The preseason is here. For many players, that means a chance to achieve a lifelong dream of making the 53-man roster. However, not everyone can have their wishes fulfilled.
With each team set to cut dozens of players within next Tuesday, let’s identify one veteran from each AFC West team that is on the roster bubble. These players will need to have impressive camp performances to secure their roster spot.
For the purpose of this article, a veteran is someone with more than four years of NFL experience. This means that they are no longer on their rookie contract. First-round picks who are on their fifth-year option count as veterans.
Denver Broncos: Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle
It looks like Fleming will finish the preseason as the team’s third-string right tackle, which means he won’t even be able to secure the backup swing role. It’s always possible Denver carries a deep tackle room, but that seems unlikely at this point. As such, the 29-year-old is certainly on the bubble and seems like a longshot to make the team. One factor that helps Fleming’s case? He started all 16 games for the Giants last year, appearing in 89.9 percent of offensive snaps along the way. But if there’s no role for Fleming, there’s no reason for him to occupy one of the valuable 53 spots on the roster. The fact that he was responsible for a penalty that negated a touchdown only makes matters worse.
Fleming signed a $1.65 million deal with Denver, of which $1 million is guaranteed. If Denver were to cut Fleming, they would be responsible for the $1 million in dead money while creating $650,000 in additional cap space.
Kansas City Chiefs: Blake Bell, Tight End
If the Chiefs choose to keep four tight ends on the roster, Bell probably makes the team. However, I anticipate the team will open the year with just three, instead opting to keep someone like Marcus Kemp (who provides special teams value) or a fourth running back to provide depth amidst injury concerns surrounding Clyde Edwards-Helaire. In this case, Bell could be the odd man out with the Chiefs choosing to keep Travis Kelce, Jody Fortson, and Noah Gray. Gray, a rookie, is viewed by some as an eventual starting-caliber tight end. Meanwhile, Fortson is a 25-year-old whose blocking has improved enough to justify cutting Bell, who is mainly used as a blocker himself.
The 30-year-old Bell saw the field for 31.3 percent of offensive and 33.9 percent of special teams snaps last season. He mainly served as a blocker on the line or in the backfield, though he did catch 11 passes for 110 yards. By releasing the former fourth-round pick, the Chiefs would create $100,000 in cap space while carrying $887,500 in dead money.
Las Vegas Raiders: Jalen Richard, Running Back
The writing is on the wall when it comes to Jalen Richard and his roster status. He is fighting for the third-string running back role and will likely be the odd man out when the end of August comes around. At best, Richard will finish behind Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. It’s also possible that B.J. Emmons and Trey Ragas outperform the veteran. Beyond the talent factor, age and money might play a role in this decision, too. Richard is 28 years old and accounts for $3.5 million in cap space in 2021. Emmons and Ragas combined for just over one-third of that combined.
After playing in all 64 games over his first four seasons, Richard appeared in 13 contests last season. He saw just 17.6 percent of offensive and 13.2 percent of special teams snaps. He finished the year with 41 touches for 261 yards and one touchdown while filling a depth role behind Jacobs and Devontae Booker. By cutting Richard, Las Vegas would recoup $2,375,000 in cap space while being responsible for $1,125,000 against the cap.
Los Angeles Chargers: Stephen Anderson, Tight End
As the preseason continues, it seems more and more likely that the Chargers will cut Anderson. The 28-year-old is fighting for the No. 3 role behind Jared Cook and Donald Parham Jr. Also in the mix is rookie Tre’ McKitty, who was selected in the third round of the 2021 draft and will likely make the team due to the capital that has been invested in him. Unless the Chargers carry four tight ends, there doesn’t appear to be a role for Anderson.
Anderson, who went undrafted in 2016, played in just 11.8 percent of offensive snaps last year. He did see a greater workload on special teams, where he was on the field for 65.9 percent of snaps. By cutting Anderson, Los Angeles can create $920,000 in cap space without incurring a monetary penalty.
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