We continue our series looking at one veteran player from each team who could be on their team’s roster bubble this summer.
San Francisco 49ers: Garrett Celek
Writer: Andersen Pickard
On the roster bubble for the 49ers is veteran tight end, Garrett Celek. A 2012 undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, Celek has played all six years of his career in San Francisco with the 49ers, but that streak could be in jeopardy as training camp approaches.
Celek has started just 30 of the 86 games he has appeared in over the last six years, including one start in 15 games last season. In 2018, Celek was stashed on the depth chart and lost a lot of action to rookie standout, George Kittle. Celek was used mainly as a blocker, as he hauled in just five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns by the time the season concluded.
Celek still hasn’t been cleared from the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in 2018. Additionally, he underwent back surgery over the offseason, which will hold him out until the middle of training camp. Kittle is a lock to make the team, while Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo are both candidates to also make the squad. Only a situation where Smith or Toilolo get cut would allow Celek to have a shot at a job with the Niners in 2019.
Seattle Seahawks: Geno Smith
Writer: Andersen Pickard
This one is pretty obvious, and it doesn’t really need any explaining. But I’ll do just that anyways. Geno Smith signed with the Seahawks this offseason after bouncing around with a couple teams ever since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by the New York Jets.
Smith went 8-8 in 16 starts in 2013, but struggled more in 2014, going 3-10 in 13 starts (14 games). Since then, he has recorded just two starts (one each in 2016 and 2017) and 10 appearances, spending time with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers in addition to the Jets. He doesn’t have any real significant stats (negative or positive) to help my case, but given his overall struggles coupled with his journeyman status (and not to mention the depth chart that contains Russell Wilson and Paxton Lynch), it seems like a no-doubter that Smith gets cut this summer.
Los Angeles Rams: Mike Thomas
Writer: Andersen Pickard
The Rams don’t really have a huge roster bubble this offseason, but if they did, Mike Thomas would be on it. Thomas has been on the roster bubble for several years now, and although he has stuck around so far, this year could be the end of that. Thomas is on the final year of his contract, and cutting him will save $720,000 and incur $29,019 in dead money.
Thomas, a 2016 sixth-round pick by the Rams out of Southern Miss, has started just one of the 24 games he has appeared in. In 15 games in 2016, he caught three of nine passes thrown his way for 37 yards. In eight games (one start) in 2017, he hauled in five of seven targets for 93 yards. In 2018, he appeared in the opening game, appearing in 12 special teams plays; he was not targeted once. He suffered a season-ending injury and was later placed on the injured reserve.
Thomas is blocked by the best staff of wide receivers in the league. With Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp all locks to make the starters, and Josh Reynolds as the fourth receiver, Thomas’s job is in jeopardy. The Rams never go five-wide, and so they’ll likely only carry five receivers, which puts Thomas in a high-pressure situation as he fights to keep his precious spot on the roster.
Arizona Cardinals: Maxx Williams
Writer: Emma Marion
The Cardinals have plenty of players who will not make the roster, but some are closer than others to becoming part of the team. One of the most interesting is the competition for the third string tight end spot. With four competitors for one spot, only one athlete will pull away. It will be interesting to see how this competition unfolds. The Cardinals have six tight ends on their roster currently, and Maxx Williams is going to have to put up a tough fight if he wants to earn a spot on the team.
Williams is coming off his fifth season where he started six games for the Ravens. If he can hold up his roster spot, Williams is expected to earn the league’s veteran minimum, $805,000. Dropping his salary would let the Cardinals be able to have more budget space to address some of the positions lacking good depth. In his experience with Baltimore, Williams never started a full season, and he has been fairly injury prone with multiple injuries to his knee and ankle. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, Williams is a very physical tight end. His main competition is Caleb Wilson, the last pick in this year’s draft. Wilson is a better pass catcher, but not as aggressive. These two are largely considered the main competitors in the running for final tight end spot on the roster.
Playing for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 season, Williams started six games, hauling in 16 passes for 143 yards and an average of 8.9 yards per catch. This isn’t a great total for a tight end. As the offseason progresses into training camp, it will be interesting to watch this competition continue.