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 North 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.
Chicago Bears: Jesse James, Tight End
With Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet on the roster, the Bears need to find their third tight end. James is the frontrunner for the role, but players like J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, and Scooter Harrington are all in the mix, too. With three players on his tail, James might need to build on an already impressive camp in order to separate him from the pack during the final week of the preseason. As such, it’s safe to say he is at least on the bubble. There’s no messing around when it comes to tight end, either. Head coach Matt Nagy loves to experiment with the position, and he’s offered up the idea in the past that Chicago might operate out of three-tight end sets more than most teams.
James, 27, is being paid $1.65 million this season. He had a few good years in Pittsburgh, racking up yardage counts in the 300s or 400s while scoring two to three times per year. However, through 32 games with the Lions over the past two seasons, he caught just 30 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. If they were to cut James, Chicago would take on $1,162,500 in dead money.
Detroit Lions: Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver
Many people expected veteran speedster Breshad Perriman to make the Lions’ roster and have a key role in 2021. After all, the unit is fairly limited after it lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. during free agency. However, it appears Perriman’s job isn’t as safe, after all. The former first-round pick has battled a hip injury this summer and has spent too much time off the field that he is now on the bubble, according to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. Veteran wide receiver Tyrell Williams and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown have made an impact this camp, and players like Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Geronimo Allison, and Sage Surratt could all make the roster, too.
Perriman, who is 28 years old, signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Detroit this offseason. He caught six touchdowns with the Buccaneers in 2019 but logged just 505 yards and three touchdowns over 12 games with the Jets last season. Cutting Perriman would create $437,500 in cap space and $2 million in dead money for the Lions.
Green Bay Packers: Lucas Patrick, Guard
Patrick currently projects as the starting right guard on the Packers’ latest depth chart, but he’s not a lock to even make the team. The 28-year-old struggled in Week 1 of the preseason and even throughout training camp; he was temporarily replaced on the first-team offense during Tuesday’s practice due to “inconsistent snaps.” As such, that leaves him on the bubble. Although he might be the favorite for the starting right guard job, he’s going to have to compete during the final stretch of training camp and the preseason in order to secure his role.
An undrafted free agent back in 2016, Patrick has spent his entire five-year career in Green Bay up to this point. After spending his rookie year on the practice squad and seeing limited action over the next three seasons, Patrick took a huge step forward by appearing on the field for 90.4 percent of snaps in 2021. He’s currently only the back half of a two-year, $2.975 million contract. If they were to cut him, the Packers would create $1,975,00 in cap space while incurring just $116,668 in dead money.
Minnesota Vikings: Dakota Dozier, Guard
Dozier is currently listed as the No. 2 right guard on the Vikings’ unofficial depth chart, but it’s hard to envision the roster falling that way. After all, rookie Wyatt Davis is listed behind him at No. 3, but the Ohio State product is essentially a lock to make the team over Dozier. The big question here is whether Minnesota keeps four or five guards in total. Four seems more likely, but if they opt to go with five, Dozier’s outlook becomes slightly more positive. With that said, he likely needs a very strong final week of the preseason to sway the Minnesota brass in that direction.
Dozier, 30, was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He saw just 35.4 percent of offensive snaps in 2019, but that number jumped to an impressive 100 percent last season. Currently on a cheap deal, Dozier’s release would create $850,000 in cap space without carrying any dead money.
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