrafted rookie Corey Clement joining LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles on the initial 53-man roster.
  • There are two new receivers on the 53-man as well, as Marcus Johnson, who notched five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason and 2017 fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson both survived final cuts. Nelson Agholor is now the only wideout from last year's original 53-man roster still with the club.

Seattle Seahawks

  • Quarterback Trevone Boykin, a promising second-year prospect who threw 18 regular-season passes last season, was released, leaving Austin Davis as the backup to Russell Wilson for the moment. Boykin threw four interceptions in the preseason, including two in the finale, a game in which Davis fired a game-winning touchdown.
  • Alex Collins, who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and added 11 receptions for 84 yards in 2016, was also among Saturday's cuts.

San Francisco 49ers

  • The Niners said goodbye to a couple of veteran receiver hopefuls Saturday, as both Jeremy Kerley and Louis Murphy received their walking papers. Kerley tallied 64 receptions for 667 yards and three touchdowns for a bad Niners squad last season, but with improving personnel around him and his own lackluster preseason, he couldn't quite make the cut. Both Aldrick Robinson and rookie Trent Taylor figure to benefit from Kerley's release. Meanwhile, Murphy was trying to make a comeback after not playing in the NFL in 2016.
  • In a move that was expected, Matt Barkley was released, having lost the backup quarterback battle to impressive rookie C.J. Beathard.
  • Fleet-footed Matt Breida, he of the 37 career college touchdowns, will apparently enter the season as Carlos Hyde's top backup at tailback, as both veteran Tim Hightower and former Bronco Kapri Bibbs received pink slips, while rookie fourth-rounder Joe Williams was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Hightower's release was particularly noteworthy, but in line with new head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's apparent focus on getting the team younger in a hurry.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Due to the increased visibility brought upon my his prominent role on HBO's Hard Knocks, the release of fifth-rounder Jeremy McNichols on Saturday made a bit more noise than the cutting of a player of that draft slot normally would. McNichols was also thought to be worthy of a much higher draft grade after posting prolific rushing and receiving numbers at Boise State, but post-Combine shoulder surgery raised concerns and led to his drop. McNichols had trouble with grasping the playbook, and his release leaves the Bucs with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber as the three running backs on the active roster heading into the Week 1 practice week. Doug Martin's return from suspension in Week 4 will naturally shore up the ranks, and it remains to be seen if McNichols is brought back in a practice-squad capacity.
  • Bernard Reedy was steady as both a receiver and punt returner throughout the preseason, so the fact that he won those jobs over the likes of Freddie Martino, Donteea Dye and Josh Huff wasn't too surprising. Huff was thought of highly by the team after being brought in late last season following off-the-field issues while with the Eagles, even inking a two-year contract extension in December. All three players could potentially be candidates for the practice squad.
  • The Bucs also opted to keep five tight ends, a move that seems unusual on the surface but is a bit more understandable considering they'll once again head into the season without a traditional fullback. In addition to the position's top two – first-round pick O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate – veteran blocking specialist Luke Stocker, Alan Cross and undrafted rookie Antony Auclair are all on the initial version of the 53-man.

Washington Redskins

  • The biggest news among Washington's cuts, even though it was a largely expected development, was the jettisoning of 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones. A starter entering last season, Jones never could quite solve his fumbling woes. Jones' body of work over two Redskins seasons consisted of 960 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, along with 27 receptions for another 377 yards and one receiving score. As of early Sunday, he'd already found a new home with the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Jones' release allowed Mack Brown to retain a spot as the fourth running back behind the trio of Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine.
  • Brian Quick, who posted career-best numbers of 41 receptions and 564 yards with the Rams last season, won a roster spot as the fifth receiver. However, the bulk of the heavy lifting in the passing game is expected to be done by the top trio of Terrelle Pryor, Sr., Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson.
  • Quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a 2016 sixth-round pick from Indiana who was thought to have some long-term potential, was released. Colt McCoy will once again serve as Kirk Cousins' backup to start the 2017 campaign.