Getting cut by a NFL team has to sting.
Being cut for salary reasons is one thing, but being an older veteran on the bread line with few options has to cut right to the bone.
The off-season has been interesting and with the official start to the NFL season a day away, there have been many moves made that are pending following league approval on Wednesday.
Some of the latest involve three-time First Team All-Pro and lifelong Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman, as well as Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Ivory.
Sherman, recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, was released by the Seahawks (saving oodles of cash under the salary cap) and signed by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday to a three-year, $39 million contract.
In late February, the Jacksonville Jaguars released RB Chris Ivory, who isn’t that far removed from a 1,000 yard season. Buffalo signed him last Tuesday to a two-year deal for $5.5 million, $3.25 million guaranteed.
So the free agent wheel keeps turning. There have been a multitude of players, of varying talent, let go by their 2017 teams for different reasons, most for financial relief. Here are 15 interesting newly released veterans looking for new homes, with mentions on where they might just end up.
15. SS Da’Norris Searcy
The Tennessee Titans saved themselves $6 million by releasing Searcy, who signed a four-year, $24 million deal in March of 2015. The seven-year veteran and former Buffalo Bills draft pick, started 33 of 45 games for the Titans over three seasons, registering 121 tackles, a half sack, three interceptions and 12 passes successfully defended. The North Carolina product isn’t that far removed from a career year with Buffalo in 2014, when he had 65 tackles in 15 games, along with a career high three interceptions and five pass defences. One team in dire need of decent defensive backs would be Seattle, which recently waved goodbye to standouts Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane. He started six of 16 games in place of the injured Jonathan Cyprien and graded out as the 61st best safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
14. DE Charles Johnson
Johnson, like Richard Sherman in Seattle, was a loyal soldier for the Carolina Panthers since being drafted by them 83rd overall out of Georgia in 2007. In that time he became a stalwart on the Cats defensive line and one of the better ends in the league for a few seasons. Between 2010 and 2014, he played in 77 games, made 215 tackles, recorded 52.5 sacks (career high 12.5 in 2012), forced 13 fumbles and had 11 successful pass defences. In 2015, despite missing seven games to injury he played an integral part in the Panthers drive to Super Bowl 50 in February 2016. In three playoff games, he had nine tackles, two forced fumbles and three sacks. One of those sacks came in the Super Bowl, along with five of his tackles. Johnson, who was suspended four games last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, had signed a two-year, $9.5 million contract extension at this time last year. His release will save Carolina $4.75 million. Buffalo is a rumored destination.
13. LB Pernell McPhee
Unfortunately for Super Bowl champ and decent NFL linebacker Pernell McPhee, injuries have taken their toll on his seven-year career. The second string linebacker missed seven games in 2016 due to a knee injury and last year he sustained a shoulder injury that shelved him for three more. Even still, he started five of 13 games last year for the Chicago Bears and had four sacks, 21 tackles, a forced fumble and two pass defences. In his career, comprising four seasons with Baltimore and three with Chicago, the Mississippi State product has played in 96 games, with 182 tackles, 31 sacks, six forced fumbles, an interception and 12 pass defences. In the post-season, he has appeared in eight games, all with Baltimore and had eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. He signed a five-year, $38.75 million contract with Chicago in 2015, so the Bears will save on two years of it by cutting him. The Atlanta Falcons may have interest in the veteran from Orlando.
12. FS DeShawn Shead
The remaking of the Seattle secondary is quite shocking this off-season, as the Seahawks waved bye bye to Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane (more on him later) and now DeShawn Shead. The Legion of Boom, once fearsome, is now a shell of its former glory. Shead, undrafted out of Portland State in 2012, eventually established himself in the vaunted Seattle defensive backfield, winning the Lombardi Trophy with his mates at Super Bowl XLVIII. While he appeared in 47 games between 2014 and 2016, he tore his ACL in the 2016 playoffs against Atlanta and was sidelined until the final two games of the 2017 season. On a tolled contract set to be worth $1.2 million, Seattle cut ties with him in hopes to renegotiate going into 2018. Nothing has been done yet, and the Detroit Lions are said to be interested.
11. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
There is a silver lining to the Giants saving $6.5 million on the cap by releasing DRC and that is he gets to escape the rebuild or whatever the heck is going to happen in New York. Entering his 12th season, the former first round pick of the Arizona Cardinals is coming off one of his more tepid statistical seasons, with 48 tackles, a half sack, no interceptions (he has 30 in his career) and just one pass deflection (145 career). As well, Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended for a game after leaving the Giants practice facility in October and then a subsequent verbal sparring match with coach Ben McAdoo, who was later fired. He is reportedly lining up visits with New Orleans and Washington and they probably hope they get the 2016 DRC, who had 49 tackles in 15 games, along with a sack, six interceptions and 21 passes successfully defended.
10. FS Ron Parker
Ron Parker has defied the odds most of his football life and after being released by Kansas City this week, he’ll have to do it again. The South Carolina native parlayed an outstanding college career with tiny Newberry, a Division II school, into a free agent deal with Seattle, eventually ending up in K.C., where he would become a starter by 2014. For the last four seasons he has been the Chiefs starting free safety, and in five seasons there he has racked up 79 games played, 317 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, nine interceptions and 43 pass deflections. In 2015, Parker signed a five-year, $30 million contract, and after being released this week, the team is set to save $5 million against the cap. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need at free safety, maybe Parker is a fit.
9. CB Jeremy Lane
As we stated above, the transformation of the Seattle defensive secondary is in full swing, with Lane getting the axe along with Richard Sherman and DeShawn Shead. A starter/backup since being taken 172nd overall out of Northwestern State in 2012, the oft-injured Lane was in and out of the line-up, his only full season coming in 2016, when he posted career a career high in tackles with 49. Over his six-year career, the speedy defensive back has appeared in 70 games, recording 146 tackles, two interceptions and 16 pass deflections. Lane also played in 12 post-season games, including Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX, making 27 tackles, and registering an interception (on Tom Brady in XLIX) and two pass deflections. There are plenty of teams in need of defensive backs, with Houston and Indianapolis possible destinations.
8. RB Doug Martin
If veteran running back Doug Martin’s seasonal trend is correct, he might be due a monster year in 2018. The recently released six-year member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who picked him 31st overall out of Boise State in 2012, had a great rookie season (1,454 yards, 11 TDs). That was followed by mediocre years in 2013-14, but he had a breakthrough in 2015 (1,402 yards, six TD) and then another two campaigns of sub-par production. Of course, injuries and off-field issues played a part in the down years, where he was sidelined for 27 of a possible 64 contests. For his career, the two-time Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro has 4,633 yards and 26 TD, along with 1,091 receiving yards and another two scores. Martin has met with the Oakland Raiders and coach Jon Gruden and made a good impression. We’ll see if he lands there, or with a slew of other teams in need (Cleveland, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh).
7. LB Brian Cushing
Cushing ran afoul of the NFL’s PED Police in 2017 and earlier this week he paid the price for it. Facing a $8.8 million cap hit for a guy who missed all but five games in 2017, the Texans cut Cushing loose after nine seasons. The New Jersey native was taken 15th overall in 2009 and promptly made the Pro Bowl that year, was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Second Team All-Pro for the first of two occasions (2011 was the other). Over his career, the former USC standout has played in 104 games, recording 665 tackles, 14.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, eight interceptions and 30 pass deflections. In five post-season games with the Texans, Cushing had another 40 tackles, one sack, one interception and two passes defended. He has visited with the Seattle Seahawks, but nothing so far has come of it. There are a ton of other teams in need of linebackers, too.
6. SS Quintin Demps
At age 32, it may be difficult for well-traveled, and recently released safety Quintin Demps to catch on with possibly his sixth different team since debuting with Philadelphia in 2008. The Chicago Bears, who signed him to a three-year deal last March at this time, got just three games out of Demps, who missed the rest with a broken arm. He had 12 tackles in those three contests. For the rest of his vagabond NFL career, his numbers have been OK, with 107 games played with Philadelphia, Houston (twice), Kansas City and the New York Giants. He had 308 tackles in those 107 contests, along with 1.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, 18 interceptions (six with Houston in 2016) and 44 pass deflections. Demps has also appeared in 10 post-season games, registering 22 tackles. The Bears save $3.26 million against the cap by releasing Demps, who could catch on in Carolina or Pittsburgh, both of which have a need at safety.
