NFL veterans on the bubble for all 32 teams

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How will Cam Newton’s arrival affect the quarterbacks room in New England? Is there an odd man out at running back in Green Bay?

After an offseason without practices amid the coronavirus pandemic, veterans might have more security than usual — or it just might be harder to identify who is on the bubble.

With that in mind, our NFL Nation reporters pick the veterans who might not make regular-season rosters in 2020:

Jump to a team:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

AFC EAST

Stephen Hauschka, kicker

The veteran kicker has been steady since arriving in Buffalo in b2017 but has made 78.6% of his field goals in each of the past two seasons — which ranked 28th and 21st among qualified kickers in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The Bills signed Hauschka to a two-year extension last offseason but also selected kicker Tyler Bass in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The starting job is Hauschka’s to lose for now, but the rookie’s strong leg coupled with the veteran’s 1-for-5 performance from 50 or more yards last season makes this position battle intriguing. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Julie’n Davenport, offensive tackle

Sent to Miami as a part of the Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills trade, Davenport was immediately slotted in as a starting tackle and did little to help a bad Dolphins offensive line. A fractured leg and knee injury landed him on injured reserve in September. When he returned in November, he struggled, allowing sacks. The Dolphins added five new offensive linemen this offseason who could compete for starting jobs and should push Davenport out of the starting lineup, but it could knock him off the roster, too, if Miami feels comfortable with its depth. Headed into his fourth season, Davenport is running out of time to prove he can compete in the NFL. — Cameron Wolfe


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Brian Hoyer, quarterback

If Cam Newton emerges as the Patriots’ starter, with Jarrett Stidham entering his second year with the team, where does that leave Hoyer? The Patriots could always keep three quarterbacks, especially with COVID-19 considerations in mind, but coach Bill Belichick traditionally prefers to go with two. — Mike Reiss


Avery Williamson, linebacker, Brian Winters, right guard

Both players are coming off surgery, entering the final year of their contract and carry relatively high salary-cap numbers — $8.5 million for Williamson, $7.3 million for Winters. They also play positions at which the team has some depth. Williamson might have trade value if he proves in training camp that his surgically repaired knee is sound. Winters is respected because of his strong intangibles, but economics could get in the way if he fails to beat out Greg Van Roten at right guard. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

De’Anthony Thomas, wide receiver/punt returner

The seventh-year veteran re-signed with Baltimore in the offseason, but that was before the Ravens drafted two wide receivers, including sixth-rounder James Proche, whose return skills have been praised by general manager Eric DeCosta. Unless Proche falters in fielding kicks as a rookie, Thomas will have a difficult path to making the Ravens purely as a receiver. Baltimore appears set with its top five receivers: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and Chris Moore. Thomas, a 2014 fourth-round pick by the Chiefs, received only $25,000 in guaranteed money when he rejoined Baltimore on a one-year deal. — Jamison Hensley


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Alex Erickson, wide receiver

The former undrafted player out of Wisconsin has been a great story since he made the team in 2016, but he’s in for a big challenge in 2020. The Bengals added rookie wide receivers Tee Higgins and Scotty Washington to what was already one of the deepest units on the team. Erickson’s value on special teams diminished last season when he was relegated to punt returner only. Erickson is in the last year of a two-year contract and represents cap savings of $1.9 million if he is released. — Ben Baby


Kendall Lamm, offensive tackle

Lamm could’ve played an important role on an offensive line that desperately needed help at tackle in 2019. Problem was, he had a knee injury for much of the season. With the Browns adding two starting tackles in Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills Jr. — sliding last season’s starting right tackle, Chris Hubbard, into a potential swing tackle role off the bench — Lamm could become expendable. — Jake Trotter


Ryan Switzer’s roles on the Steelers appear to be evaporating. Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Ryan Switzer, wide receiver

The veteran wide receiver and return specialist finished the season on injured reserve because of a back injury and lost his return spot to rookie Diontae Johnson. When he was healthy, Switzer had eight punt returns for 13 yards — averaging 3.6 yards per return — and nine kick returns that averaged 18.4 yards. Both were career lows. With Johnson taking over return duties and the addition of receiver Chase Claypool, Switzer’s role is evaporating. However, the wide receiver was one of three skill players seen in a video catching passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the two are known to be close friends. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

