Cam Newton headlines newly released players who should be priorities on the open market

Despite the obvious negative connotation that comes with it, getting cut by an NFL team doesn’t always signal the end of a player’s professional career. In fact, there are countless instances throughout NFL history in which one team’s trash was another team’s treasure. For a recent example, Raheem Mostert went undrafted in 2015 then was cut by six different teams before landing as the feature back in San Francisco with the 49ers. With cuts now in past today’s 4 p.m. EST deadline for teams to decrease their roster size to 53 players, I’ve tracked the released players most worthy of being added by another club. And I’ll continue to update this tracker more moves trickle in tomorrow — these 53-man rosters are far from finalized. Below you’ll see those players, with information on which team released them, the round in which they were drafted — if applicable — and a link to their Mockdraftable spider chart, which showcases how they tested at the combine or their pro day when they were prospects. Released by:PatriotsDraft status:Round 1 – 2011

Positional athleticism:High-caliberBill Belichick will generate shocking news with a bold roster decision and calmly move forward. That’s what happened here with the release of Newton, thereby signaling Mac Jones’ victory in New England’s quarterback battle. Newton was not good in 2020. There’s no way around it. And he wasn’t signed until early July. We haven’t seen anything resembling the normal Newton since the 2018 season, before the injuries really started to take their toll. However, this is a former league MVP who’s 32 years old and is fresh off an impressive preseason in which he looked rejuvenated to a certain degree as a passer and runner. COVID may or may not have started to derail his 2020 campaign as New England’s starter and an unusual COVID testing misunderstanding forced him to miss practice this summer, which undoubtedly aided Jones in the quarterback competition. No way around it, though — Newton can still play in this league.Released by:Giants

Draft status:Round 7 – 2017

Positional athleticism:Well above-averageOdenigbo gave the Vikings outstanding ROI on their seventh-round selection in 2017, registering 10.5 combined sacks in 2019 and 2020. He’s played up and down the line of scrimmage in his NFL career, truly a versatile rusher. Odenigbo generated a pressure on a respectable 8.6% of his pass-rush opportunities two years ago, and that number jumped to 9.7% a season ago. He quietly led the Vikings with 42 pressures. Granted, there was no Danielle Hunter in 2020, but an impressive feat nonetheless from the overachieving Odenigbo. The Giants signed him in free agency, but then things got weird. Instead of allowing him to play with his hand in the dirt like he’d done for his entire NFL career, he was moved to a stand-up outside linebacker role. His preseason was mostly uneventful, with just three pressures on 52 chances to get after the quarterback. But the 27-year-old has proven, in real games, he can be a useful rotational defensive end who can kick inside and beat guards if needed. Released by:Titans

Draft status:Round 4 – 2021

Positional athleticism:Slightly above-averageFor optics alone, the release of Fitzpatrick is not good for the Titans front office, a collection of staffers that decided to trade up for Fitzpatrick just a few months ago. As for the player, Fitzpatrick was one of the most truly polished, bigger-bodied receiver prospects with extensive experience on the outside in the 2021 class. The nearly 6-2, 208-pound wideout was a steady contributor for all four seasons he spent at Louisville, including 45 catches for 699 yards as a freshman and 833 yards on 43 receptions — 19.7 yards per — as a senior. Fitzpatrick runs jagged routes and is deceptively efficient after the catch thanks to his 4.49 speed and North-South style. He’s a developmental type who can win against press on the perimeter and eventually be a steady WR3 in the NFL. In the preseason, Fitzpatrick played a lot like he did in college with three grabs for 58 yards and a touchdown.Released by:Chargers

Draft status:UDFA – 2019

Positional athleticism:AverageJohnson has average overall athleticism, but there’s a caveat — he ran 4.36 at the Oklahoma State pro day in 2019. And that speed translated to the field as a rookie with Justin Herbert. On a mere 22.4% of the offensive snaps, the blazer hauled in 20 catches for 398 receiving yards with three touchdowns. Seven of his catches went for 20 or more yards. I can’t wrap my head around Los Angeles’ decision to cut Johnson with Herbert entering Year 2, but here we are. For teams in need of a vertical element to their offense, Johnson needs to be a top priority. Released by:Bills

