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 NFC East 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.
Dallas Cowboys: Deante Burton, Cornerback
This one is pretty easy to justify. Burton, an undrafted free agent in 2017, is very clearly on the outside looking in when it comes to fighting for a roster spot. Through 10 career games from 2018 to 2020, Burton made zero defensive snaps. He appeared on the field for just 10.5 percent of special teams snaps last season. While he does have history with the coaching staff (he played for now-Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta), that likely won’t be enough for Burton to keep his job.
Cutting Burton would create $920,000 in cap space for the Cowboys while carrying no dead money. Burton will likely be a roster cut casualty on Aug. 31—if he even lasts until then.
New York Giants: Ted Larsen, Guard
This one seems pretty obvious. The Giants have several layers of depth at right guard in Will Hernandez, Chad Slade, and Jake Burton, leaving Larsen as the fourth option. While having offensive line depth is very valuable in the NFL, the Giants don’t particularly need a 34-year-old holding down a fourth-string role. In fact, it’s not a guarantee that New York rosters three right guards, let alone four. All of these factors spell the inevitable: Larsen is not going to last on the Giants’ roster for much longer.
A sixth-round pick by the Patriots back in 2010, Larsen started 13 of 15 games with the Dolphins in 2018, appearing on the field for more than 81 percent of offensive snaps. However, he made just two starts with the Bears in 2019 before spending most of 2020 on the Buccaneers’ practice squad. By cutting Larsen, the Giants can create $850,000 in cap space without taking on any monetary penalties.
Philadelphia Eagles: Blake Countess, Safety
Countess is on the outside looking in when it comes to the safety battle. Likely battling for nothing more than a depth role, Countess’s special teams ability could be enough to secure a spot on the 53-man roster. After all, he appeared in 74.8 percent of special teams snaps with the Rams in 2018. However, the Eagles will have to decide if he is enough of an asset on special teams to justify giving him one of the 53 roster spots. If he does make the team, he will see minimal action on defense. There are better ways to use a spot on the roster, and Countess doesn’t appear to figure into the Eagles’ 2021 plans.
Countess, 28, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. By releasing him, the Eagles would create $850,000 in cap space without incurring any dead money. Age and financials represent two more factors that don’t help the safety’s case.
Washington Football Team: Peyton Barber, Running Back
Washington has a very strong backfield. Headlined by Antonio Gibson, the unit also featured depth players such as J.D. McKissic, Jarret Patterson, and Barber. While Barber has been effective in short-yardage situations, there might not be a role for him this season. Washington wants to get Gibson more involved, and Patterson has had a very strong preseason performance. Assuming the Football Team cuts down to three backs, Barber is quite possibly fighting for his job.
An undrafted free agent in 2016, Barber logged 270 touches and four scores last season. He now has 17 touchdowns over his last three seasons with the Buccaneers and Football Team. By cutting Barber, Washington can create $1,328,250 in cap space while incurring just $300,000 in dead money. This is a very interesting positional battle to keep an eye on as the final week of the preseason inches closer.
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