Senio Kelemete, offensive line

Kelemete, who started at left guard for Houston in 2018, spent the majority of last season on injured reserve and is in the last year of his contract. The Texans found a capable replacement for Kelemete in Max Scharping, a second-round pick in 2019. Kelemete has a cap hit of $3.5 million and less than $1 million of dead money if Houston decided to cut him. The guard is versatile and has also spent time at both tackle spots, so he could make the roster in a reserve role if the Texans decide they don’t need the extra cap space. — Sarah Barshop


Jeremy Fowler polled a panel of more than 50 coaches, execs, scouts and players to come up with top 10 rankings for 2020:

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Jordan Wilkins, running back

Wilkins spent his first two seasons primarily as the third running back behind Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. His role out of the backfield took a hit after the Colts selected Jonathan Taylor in the second round of this year’s draft. Taylor, who rushed for at least 2,003 yards in each of his final two seasons at Wisconsin, will get the first shot at being Mack’s primary backup, with Hines behind as the do-everything player because of his ability to play receiver and return punts. That could leave Wilkins, who has rushed for 643 yards (5.8 average) in two seasons, as the odd man out. — Mike Wells


Dawuane Smoot, defensive end

The Jaguars’ 2017 third-round pick made no impact in his first two seasons but finally found the field regularly in 2019 and responded with six sacks. Smoot played behind Calais Campbell the past three seasons, and he developed slowly and didn’t get much playing time until last season. With Campbell’s departure, however, the Jaguars are going with more hybrid end/outside linebackers to be versatile in their scheme, and Smoot is going to have to fight for time behind Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Yannick Ngakoue (if he plays) and Cassius Marsh. — Mike DiRocco


Reggie Gilbert, outside linebacker

The Titans brought Gilbert back on a one-year deal after trading for him in 2019. Gilbert had a steady spot in Tennessee’s outside linebacker rotation, but he was a healthy scratch in the AFC Championship Game. The emergence of second-year outside linebacker Derick Roberson last season and return from injury of 2019 fifth-round draft pick D’Andre Walker could spell trouble for Gilbert. The Titans re-signed Kamalei Correa and agreed to a one-year deal with former Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley, who, along with Harold Landry, will take most of the snaps. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Jeff Heuerman has 63 catches for 678 yards and five touchdowns in four seasons with the Broncos. Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire

Jeff Heuerman, tight end

Hey, Heuerman isn’t alone on the hot seat in the tight ends meeting room. This group has suddenly gotten crowded with the arrival of Nick Vannett in free agency and Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round of the draft. Those two and last year’s No. 1 pick — Noah Fant — make up the top three spots on the depth chart, with Andrew Beck, a fullback/tight end combo player who also played 45% of the team’s special-teams snaps last season, as the fourth. The Broncos kept three tight ends in addition to Beck coming out of training camp last season. It means Heuerman (third-round pick in 2015), Troy Fumagalli (fifth-round pick in 2018) and Jake Butt (fifth round in 2017) are in danger of being cut. Heuerman, Fumagalli and Butt have each spent at least one season on injured reserve, with Butt having spent two years there. Heuerman played no special-teams snaps last season, and Fumagalli played 35%. — Jeff Legwold


Breeland Speaks, defensive end

Speaks, who missed all of last season with an injury, will be given the chance to make the roster, but the Chiefs have so much depth that a spot for their second-round pick in 2018 isn’t automatic. The Chiefs return starters Frank Clark and Alex Okafor and top reserve Tanoh Kpassagnon. They also added free agent Taco Charlton and draft pick Mike Danna. — Adam Teicher


P.J. Hall, defensive tackle

Sure, the 2018 second-rounder played in all 16 games last season and started 12. But many in the organization wonder whether he has played up to his heady draft standing. Or did you miss Las Vegas raiding the Cowboys’ defensive tackle room to sign Maliek Collins and Daniel Ross in free agency within a week of each other this spring? And with veteran Johnathan Hankins entrenched as one starter and Maurice Hurst emerging as more of an interior pass-rushing threat (the 2018 fifth-rounder has 7.5 career sacks to Hall’s 1.5), warning signs are all around Hall. — Paul Gutierrez


