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The most surprising cuts in recent NFL history

  • By Alex Gelhar NFL.com
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Saying goodbye is never easy, yet that's what soccer fans are going to have to do to Landon Donovan. With the news breaking that Donovan was shockingly left off of the final 23-man World Cup roster for the U.S. Men's National Team, his time in the national spotlight has likely come to a close. To commemmorate this, and Donovan's incredible run as a member of the national team, here is a list of some of the most shocking recent cuts in the NFL. Let's get to it.

DeSean Jackson

Chip Kelly has been gaining infamy for his unorthodox strategies, coaching techniques and training methods. Cutting DeSean Jackson after the speedy wideout put together a career year might be at the top of the list. Even if Chip's offense in Philadelphia hums along as it did last year sans Jackson, it won't make the move any less surprising. Jackson will have two chances for revenge in 2014, as he is now a member of the division rival Washington Redskins.

Steve Smith

In what was a rather strange salary cap move, the Carolina Panthers parted ways with the heart and soul of their offense this offseason. Smith was old, sure, but he still had something left to offer, and considering no other receiver on the roster had caught an NFL pass as a Panther, whatever Smith could have offered would have been appreciated. Instead, Smith will be catching passes from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, looking to add some juice to one of the NFL's least exciting offenses last season.

DeMarcus Ware

With apologies to Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Terrell Owens, DeMarcus Ware was the best player on the Cowboys over the last decade. That tenure ended in flash this offseason when Dallas parted ways with Ware to help take their salary cap issues from a catastrophic level down to mid-tier disaster. Ware will be suiting up with the Denver Broncos in 2014, chasing the championship ring that has eluded him thus far in his illustrious career.

Julius Peppers

Peppers seemed to be a shell of his typically disruptive self last season, and many wondered if his best days were behind him. Others wondered if he lost interest playing for a defense that allowed almost 400 yards per game last season. He believes he still has something to offer, which is why he quickly signed with the Green Bay Packers after being cut by the Chicago Bears. Peppers' move north riled up the Chicago faithful, but their ire will only grow if Peppers turns in one last dominant season at roughly the same price he was going to make while with the Bears.

Jared Allen

Speaking of shifting allegiances in the NFC North, after being released by the Minnesota Vikings, veteran pass rusher Jared Allen moved south to Chicago, where he'll look to replace Julius Peppers and re-energize the Bears defense. It sure will be fun watching (and a tad confusing) Allen and Peppers chase down Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler in different colors.

Darrelle Revis

After landing a blockbuster deal in Tampa Bay, Revis quickly found his fortunes changing when the team released him after coming up empty on a trade partner for the talented, yet pricy cornerback (hey, owning your own island isn't cheap). Now, Revis has joined up with Bill Belichick and co. in New England to chase another Lombardi Trophy, and quietly stick it to the New York Jets for letting him go in the first place.

Josh Freeman

After watching Freeman's quarterbacking (if you can call it that) display on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants this year, it's no wonder why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to let him go midway through last season. Let's not forget that not too long ago Freeman was a rising star at the position. But let's also not forget that things can change in an instant in the NFL. Speaking of instant changes ...

(Ben Liebenberg/NFL.com)

Brandon Weeden

This picture encapsulates the "Factory of Sadness" as Cleveland had become known recently. Weeden and Richardson were first-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Within two seasons Richardson was shipped off to Indianapolis for another first-round pick, while Weeden was straight up released. In the business world, that's what's known as a bad return on investment. At least they'll always have THIS to remember him by.

Tim Tebow

What good would any NFL list be without the venerable Tim Tebow on it? Tebow gets a nod here because he was cut by the Jets, and then quickly cut by the New England Patriots after they scooped him up. That's right, not even Bill Belichick in his infinite NFL trolling could find a use for Tebow as a way to scheme against his division rival.

Charles Woodson

Woodson was set to make $10 million in his final year with the Packers, but they chose to let the former Defensive Player of the Year go instead. It was a tough move for both sides, as Woodson was instrumental in bringing another title back to Titletown. At least for Woodson, he was able to return home (sort of) to the Oakland Raiders -- the team that drafted him No. 4 overall in 1998.


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Peyton Manning

With Manning coming off a year away from football and multiple neck surgeries, and Andrew Luck waiting in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts really had no choice but to let the man that had brought their franchise back from obscurity walk. It was an emotional day for all involved, but it appears no hard feelings remain. Manning got a hell of a homecoming when he played in Indy last year, even if he was handed a loss by his replacement.

LaDainian Tomlinson

When the San Diego Chargers cut L.T., it felt like one of those "not so surprising" but still surprising moves. Tomlinson had been electric as a Bolt, breaking records almost every season. So to see him searching for work was odd. He found a new home quickly in New York, however, and even got another crack at playing in the Super Bowl -- the one checkmark missing from his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately for Tomlinson, his last gasp at a championship fell short once again when the Jets lost 24-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship Game.

Shaun Alexander

This move worked out all right for the Seattle Seahawks, but it was still shocking to see him released just two years removed from his MVP season. The lesson here kids, is that there's no escaping the Madden Curse.

Emmitt Smith

This one often gets overlooked, but Emmitt Smith was indeed released by the team he helped build into a powerhouse during the 1990s. At the age of 34, Smith was set to make $7 million with a $9.8 million salary cap hit back in 2003. Let that sink in for a minute ... those numbers were for a running back. The first six running backs signed in free agency this year averaged just $2.98 million annually. Sure, Smith is a Hall of Famer, but it's interesting to see how the NFL landscape has changed in the last decade.

Jerry Rice

The NFL's G.O.A.T. was indeed cut by the San Francisco 49ers back in 2001. Of course, that was after 16 monstrous seasons in San Francisco where he set virtually every receiving record and helped the team win three Super Bowls. I suppose you could say the two had a good run, and were ready to go their separate ways.

-- Alex writes features and fantasy pieces for NFL.com, and "Separate Ways" just happens to be his favorite Journey song. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

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