NFL roster bubble watch: Potential cut candidates, trade targets

Over 2,800 players are currently on active rosters heading into the fourth week of the preseason. More than 1,000 of those jobs will be severed by Saturday.

These are some of the most tense days on the NFL calendar for players and front offices alike, with six months of offseason roster construction transforming from theory to transaction-wire reality. By the time all the cuts, roster designations and trades slow down on Labor Day, there will only be a few days more until an actual NFL game. It's about to go down.

To preview the frenzied weekend, I'm spotlighting a bunch of notable players whose status could change, dividing them up into three categories: potential trade targets, roster cut candidates and guys whose bubble shouldn't pop. It's worth wondering if the trade tsunami that helped define this offseason will have one more wave before Week 1. While it's never easy to speculate on surprise moves, what's the harm in trying?


These players can't feel entirely safe about their status, but it appears they've done enough to make their roster.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington Redskins: No one knew what to expect when Peterson signed with the Redskins on Aug. 20. Now I expect him to start in Week 1, just like his true believers expected all along.

Corey Coleman, WR, Buffalo Bills: There has been speculation that the Browns' first-round pick from 2016 might not even make it to Week 1 with the Bills after a quiet couple of weeks in Buffalo. The Bills traded a draft pick for him -- albeit only a 2020 seventh-rounder -- because they are desperate and have no depth at the position. It makes no sense for the Bills to bail already when they don't have appealing alternatives.

Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears: He's no higher than No. 4 on the depth chart, but White put together a healthy preseason when he absolutely needed it to keep his Chicago career alive.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baltimore Ravens: If Lamar Jackson builds on his improved outing from last week on Thursday night, RGIII could again be in trouble. But even if the Ravens make a surprise move by cutting him, the former No. 2 overall pick has showed enough in Baltimore to get a roster spot somewhere.

Torrey Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers: Even though the Panthers could save $5 million by cutting Smith, they probably don't want to admit defeat after acquiring him in a trade this offseason. Despite a rough preseason, Smith's receiver coach Lance Taylor said the eighth-year veteran may have practiced better than any wideout in camp.

Braxton Miller, WR, Houston Texans: The transition from quarterback to slot receiver has not been easy for Miller, who has struggled with injuries. But he appears to be a favorite of coach Bill O'Brien and has enjoyed a positive August while competitors like Keke Coutee were hurt this time around. (UPDATE: Appearances can be deceiving, as the Texans waived Miller on Friday.)


Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos:Broncos GM John Elway is known to keep his draft picks a year or two past their expiration date, but the Denver faithful might riot if Lynch is in uniform for them this season. Speaking of which ...

Brock Osweiler, QB, Miami Dolphins: Is this the end of the line for Osweiler? He's a slight underdog to David Fales for the Miami backup job. If Osweiler can't catch on with Elway or Adam Gase (his former coordinator in Denver), he might be running out of chances.

Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens: The former first-round pick is no higher than No. 5 on the depth chart after falling behind Chris Moore. A fifth or sixth receiver in his fourth season who has no special teams value is not long for the NFL.

Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots:Jeremy Hill appears to have the edge for the Patriots running back role as the guy who gets picked up by way too many fantasy owners after a random two-touchdown week.

Byron Maxwell, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll doesn't want to be reminded that the aging process exists, so he could continue to jettison any Seahawk over the age of 29. (Also, Maxwell hasn't been healthy, which could knock him from the starting lineup all the way to out of a job.)

WR Seth Roberts and LB Derrick Johnson, Oakland Raiders: The injury to Griff Whalen could help Roberts' chances, but he is at risk of being the next "old regime" Raider to be shown the door. Jon Gruden can't keep every over-30 player he signed this offseason, and Johnson could fall victim to Marquel Lee's excellent preseason. (Lee is the highest-rated linebacker in Pro Football Focus' preseason grades.)

Jeff Janis, WR, Cleveland Browns: That playoff performance against the Arizona Cardinals feels like a long time ago.

Cardale Jones, QB, Los Angeles Chargers: He might have one of the strongest arms in the league, but Jones lost his camp battle to Geno Smith.

Brandon Marshall and Amara Darboh, WRs, Seattle Seahawks: Marshall came on late in camp, but his spot remains precarious, given that he's a 34-year-old who received little guaranteed money and might not crack the Seahawks' top three receivers. Darboh is a 2017 third-round pick who just hasn't made an impact.

Seth DeValve, TE, Cleveland Browns: Once the subject of sonorous Marc Sessler sea poems on the Around The NFL Podcast, DeValve could lose his roster spot to "Hard Knocks" hero Devon Cajuste.

Rico Gathers, TE, Dallas Cowboys: It's surprising the Cowboys can't figure out how to use Gathers' obvious physical skills on a team lacking receiving juice, but he hasn't been able to earn the coaching staff's trust.

Matt Barkley, QB, Cincinnati Bengals:Jeff Driskel appears to be the leader in the clubhouse to be Andy Dalton's backup, for those scoring at home.

Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins: It's quite possible that the Redskins keep both Perine and Rob Kelley along with Adrian Peterson, just because coach Jay Gruden is rightfully anxious about his running backs always getting injured.

Stephone Anthony, LB, Miami Dolphins: Talked up as a starter throughout the offseason, the 2015 Saints first-round pick could already be running out of chances.

Other notable potential cuts:Mark Herzlich, LB, New York Giants; Leonte Carroo, WR, Miami Dolphins; Datone Jones, DL, Dallas Cowboys; Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, New York Jets; Shane Vereen, RB, New Orleans Saints; Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, New Orleans Saints; Jake Rudock, QB, Detroit Lions.


Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks: There are so many teams desperate for safety help, including the Cowboys, that the Seahawks' position looks stronger by the day. Thomas will have to decide whether it's worth skipping regular-season paychecks when there's no guarantee that any team wanting him in a trade will give him a long-term deal before he plays.

Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders: The longer this goes on, the more curious it appears that the Raidersreportedly aren't slamming the door on a potential trade. I continue to wonder if Oakland is just waiting for Aaron Donald and the Rams to set the ceiling for Mack's deal.

Malcom Brown, DT, New England Patriots: This one is just dot connecting, although ESPN's Mike Reiss notably brought up Brown as a potential trade candidate. The Patriots are relatively deep at defensive tackle, love to trade and have bigger needs at other positions like wide receiver. Could one of the league's most trade-happy teams get a valuable return for Brown, who is an excellent run stopper?

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Minnesota Vikings: First-round pick Mike Hughes might win the starting nickel job, with veteran Terence Newman also coming off the bench. That doesn't leave much room for 2016 second-rounder Alexander, who suffered an ankle injury that could jeopardize his status for Week 1.

RB Ameer Abdullah and DT A'Shawn Robinson, Detroit Lions: Highly drafted players who appear buried on the depth chart are always candidates for the type of player-for-player swaps we often see around cutdown day. Abdullah and Robinson qualify as Lions draft picks that haven't quite panned out.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New York Jets: It doesn't appear that there's much of a market for Bridgewater. (Because we'd hear about it if there was.) The Jets look likely to carry Teddy's $5 million salary on the roster in the hopes that a trade develops during the season. (UPDATE: Did I mention appearances can be deceiving? The Jets traded Bridgewater to the Saints on Wednesday.)

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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