NFL teams make incredibly challenging decisions every day, but there are few times that coaches and front-office personnel hate more than the day that NFL roster cuts are due. Building a roster isn’t simply keeping the best 53 players. Building a roster means understanding where a team wants to go light or heavy at a given position.
More talented rosters have more difficult decisions to make. And while many fans will be incredulous when their favorite underdog is cut from the roster because “there is no way they make it through waivers,” they probably will. They almost always do.
Who will be the most surprising roster casualty on every NFL team? It’s impossible to know, but we can throw up shots like J.R. Smith and see what goes in.
Breaking Down 32 Potential Shocking NFL Roster Cuts
Kris Boyd, CB
Kris Boyd has played a decent amount of football in the NFL over his four-year career. Although he’s likely talented enough to make the Arizona Cardinals roster, the team will likely go heavy on the defensive line and at linebacker, which in turn means the defensive backfield will be thin.
Breon Borders, CB
This decision could be the last one made on the entire list. The league suspended Breon Borders for two games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
That means Atlanta can put him on the suspended list and not make a decision until those two weeks are up. But if Atlanta gets some coverage players back healthy, Borders could be the odd man out, even though he’s played well in camp.
Melvin Gordon III, RB
Cutting Melvin Gordon III is only surprising in name only. J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill are all set on the depth chart. Keaton Mitchell has been too impressive with the ball in his hands not to make the 53-man roster. Gordon will act as insurance for a positional group that has not stayed healthy in recent years.
Andy Isabella, WR
Teams do not like cutting their own draft picks. Although Andy Isabella has been a fan favorite in the preseason, rookie Justin Shorter has the edge on him in the room. But it is Deonte Harty who makes Isabella expendable because Harty will not let go of the returner role on special teams.
Shi Smith, WR
Shi Smith played nearly 500 snaps on offense a season ago for Carolina. However, with a new regime in the front office and a lot of new faces in the room, Smith could be the odd man out, depending on how Carolina structures their positional distribution.
Trevis Gipson, EDGE
Trevis Gipson has 10 sacks over the past two seasons with the Chicago Bears, but the team has allowed him to seek a trade, and if that does not happen, he likely won’t make the roster.
La’el Collins, OT
Cutting offensive line depth is rarely a good decision. However, La’el Collins struggled in his first season in Cincinnati, he won’t be starting even when healthy, and moving on would create a good amount of cap space to roll over to 2024.
Anthony Schwartz, WR
Although Schwartz is the only true downfield speed threat in Cleveland, his consistent inconsistency has been somewhat of a headache for fans since his arrival. And although Marquise Goodwin’s future is unknown, if he looks like he can return in 2023, Schwartz has almost no chance to make the roster.
Kelvin Joseph, CB
Dallas Cowboys fans likely won’t be surprised if this happens, but it’s not often we see a second-round pick not make it through their rookie contract with the team. However, the Cowboys should go heavy at safety, considering they use three on the field so often, and Jourdan Lewis will eventually return to the field.
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE
The Denver Broncos will use two TEs on the field often in 2023 after a rash of WR injuries hamstrung (no pun intended) their talent at the position. However, Greg Dulcich, Adam Trautman, and Chris Manhertz are all ahead of Albert Okwuegbunam on the depth chart, and Nate Adkins brings a special teams element that Albert O can’t match.
Craig Reynolds, RB
The fourth-year RB will likely land on the practice squad in Detroit, but with an improved RB room after the additions of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds will probably be on the outside looking in at a position group that could be relatively light for Detroit.
Green Bay Packers
Yosh Nijman, OT
Although having depth on the bookends is never unnecessary, the Green Bay Packers could save a lot of money by moving on from Yosh Nijman. Rasheed Walker has surpassed him as the third tackle option.
Brevin Jordan, TE
Brevin Jordan has battled through injuries throughout camp and has not had many opportunities to make his case with a brand-new coaching staff in the building.
Mike Strachan, WR
The numbers game could be the culprit here for Mike Strachan. If the Indianapolis Colts keep six WRs, he will almost certainly make the team, but if they go light at the position, the 6’5″ Strachan could be the odd man out.
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE
After not picking up the disappointing first-round pick’s fifth-year option, the Jacksonville Jaguars may decide to move on from K’Lavon Chaisson and let him chase greener pastures in a new situation. Jordan Smith and Yasir Abdullah have been a more impressive duo in camp.
Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
He’s sitting third on the RB depth chart, and Deneric Prince has impressed on special teams in the preseason. If Kansas City only carries three RBs, their former first-round pick could be looking for a new home.
Las Vegas Raiders
Amik Robertson, CB
Amik Robertson played a ton of football for the Raiders in 2022, but he could be looking for a new home when roster cuts come across the desk. Jakorian Bennett has looked good as a rookie, and there are a host of veterans in the defensive backfield that the coaching staff seems to favor.
Los Angeles Chargers
Dustin Hopkins, K
Although it’s not necessarily surprising considering how well Cameron Dicker has kicked the football in L.A., it’s not often teams have this “problem.” Dustin Hopkins’ agent will be beating teams off with a stick the minute the veteran kicker becomes a free agent.
Los Angeles Rams
Logan Bruss, OL
The Los Angeles Rams are throwing darts at the wall to see what sticks. Logan Bruss is a guard that they’re using at tackle after moving Joe Noteboom back to the interior. Keeping Bruss around would probably be for the best, but on a roster this young and unproven, it’s not easy to find a legitimately surprising cut candidate.
Robbie Chosen, WR
There is a lot of talent and depth at WR for the Miami Dolphins. Robbie Chosen probably isn’t best-suited for a depth role, and given Cedrick Wilson’s contract and Erik Ezukanma’s talent, finding a spot for Chosen is difficult.
Jalen Reagor, WR
The Minnesota Vikings could look to go heavy at running back in 2023. They have some interesting talent at the position, and if they only keep five receivers, Jalen Reagor could be the one left out.
New England Patriots
Lawrence Guy, DL
Lawrence Guy is 33 and decided not to attend the New England Patriots mandatory minicamp in June. Bill Belichick is no stranger to making surprise cuts, but this one would be less shocking than many in his past.
New Orleans Saints
Jimmy Graham, TE
Jimmy Graham has looked surprisingly spry during this latest stint with the New Orleans Saints, but his medical episode could complicate things for the coaching staff. Not playing special teams could also be problematic for a depth piece at the position.
New York Giants
Jamison Crowder, WR
There are practically 1,000 receivers on the New York Giants roster, so someone who is still good enough to make a roster elsewhere will be squeezed out. Jamison Crowder is one of them in this scenario.
New York Jets
Adrian Amos, S
Zonovan Knight is another name that could be on the proverbial chopping block. However, many probably assumed Adrian Amos would start alongside Jordan Whitehead after Chuck Clark’s injury. But Tony Adams stole the job, and Amos’ play has declined.
Eli Ricks, CB
Eli Ricks has looked good in the preseason. The Alabama cornerback was undrafted, but that had more to do with his injury history and poor combine testing than his tape. Despite a strong showing, those covering the team haven’t been adding him to the team’s 53-man projections.
Mason Rudolph, QB
Mason Rudolph likely ends up on the practice squad. The team has an established pecking order at QB, and Rudolph doesn’t fit into the 53-man unless they decide to travel light at other positions.
San Francisco 49ers
Javon Kinlaw, DT
Is it likely? No. But Javon Kinlaw has struggled at the NFL level ever since his first-round selection in 2020. But even through his struggles, the lack of a clear usurper on the roster probably keeps him on the team.
Jerrick Reed II, CB
Jerrick Reed II would be a surprising cut because he is only a rookie, but given how the Seattle Seahawks defense will operate, they will almost certainly carry five safeties on the roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Zyon McCollum, CB
Zyon McCollum has struggled so far in the preseason, and the 2022 fifth-round pick could be on the chopping block. He was a high-upside athletic selection that needed seasoning, but a lack of obvious improvement could lose him a roster spot.
Hassan Haskins, RB
Between injuries and the explosion of Tyjae Spears, Hassan Haskins could lose out on a spot if the Tennessee Titans decide only to keep three RBs on the initial 53-man roster.
Braeden Daniels, OL
It’s rare that a fourth-round pick doesn’t at least see through their rookie season, but that could be the case for Daniels. His time in the NFL has been a struggle early on, and other, more unheralded players have outperformed him. The coaching staff is on the hot seat and doesn’t have the luxury of patience.