The NFL’s designated day to slice rosters to 53-men leaves an emotional trail of destruction in its wake. For many of the doomed names, their NFL dreams have come to an unceremonious end. A majority of these are undrafted rookies or youngsters, but a good portion of others are veterans past their prime, renowned names who have left their best behind them.
However, new surroundings bring new opportunities. Who can take advantage?
Demariyus Thomas, WR, New England Patriots
Thomas spent the offseason recovering from his torn Achilles in New England, and played in their final preseason game before his release. While Thomas doesn’t have nearly the explosiveness he used to have, his appearance last week indicated he should be able to play the possession receiver role. The Patriots didn’t need Thomas as a depth option with Josh Gordon’s return, but more than a few teams will be giving Thomas a call.
RB Josh Adams, Philadelphia
Last season, Adams was an undrafted rookie turned notable practice squad promotee. Joining the active roster in mid-September, Adams would go on to tally 511 rushing yards, good for 10th amongst rookie last season. He shouldn’t have to wait long for a new opportunity.
S Chris Banjo, New Orleans
Banjo was one of the more surprising departures out of New Orleans, as the Saint opened their transactions earlier in the offseason by granting him a three-year contract extension. He has mostly made his mark as a special teams contributor, earning double-figures in kickoff tackles in each of his first four full NFL seasons.
WR Jaron Brown, Seattle
Brown didn’t exactly light up the statsheet with a mere 166 yards, but made a name for himself in the red zone with five touchdown grabs. The seventh-year Clemson alum had put up 70 yards on a trio of receptions this summer in exhibitions. He’ll be one of the more experienced new names on the free agency list, something teams value when it comes to post-preseason signings.
P Britton Colquitt, Cleveland
There are few certainties when it comes to NFL rosters, but it feels like one of them is seeing the surname “Colquitt” on a team’s special teams depth chart. That streak, primarily carried by Britton and his older brother Dustin, will likely carry on in Kansas City, but Britton seeks a new address after serving a Pro Bowl alternate last season.
WR Josh Doctson, Washington
The Redskins have opted to leave their 2016 first-rounder behind. He struggled in three seasons in burgundy, but did manage to put up a career-high 532 yards last season. Just two years ago, Doctson appeared to be establishing himself as a strong red zone threat, catching a team-high six touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, a team will take a chance on his ability to high-point contested catches.
QB Brian Hoyer, New England
Hoyer’s second stint as Tom Brady’s understudy ended after the Patriots chose rookie Jarrett Stidham to take over the role. In several ways, Hoyer personifies the ideal NFL back quarterback in that he has the experience (37 starts in 10 seasons) and has been generally effective (83.2 passer ratings, 43 touchdowns to 30 interceptions). The Colts, still reeling from the Andrew Luck situation, could come calling if confidence falters in Jacoby Brissett.
WR Jordan Matthews, San Francisco
It wasn’t too long ago that Matthews was the top receiving option in Philadelphia. A return to the Eagles in last year’s regular season yielded fleeting glimpses of the old Matthews.. Teams eager for veteran help, either for their remaining receiver corps or provide confidence for a young quarterback, could inquire into his services.
RB LeSean McCoy, Buffalo
Provided everyone in the locker room has already seen Avengers: Endgame, McCoy has shown he is more than capable of maintaining an NFL workload. His 752 total yards from last season were a career-low, but that tally is nothing to scoff at for a 31-yard-old back. McCoy is also not far removed from back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. If situations with star running backs in Dallas and Los Angeles continue to sputter, McCoy can be an effective veteran option to stem the bleeding.
LB Jachai Polite, NY Jets
The Jets have continued a purge of the Mike Maccagnan era, releasing the third-round pick from the fallen general manager’s final draft. Polite was cited for his character issues in the draft process, and struggled to gain traction on the Jets’ depth chart this summer. But a team looking for a young pass rusher could well take the chance. Polite was constantly referred to as one of the better edge men in the draft rankings.
LB Malcolm Smith, San Francisco
Much like Larry Brown, Desmond Howard, and Dexter Jackson before him, life after a Super Bowl MVP Award hasn’t been kind to Smith. He missed the entire 2017 on injured reserve and picked up only 35 tackles last year. His experience and his relative youth (30), however, makes him very attractive to teams looking to plug up defensive holes. The New York Jets, for example, could come calling after losing Avery Williamson to a season-ending injury and Brandon Copeland to a four-game suspension.
WR Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota
With his tenure in Minnesota coming to an end one way or another, Treadwell is looking to reclaim the narrative on his cursed career. His time with the Vikings ends with just 517 yards and a single touchdown reception over three seasons. First-round busts finding new life elsewhere are not of the question. Transferring from Buffalo to Seattle, for example, worked wonders for Marshawn Lynch. A team looking for a speedy option can provide that opportunity.