Draft status:UDFA – 2017

Positional athleticism:Above-averageHollister’s proven he can play in this league with 66 grabs for 558 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons in Seattle. A Wyoming teammate of Josh Allen, it came as a surprise Buffalo decided to release the tight end signed in mid-March of this year. In college, Hollister increased his catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns in all three seasons for the Cowboys, culminating in an exquisite 32-grab, 515-yard, seven-score campaign in 2017, Allen’s last in Laramie. This preseason, Hollister was productive with four catches for 53 yards. He’s a low-end TE2 but has legitimate receiving upside. Released by:Bears

Draft status:Round 6 – 2021

Positional athleticism:Well below-averageNewsome was my #TrustTheTape prospect in the 2021 class. He tested horrifically. On the field, he was electric at North Carolina. Newsome produced in all four seasons for the Tar Heels, and had more than 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns as a junior in 2019. He and the rest of the North Carolina passing offense was overshadowed by Javonte Williams and Michael Carter in 2020 — and we can’t blame Mack Brown for adopting on a ground-and-pound philosophy — but the slippery slot wideout still caught 54 passes and scored six times. He was also a dynamic returner in college. Newsome’s short-area quickness allows him to separate underneath with good regularity, and he morphs into a return man after the catch with spectacular vision, cutting skills, and burst to avoid tacklers. A pre-training camp broken collarbone curtailed his initial development in Chicago, but he did ultimately sneak in some snaps in the preseason.Released by:Washington Football TeamDraft status:Round 7 – 2019

Positional athleticism:Above-averageDecently reliable, experienced slot cornerbacks are about as hard to come by as Packers season tickets in today’s NFL, and Moreland has two years of full-time starting experience inside for the Football Team. The former James Madison star — who had 18 career interceptions for the Dukes — has allowed just one touchdown in his coverage area in the NFL. He’s played nearly 1,100 professional snaps over the past two seasons. Moreland sneaked onto the draft radar not only because of his production at James Madison. His ultra-aggressive, super-confident style thanks to impressive quicks are enviable qualities for a slot cornerback. Released by:LionsDraft status:Round 5 – 2018

Positional athleticism:Above-averageOne of the annual guarantees in the NFL — new coaches and GMs are content in releasing good players because they have no connection to them. Crosby is the latest example of said phenomenon. Crosby logged more than 1,100 regular-season snaps in his NFL career, the vast majority of which have come at right tackle, the others at left tackle. The former Oregon star is what every coaching staff should want to see from a Day 3 selection — marked improvement in each season. Crosby’s pressure-allowance rate went from 8.2% in 2019 (when he assumed swing tackle duties) to 4.7% last season in the largest role he’d assumed in his NFL career (424 snaps). Released by:CardinalsDraft status:Round 6 – 2019

Positional athleticism:Well below-averageAs a rookie, Johnson went for 187 yards on 21 receptions — just 8.9 yards per — with one touchdown. Of course, after the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins — thank you, Bill O’Brien — Johnson shuffled down the receiver depth chart. On just under 19% of the snaps, Johnson caught 15 balls for 173 yards. He had three snags for 49 yards this preseason. And now, with Rondale Moore in the mix for Kyler Murray’s offense, there simply wasn’t space in the receiver room in the desert. Johnson tested like a low-level athlete entering the league, but flashed some separation ability and bounce after the catch in his first two seasons with the Cardinals. He can be a WR4 in the NFL.Craving even more NFL coverage focusing on previews, recaps, news and analysis? Listen below andfollowthe Pick Six podcast for a daily dose of everything you need to follow pro football.Released by:TitansDraft status:UDFA – 2021Positional athleticism:Above-averageHawkins is a blur. He’s small and incredibly fast. At a hair above 5-8 and 183 pounds at the Louisville Pro Day, he’s under the vast majority of team’s size thresholds for the running back spot. But think of him as an offensive weapon at the relatively early stages of the “space-based” game at the NFL level. He’s an accomplished runner with impressive vision that pairs wonderfully with his burst and blazing speed. In 2019’s full season with the Cardinals, Hawkins carried a full workload, toting the rock 264 times for 1,525 yards (5.8 per) with nine scores. With less work in 2020 of course, the speedster upped his yards-per-carry average to 6.2 with seven more touchdowns on the ground and he caught 16 passes. I viewed Hawkins as someone worth an early sixth-round pick. He’s now been on two teams (Falcons, Titans)  and amassed 49 yards on 10 rushes in the preseason. Released by:BillsDraft status:UDFA – 2016Positional athleticism:Extreme low-levelWilliams was part of the Bills for the past three seasons after he was signed to a futures deal in early January 2019 following his emergence as a breakout star in the CFL. Mostly a practice-squad star in Buffalo with a flair for the acrobatic catch, Williams did have 12 catches for 166 yards with a touchdown in four appearances later that year. He also can say he led a team in targets (10) in a playoff game, which was the case in the Bills wild card loss to the Texans two seasons ago. As a 6-foot-2, 230-pound rebounder, Williams’ style isn’t an exquisite match for today’s NFL, but he does play to every inch of his frame on the perimeter. Released by:Jaguars

