Here today, gone tomorrow. No, I’m not talking about Ezequiel Carrera or the pipeline of stating pitchers that goes from Columbus to Cleveland. In the NFL, players aren’t guaranteed next year. Every year plenty of veterans around the league sweat through roster cuts before, during and after training camp. Those wearing the Orange and Brown are no different.
We’ve also seen this movie before. New coaching staff comes in and wants to find their own guys. New general manager comes in and has no ties to anyone on the roster. It is a recipe for change and uncertainty. Just ask Chris Gocong. After trading Gocong out of Philadelphia, and then cutting him this off-season, safe to say Joe Banner isn’t on Gocong’s Christmas card list.
Many decisions have already been made. Gocong is gone. Sheldon Brown was not offered a new deal. Frostee Rucker was released. Usama young, Colt McCoy and Emmanuel Acho- all gone.
But if history is right, there will be a few more veterans cut before the season begins. The only question is which ones?
The Browns are a very young team. There aren’t a ton of players that have been in the league more than 3 or 4 years, and several of the ones that meet that criteria were just brought in by the new administration. Graham, Campbell, Barnidge, Bess, Davis, Bryant and Kruger all have at least 5 years of experience. Kevin Barnes and David Nelson have 4 and 3 years under their belts. There aren’t a lot of four or five year veterans on this team taking up roster spots that younger players could grab. In fact, the Browns have several undrafted free agents that made the team and saw significant playing time.
So which players might get the call to the coaches’ office? I’ll offer one two on offense and one on defense.
On offense, there are two strong candidates. The first is Jordan Norwood. With the additions of David Nelson and and Davone Bess, and the progress of young receivers Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin it looks like Norwood could find himself auditioning for other teams when the preseason rolls around. They also have Josh Cooper and five more undrafted free agent wide receivers to add to the mix.
The other offensive candidate is Oniel Cousins. Cousins may be able to play multiple spots along the line, which may eventually save him, but he isn’t starting caliber at any of them. He’s also entering his sixth season, which tells me that we have likely seen the best we are ever going to see from him. Ryan Miller, Dominic Alford and Jarrod Shaw will certainly push for a spot on the bench along with Greco/Lauvao and newly drafted Garrett Gilkey. I’m sure there are plenty of Browns fans that would say Lauvao could be candidate, and perhaps they are right, but I believe his experience and youth will get him at least one more chance.
On defense, I didn’t find it as easy to target a player.
There’s a good chance that one of the defensive backs signed in free agency won’t make the final roster, especially if both McFadden and Slaughter are healthy and ready to play at the beginning of the year. Kevin Barnes or Prince Miller could find themselves looking for work again. But if I were to guess, I’d say the most likely spot to be cut from is the defensive line.
It really is a numbers game. Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Brian Sanford, Hall Davis and Kendrick Adams. Add in recently drafted Armonty Bryant and three undrafted free agents. How many of those are you going to keep to play a base 3-4 defense?
Taylor, Hughes, Bryant and Rubin should all be locks. If the Browns were going to trade Rubin I really believe it would have been before or during the draft, and though he makes a premium salary, the Browns don’t have to be concerned about cutting to get under the cap this year. Billy Winn was very productive last year, especially given his draft position. I wonder though, if Winn fits the mold of a 3-4 defensive end? He may be asked to put on weight this year, and we’ll see if that affects his game. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen has the bulk you would want, but at 6’1″ he may be a little short. I like Kitchen. I think he can play in this league. He may just be better suited in another scheme. Barring injury, I think he could be the odd man out on that line.
So those are my picks. Your turn. Which vets do you think could get the axe before the season begins?