It’s no secret that NFL training camp isn’t for the feint of heart. Teams use the time to separate the contenders from the pretenders in battles for highly sought after roster spots. Players are often forced to fight through serious injuries to keep their professional football dreams alive. They endure 18-20-hour workdays. Oh, and this all happens in the blazing heat of summer time. To top it all off, 37 of the 90 players on each respective NFL roster around the league will find themselves unemployed when camp comes to a close.
Every year, there are several big-name players who end up losing their jobs on final cut day during training camp. In 2017, we saw T.J. Ward get cut by the Denver Broncos after helping the team win a Super Bowl title one year earlier. We also saw the Cleveland Browns cut ties with All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden last season, as well as the Arizona Cardinals cutting ties with former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson.
With NFL training camp heating up around the league, here’s a look at five veteran players who could find themselves without a team before the NFL regular season starts.
Donald Penn, LT, Oakland Raiders
The writing was pretty much on the wall for Donald Penn the second the Raiders used their first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft on former UCLA left tackle Kolton Miller. Penn, 35, has been outstanding at times for the Raiders — he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017 — but all signs (a new coaching staff, the presence of Miller, and his $8.38 million salary cap hit) point towards Oakland cutting ties with him in 2018. On top of that, the Raiders could sure use some extra cap space if they are going to re-sign All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos
Paxton Lynch continues to inch towards becoming known as one of the biggest quarterback busts in NFL Draft history. While his physical ability is unquestioned, the former Memphis Tigers star hasn’t been able to adjust to the mental rigors of playing quarterback in the National Football League.
The only factor that may save Lynch’s skin in Denver is the fact that most of his remaining contract is guaranteed. Still, Lynch has been flat-out bad during the vast majority of training camp, and it’s hard to imagine John Elway trusting him to replace Case Keenum in a regular season game.
Vance Joseph: “Chad Kelly is our backup now.” Said things can always change, but Kelly is No. 2 now.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 13, 2018
As of last week, Lynch has officially lost his job as the Broncos’ backup quarterback to Chad Kelly. If the Broncos add another veteran signal caller before the regular season, Lynch will likely end up unemployed.
Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots essentially have three running backs competing for one roster spot during training camp and preseason game action. Veterans Rex Burkhead and James White, and rookie first-round pick Sony Michel, are all locks to make the roster. After that, the team’s final roster spot will come down to Jeremy Hill, Ralph Webb and Mike Gillislee. And after one preseason game, it’s clear that Bill Belichick is going to have a tough time parting ways with Hill.
If Gillislee ends up falling victim to the numbers game in New England, the talented back will likely land with another franchise in a matter of days.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks signed Brandon Marshall to, what amounts to, a risk-free contract this offseason. With only $90,000 of his $1.105 million deal guaranteed, Seattle can cut ties with the six-time Pro Bowler if he proves to be only a fraction of his former self.
When healthy and focused, Marshall is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Unfortunately, the 34-year-old wideout has battled his fair share of injuries over the last year, including a recent hamstring issue, and there have been past instances where he hasn’t exactly been a model teammate.
Marshall’s job may have been saved when fellow wideout, Doug Baldwin, suffered a knee injury early in training camp. That said, if the Seahawks aren’t fully convinced that Marshall will be productive in 2018, they’ll likely cut the two-time All-Pro before their Week 1 matchup with the Denver Broncos.
Brett Hundley, QB, Green Bay Packers
Brett Hundley had a golden opportunity to set himself up for a massive payday when he filled in for Aaron Rodgers in 2017 while the superstar was out with an injury. As it turned out, the former UCLA standout struggled in his nine starts, winning only three games. This resulted in the Packers going out and trading for DeShone Kizer, an extremely talented, but raw, second-year player out of Notre Dame.
Simply put: if Hundley doesn’t play well during the preseason, there is very little chance he keeps a roster spot in Green Bay when NFL training camp comes to an end.
Lead image via Getty