Draft status:Round 7 – 2019

Positional athleticism:Below-averageGray’s only received nine regular-season snaps in his NFL career — in 2020 — but he’s been rock-solid in the preseason with five pressures allowed on 116 pass-blocking snaps. Like others on this list, Gray is much smoother on the field than his combine workout would have ever predicted. In his final season at Maryland, Gray only surrendered seven pressures on 218 pass-blocking snaps. At nearly 6-5 and 320 pounds with lengthy 34 1/2-inch arms, he has the measurements and preseason production worthy of latching on as a legitimate developmental tackle in a league that is short on quality tackles. Released by:Cowboys

Draft status: UDFA – 2020

Positional athleticism:N/AAnother James Madison alum! Carter had 27 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in his final season for the Dukes but still went undrafted. Of course it took time for the long and powerful, authoritative rusher to get on the field as a rookie in Dallas, and he generated three pressures on 15 snaps when he did. A rarity a season ago in the middle of the pandemic, the Colts signed Carter off Dallas’ practice squad in late September but never played a down for Indianapolis. This preseason, back with the Cowboys, Carter did what he does — get after the quarterback, with 11 pressures on 96 pass-rushing snaps (a hefty 11.4% pressure-creation rate) yet somehow did not make a Dallas team that needs more juice collapsing the pocket defensively. At 6-3 and nearly 270 pounds, Carter has an NFL defensive end frame.Released by: Texans

Draft status: UDFA – 2021

Positional athleticism:High-caliberI had a fourth-round grade on Green just a few months ago before he ultimately went undrafted out of Texas A&M. Of course, to me, he had no business not being selected after the reliable career he had in Jimbo Fisher’s Aggie program. He started 40 games in the SEC and was rarely, if ever a liability. In the preseason, Green allowed a single pressure on 44 pass-blocking snaps. Of course, the clearly rebuilding (tanking?) Texans decided to release a promising young offensive lineman. I mean, it’s not as if blocking has been an issue for that team’s offensive recently or anything. Released by: Washington Football Team

Draft status: Round 4 – 2020

Positional athleticism:AverageThe former Liberty standout goes from early Day 3 pick to unemployed in a year. In 2018, he went over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns then repeated that scoring total as a senior for the Flames and nearly hit the 1,400-yard mark. At a legit 6-4 and over 220 pounds, you can probably guess where Gandy-Golden’s thrives. He has a grandiose catch radius and is a moose in the open field. Separation isn’t really this thing, but his releases in college were, at worst, workable. He was my WR17 and No. 72 overall prospect in the 2020 class. We don’t really know what Gandy-Golden is as an NFL player yet. He didn’t get much run as a rookie — played on 11.3% of the offensive snaps — and caught a pass for three yards. This preseason the towering power forward had seven grabs for 77 yards. Gandy-Golden can succeed in a specialty role in the NFL.Released by:EaglesDraftstatus: UDFA – 2019

Positional athleticism:Extreme low-levelHolyfield’s been up against it for much of his football-playing career. At Georgia, he patiently waited behind some runners you may know — Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift before finally earning time as one of the backs in a nearly 50-50 running back committee split with Swift. That season, Holyfield went over 1,000 yards at 6.4 yards per. But his combine plummeted his draft stock in 2019, and he wasn’t selected. In two preseasons — in Carolina and Philadelphia — Holyfield has 4.3 yards per rush, and it hasn’t solely been due to quality blocking. He’s forced nine missed tackles and averaged a hefty 3.00 yards after contact per carry. Holyfield is one of those backs who plays with more juice on the field than a workout will ever indicate. He’s just never going to run away from defensive backs at the NFL level.

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