CB Al Harris, NT Kelly Gregg, and WR/PR Eric Parker were just a few of my clients who were tossed away by one team and eventually coveted by another where their careers blossomed. Trent Green, Jake Delhomme, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, and even Johnny Unitas were some notables that were cut by their initial teams and went on to stardom with another.
As the clock ticks toward the final cut down day of Aug 31st, players careers will hang in the balance by wire claims, proactive or not so proactive agents, and personnel men who are working to upgrade and purge their rosters.
Some players may not fit the scheme of their current team, may be underappreciated or just can’t get reps behind great players already in front of them. However, chances are they can still make it because they are needed and appreciated by another team.
The agent’s role: A good agent is intensely in tune to his client’s job situation with his current team. Usually, after the second preseason game, a seasoned agent should be able to recognize if his/her client will make the team. If it’s not looking good for the client, it’s our job to be proactive in helping create a landing place for a client who is cut. Even help find a better opportunity to play elsewhere than the one he was just in. I accomplish this by scouting the depth charts of other teams, calling and sending texts to GMs, head coaches and personnel men about my player’s potential availability. An agent may even go as far as asking a GM for his players’ early release if he isn’t getting reps in the preseason games. Beating the herd of the over 900 cut players can be advantageous.
If a player gets cut and his team wants to bring him back to the practice squad the agent can play a role that could mold the success or fate of a player’s career. It’s common for multiple teams to want to have a cut player on their respective practice squads. When NT Kelly Gregg was cut by the Eagles in 2000 (after being cut by the Bengals in 99’), they desperately wanted him back on their practice squad. However, I chose to send him to the Ravens and reunite him with his former college coach at Oklahoma, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who believed in Kelly and had a specific role planned out for him. The Eagles weren’t happy when Kelly literally had to sneak out of town, but too bad, it worked out best for my client who went on to start for 8 years for the Ravens.
It’s very typical for teams to pressure agents in keeping a cut player on their practice squad. They remind the agent that they have an investment in him (a possible signing bonus) and will go as far as trying to quarantine a player from other teams and even his own agent’s advice. I personally believe that once a team cuts a player they get treated like every other team, meaning the place with the best opportunity wins.
Time for the personnel men to shine: The majority pro personnel directors and scouting directors attend other preseason games. They especially watch the young players on the best NFL teams. Some especially focus on cherry picking players from teams within their own division.
A second chance: The draft doesn’t always go the way a team wants it to go. Targeted players in later rounds can go off the board prior to a team’s turn to pick. If the player was highly valued by a GM, head coach, position coach or even area scout, he will be followed closely throughout the preseason and if he comes free, he may be claimed immediately.
Special teams upgrade: Each NFL team likes to have two or three special team studs. If they don’t materialize in the preseason a team will surely claim one from another roster.
After one year of working with John Harbaugh as his head coach, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome told me “John is a master of working with the bottom of the roster”. John, being a former special teams coach, has an eye for identifying which players can play a back up role and also contribute on special teams. He expects to get the most from players 33 to 53. On cut day, special teams coaches usually have to fight tooth and nail to keep some players who cant’ help a position coach but are mercenaries for his teams. A GM may have to play mediator by finding a cut player from another roster to make both coaches happy.
This time of year brings the NFL’s version of musical chairs. The last few cuts for a team are usually the hardest and many factors come into to play when making that final decision. Each team is allowed to sign 8 practice squad players and half could be refugees off other rosters. There is a lot of conversations going on behind the scenes as teams try to find the next Wes Welker or Trent Green in somebody else’s junk pile.
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