5. DE Muhammad Wilkerson
For the last two seasons, two-time Second Team All-Pro Muhammad Wilkerson hasn’t been the terror he was in 2013 and 2015, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. He spent his entire 105-game career with the New York Jets after being picked in the first round (30th overall) out of Temple in 2011. He has, to date, 404 tackles, 44 sacks (a high of 12 in 2015), 10 forced fumbles, two interceptions and 28 pass deflections. Things came to head during a so-so campaign in 2017, when Wilkerson, who was said to have a history of violating team rules (like showing up late for team meetings), was scratched for the final three games. In 2016, he signed a five-year, $86 million contract, and with his release the Jets save $11 million in cap space. Washington, Green Bay, New Orleans and Kansas City have all shown interest, so he shouldn’t be out of work long.
4. RB Jonathan Stewart
Salary cap games mean that loyalty between NFL franchises and their franchise players isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. In the case of 10-year veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, his long and distinguished tenure in Carolina ended unceremoniously on Feb. 28. He leaves as the Panthers all-time leading rusher, compiling 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns in 131 games. The Oregon product tacked on another 1,295 receiving yards on 162 catches, along with seven TDs. In seven playoff contests, Steward had 474 rushing yards, 49 receiving yards and five touchdowns. In 2017 Stewart played in 15 games, running for 680 yards and six TDs. Stewart hasn’t been idle since being cut, with visits to Detroit, the Giants and possibly Detroit on the agenda.
3. TE Martellus Bennett
They are just rumors and innuendo, but Martellus Bennett’s name has been bandied about in Philadelphia, where he could join big brother Michael, who is a newly minted Eagle. Bennett, who had a fantastic season with New England in 2017 with 701 receiving yards and seven TDs, wasn’t so successful in 2017. He started it with Green Bay, but only mustered 233 yards and zero TDs in seven games (after signing a three-year, $21 million contract no less) and was waived in early November. The Pats brought him back, but injuries to his shoulders (which were part of a medical hullabaloo in Green Bay) limited him to just two games, where he caught six passes for 53 yards. For his career, Bennett has played in 144 games (also with Dallas, Chicago and the Giants), catching 433 passes for 4,573 yards and 30 TDs.
2. CB Darrelle Revis
Could “Revis Island” become deserted in 2018? One of the game’s premier shutdown defensive backs, Darrelle Revis, may be out of options after being cast adrift by the Kansas City Chiefs. The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time First Team All-Pro got in just five games with the Chiefs in 2017 after signing a two-year, $11 million contract. It’s not hard to believe Kansas City had any trouble cutting him when he recorded just 11 tackles and two pass deflections. It wasn’t always so with the long-time Jet and Super Bowl champion with New England. In 140 games before landing in K.C., Revis had 483 tackles, two sacks, six forced fumbles, 29 interceptions and 139 pass deflections. However, he caught serious flak from Chiefs fans and pundits alike for mailing it in during Kansas City’s loss to Tennessee in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if he gets interest, especially with many teams in need of defensive backs.
1. RB DeMarco Murray
Of all the players on this list, we believe DeMarco Murray has the best chance to make his old team regret its decision to release him. The Tennessee Titans bid him adieu after two seasons, ostensibly to save $6.5 million against the salary cap. In two seasons with the Titans, Murray ran for 1,956 yards and 15 TDs in 31 games. A minor knee injury kept him from helping the Titans in the post-season. For his career, the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year has totaled 7,174 yards in 99 games, with 49 touchdowns. He also hauled in 307 passes for another 2,165 yards and six TDs. It was rumored Monday that the very durable and still uber-talented Murray would be visiting the Seattle Seahawks, as well as the Detroit Lions. Either team would do well to sign him for the 2018 campaign.