Virgil Green, tight end

The Chargers have more than eight veterans with at least eight seasons of experience, but Green is the only player among them who does not have a starting role. The Chargers placed the franchise tag on starter Hunter Henry at $10.6 million; Andrew Vollert returns from injured reserve; and Donald Parham signed in free agency after playing in the XFL. So as he enters his 10th season, Green could become expendable. — Lindsey Thiry

NFC EAST

Chris Jones, punter

A lot of folks would put veteran defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford in this spot, in part because of his $8 million salary, but Crawford is more valuable than people understand. That a punter is the pick speaks to the youth on the roster and maybe also to the talent. Jones struggled last season, averaging 41.6 yards per attempt because of injury. It was a near 3-yard drop over his worst full season with the team, in 2013. The Cowboys have not created a competition for Jones, but if he gets off to a slow start in training camp, they could look elsewhere. Jones, however, is a great athlete and can do some things new special-teams coordinator John Fassel did with Johnny Hekker on the Rams. — Todd Archer

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Aldrick Rosas, kicker

His spot on the roster is tenuous at the moment after his recent arrest and his on-field struggles last season (70.6% on field goals and four missed extra points). Coach Joe Judge knows the importance of having a trustworthy kicker, but Rosas could be facing a league-imposed suspension for his actions regardless of how the legal process plays out. He has little room for error this summer. — Jordan Raanan


Rasul Douglas, cornerback

Douglas is a big, physical corner who has stayed relatively healthy and has flashed potential at times during his three seasons in Philadelphia, accruing five interceptions and 25 passes defensed over that span. He is hurt by his lack of recovery speed, however, leaving him susceptible to big plays. With the organization committed to getting faster across the board, it’s fair to wonder whether Douglas remains a philosophical fit. — Tim McManus


Josh Harvey-Clemons, linebacker

Another option was wide receiver Cody Latimer because of multiple charges related to a gun incident. Harvey-Clemons is on the bubble because of the change to a 4-3 defensive set in addition to the possible return of Reuben Foster, the addition of Thomas Davis and the drafting of special-teamer Khaleke Hudson, among others. The team doesn’t have a lot of fat to trim, so there aren’t many veterans on the bubble. But, in his fourth year, Harvey-Clemons, a converted safety who has played a role in sub packages, is definitely one of them. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Adam Shaheen, tight end

The Bears’ second-round pick in 2017, Shaheen has slogged his way through three unproductive seasons. Chicago attempted to upgrade at tight end in the offseason by signing veteran free agents Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris and spent a second-round draft choice on Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. All these moves could make Shaheen the odd man out. — Jeff Dickerson


Jamal Agnew, wide receiver/defensive back/returner

It’s never a great sign when a player makes a position switch a few years into his career — let alone going from defense to offense, as Agnew is expected to do. Not only that but he’s headed toward a wide receiver position that’s crowded with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola locked in as starters and draft pick Quintez Cephus likely taking a roster spot. So this leaves Agnew, who has a ton of potential and skill, learning a new position while fighting for one of one or two roster spots. Plus, the Lions drafted Jason Huntley at running back, and he should push Agnew as a returner. There’s definitely a path for Agnew, who was an All-Pro returner as a rookie, to make the team. But it’s nowhere near a sure thing. — Michael Rothstein


Jamaal Williams (30) is in danger of falling behind Aaron Jones (33) and AJ Dillon on the Packers’ depth chart. Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

Jamaal Williams, running back

Although coach Matt LaFleur has said he’d like to have at least three backs at his disposal, Williams might not be worth his $2.133 million salary if he’s the No. 3 back behind Aaron Jones and second-round pick AJ Dillon. Perhaps the Packers could find a trading partner for Williams during training camp, but if not — and if they feel comfortable kick return specialist Tyler Ervin could be the No. 3 back — then they could move on from Williams one way or another before the season starts. — Rob Demovsky


Pat Elflein, offensive line

If we were answering this question a couple of months ago, I would’ve gone with Riley Reiff. The Vikings could have freed up $8.8 million in cap space by cutting Reiff to go after a veteran cornerback and allowed Ezra Cleveland to step in at left tackle in 2020. But, given the nature of the 2020 offseason and not knowing whether Cleveland is ready for that role as a rookie means Reiff is probably safe. Elflein, on the other hand, needs a strong preseason and must beat out the likes of Dru Samia, Dakota Dozier and potentially Reiff (were he to move inside in the case Cleveland starts at left tackle). Elflein’s transition to left guard in 2019 was rocky. He struggled in pass protection and allowed the ninth-most pressures (32) of any guard in the NFL. Both guard spots will feature a “wide-open competition” in camp, according to general manager Rick Spielman. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Jamon Brown, offensive line

