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Published: May 27, 2014 at 07:39 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 31, 2018 at 04:10 p.m.

The most surprising cuts in recent NFL history

Throughout football history, numerous all-time team leaders have been surprisingly cut from their teams. Take a look at some of the most surprising all-time roster cuts, along with the numbers they put up before they were let go.

24 Photos Total

  • Running back Demarco Murray was a three-time Pro Bowler (including in 2017) and was a one-time All-Pro. He was cut after two seasons with the Titans in 2017, only one season removed from a season in which he had run for 1,287 rushing yards. 24

    Margaret Bowles/Associated Press

    Demarco Murray

    Running back Demarco Murray was a three-time Pro Bowler (including in 2017) and was a one-time All-Pro. He was cut after two seasons with the Titans in 2017, only one season removed from a season in which he had run for 1,287 rushing yards.

  • Five seasons after safety Tyrann Mathieu was drafted by the Cardinals, the one-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro safety was cut. 23

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Tyrann Mathieu

    Five seasons after safety Tyrann Mathieu was drafted by the Cardinals, the one-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro safety was cut.

  • The Seahawks cut four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman after seven seasons with Seattle. Sherman had 32 career interceptions during his career with the Seahawks. 22

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Richard Sherman

    The Seahawks cut four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman after seven seasons with Seattle. Sherman had 32 career interceptions during his career with the Seahawks.

  • During his nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Jordy Nelson had accumulated 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns (65 of those coming from quarterback Aaron Rodgers). 21

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Jordy Nelson

    During his nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Jordy Nelson had accumulated 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns (65 of those coming from quarterback Aaron Rodgers).

  • After eight seasons with the Cowboys and becoming the teams' all-time leader in touchdown receptions, wide receiver Dez Bryant was cut by the team that had drafted him in 2010. 20

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Dez Byrant

    After eight seasons with the Cowboys and becoming the teams' all-time leader in touchdown receptions, wide receiver Dez Bryant was cut by the team that had drafted him in 2010.

  • A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, running back Jamaal Charles was cut after nine seasons with the Chiefs, during which he became the team's all-time leading rusher. 19

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Jamaal Charles

    A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, running back Jamaal Charles was cut after nine seasons with the Chiefs, during which he became the team's all-time leading rusher.

  • Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was a three-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro when he was cut during his eighth season with the 49ers. 18

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    NaVorro Bowman

    Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was a three-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro when he was cut during his eighth season with the 49ers.

  • Quarterback Jay Cutler was cut by the Bears after eight years on the team, during which he netted 153 passing touchdowns and 23,443 passing yards. 17

    Todd Rosenberg/NFL

    Jay Cutler

    Quarterback Jay Cutler was cut by the Bears after eight years on the team, during which he netted 153 passing touchdowns and 23,443 passing yards.

  • Josh Sitton, the Packers' eight-year veteran guard was a four-time Pro Bowler with the team before he was cut. 16

    Todd Rosenberg/NFL

    Josh Sitton

    Josh Sitton, the Packers' eight-year veteran guard was a four-time Pro Bowler with the team before he was cut.

  • Cut after 12 seasons with the Texans, the seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson was the Texans' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. 15

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Andre Johnson

    Cut after 12 seasons with the Texans, the seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson was the Texans' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.

  • After signing a one-year contract with the Eagles, quarterback Tim Tebow played in all four preseason games of the 2015 NFL season before he was cut. He completed 21 out of 36 attempts, threw for 286 yards along with two touchdowns during those four games. 14

    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Tim Tebow

    After signing a one-year contract with the Eagles, quarterback Tim Tebow played in all four preseason games of the 2015 NFL season before he was cut. He completed 21 out of 36 attempts, threw for 286 yards along with two touchdowns during those four games.

  • Chip Kelly gained infamy for his unorthodox strategies, coaching techniques and training methods. Cutting DeSean Jackson after the speedy wideout put together a career year in which he caught for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns might be at the top of the list. 13

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    DeSean Jackson

    Chip Kelly gained infamy for his unorthodox strategies, coaching techniques and training methods. Cutting DeSean Jackson after the speedy wideout put together a career year in which he caught for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns might be at the top of the list.

  • 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 went to Baltimore to catch passes from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco where he played for three seasons before ending his career. 12

    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    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 went to Baltimore to catch passes from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco where he played for three seasons before ending his career.

  • 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 a flash during the 2013 offseason when Dallas parted ways with Ware to help take their salary cap issues from a catastrophic level down to mid-tier disaster. Ware ended up dressing with the Denver Broncos in 2014, chasing the championship ring that has eluded him thus far in his illustrious career. 11

    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    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 a flash during the 2013 offseason when Dallas parted ways with Ware to help take their salary cap issues from a catastrophic level down to mid-tier disaster. Ware ended up dressing with the Denver Broncos in 2014, chasing the championship ring that has eluded him thus far in his illustrious career.

  • 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. 10

    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    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.

  • 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). Revis quickly 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. 9

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    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). Revis quickly 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.

  • 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 ... 8

    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    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 ...

  • This picture encapsulates the "Factory of Sadness" as Cleveland had become known as. 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. 7

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden

    This picture encapsulates the "Factory of Sadness" as Cleveland had become known as. 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.

  • 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. 6

    David Stluka/Associated Press

    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.

  • 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 no hard feelings remained. Manning got a hell of a homecoming when he played in Indy his first time back, even if he was handed a loss by his replacement. 5

    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    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 no hard feelings remained. Manning got a hell of a homecoming when he played in Indy his first time back, even if he was handed a loss by his replacement.

  • 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. 4

    Chris Park/Associated Press

    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.

  • 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. 3

    Kevin Reece/Associated Press

    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.

  • 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. 2

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Pres

    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.

  • 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. 1

    NFL

    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.