The Falcons signed Brown to a three-year, $18.75 million contract last year ($12.75 million guaranteed) with hopes he would be a solid contributor. He became the starting right guard when rookie first-rounder Chris Lindstrom broke his foot. Brown didn’t perform up to expectations, dealt with injuries and illness, and got on the bad side of the coaches by being late to the team flight one road trip. He was inactive for a handful of games last season and might have gotten cut already had doing so saved the Falcons cap space instead of costing them $1.583 million against the cap. — Vaughn McClure


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Graham Gano, kicker

This likely will be as much financially driven as production driven. Gano missed last season recovering from knee surgery. He has a cap figure of $4.3 million this year and $5.2 million in 2021. Joey Slye, who was a more than adequate replacement last season, has a $675,000 cap hit in 2020. Slye was especially effective from 50-plus yards, making 8 of 11 kicks. With so many more needs for a rebuilding team, it makes sense to either trade Gano or move on from him. — David Newton


Patrick Robinson, cornerback

Robinson, who turns 33 in September, agreed to a pay cut in March to stay with the team. But he still needs to secure a spot this summer. Robinson had established himself as one of the NFL’s best nickelbacks before signing a four-year, $20 million contract in 2018. But he has played sparingly since then, thanks to a broken ankle that season and losing the nickel job to fellow veteran P.J. Williams last year. — Mike Triplett


M.J. Stewart, cornerback

The Bucs have not been able to find a place for Stewart, who has not matched the production of draftmate Carlton Davis. They tried lining him up outside, tried to convert him to safety and tried him at nickelback. He played 23% of the Bucs’ defensive snaps last season and was a healthy scratch more than once. Ryan Smith hasn’t showed a lot as a corner, either, but he has carved out a nice role for himself as a gunner on special teams. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Haason Reddick, linebacker

The career of this 2017 first-round pick has been a roller coaster, with him having moved positions four times. He thought he was settled at outside linebacker after last season, only to see the Cardinals sign Devon Kennard and draft Isaiah Simmons. Where Simmons eventually ends up on defense will dictate Reddick’s future with the Cardinals. If Simmons winds up playing more outside linebacker or edge rusher than initially expected, Reddick’s days in Arizona will be numbered. It was telling that the Cardinals didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, so Reddick is entering the final season of his rookie deal without a future secured. — Josh Weinfuss


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If there’s a roster that practically guarantees all veterans will make the final cut, it has to be the Rams’. Under massive salary-cap constraints, the Rams have only seven players with at least five seasons of experience. Each of those players fills a starting role, and two of them — left tackle Andrew Whitworth (15th season) and defensive lineman Michael Brockers (ninth season) — have signed new contracts. The Rams lack experienced depth on their roster and will need each veteran to play a crucial role. — Lindsey Thiry


Dante Pettis, wide receiver

Last year at this time, Pettis was considered a potential breakout star. But he didn’t add the strength the Niners hoped in the offseason, struggled to get going early, and then was a healthy scratch down the stretch as he finished with 11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Now, Pettis returns to a crowded receiver room that expects to get Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd back from injury and adds rookies Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings and veteran signee Travis Benjamin. Pettis showed he can play in the league in 2018, but this is a pivotal moment in his career and now is the time to deliver if he’s going to be in San Francisco for the long haul. — Nick Wagoner


Bradley McDougald, strong safety

This would be as much about money as it would be about skill. McDougald has been an excellent player for Seattle and a steadying force as its secondary has transitioned from the Legion of Boom, but the Seahawks didn’t draft Marquise Blair in the second round last year to keep him on the bench. If Blair shows this summer that he’s ready to take over at strong safety, McDougald’s $5.4 million cap charge (versus $4.1 million savings) would give the Seahawks plenty of financial incentive to move on over keeping him as a high-priced backup. — Brady Henderson




2020-07-14 12:01:33

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