2021 NFL roster cuts: Our 32 takeaways include Cam Newton’s surprising release, key trades, and more.
This year’s final cutdown day was already going to be different. Typically, the NFL’s deadline for teams to announce their 53-man rosters took place on the Saturday before the first week of the regular season. By the time most NFL fans had finished their first cup of coffee, teams would make their initial cuts before releasing their first 53-man roster sometime in the mid-afternoon.
Things are different in 2021. With the advent of the 17-game season, the NFL’s final cutdown day was moved to a weekday. Instead of Saturday morning mayhem, NFL fans experienced their version of Super Tuesday, a term usually reserved for election Tuesdays. Several teams made moves that made national headlines, while other teams managed to mostly stay out of the limelight. No team, however, was able to avoid making at least one or two tough decisions. Players who did not make their team’s roster will now look to either find a spot on another roster or find a home on a practice squad.
Now that the 4 p.m. deadline has passed, let’s take a look at each team’s most notable roster cut. We’ve also included several trades that went down throughout the course of the day.
The Cardinals officially placed cornerback Malcolm Butler on the team’s reserve/retired list. On Monday, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported that the former Super Bowl hero is dealing with a “personal situation” while adding that stepping away from football is “on the table.” A Pro Bowler in 2015, the 31-year-old Butler picked off four passes as a member of the Titans last season.
Atlanta notably kept three quarterbacks — Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen and rookie Feleipe Franks — on the 53-man roster. Rosen, who signed with Atlanta last week, went 9 of 18 with 118 yards and a touchdown during his preseason debut with the Falcons.
Despite a strong preseason, Jake Verity was unable to unseat four-time All-Pro Justin Tucker, who will return for his 10th season in Baltimore. Baltimore had reportedly received interest about a possible trade for Verity before ultimately waiving him.
Veteran receiver (and Aaron Rodgers favorite) Jake Kumerow was part of Buffalo’s initial 53-man roster following an impressive camp. Not as fortunate was quarterback Jake Fromm, as the former Georgia standout was part of Buffalo’s roster cuts.
In Charlotte, former XFL star PJ Walker beat out 2019 third-round pick Will Grier as Sam Darnold’s backup. With Grier’s release, defensive end Brian Burns and offensive lineman Dennis Daley are the only Panthers left from the team’s 2019 draft class.
In a bit of a surprise, the Bears waived receiver and sixth-round pick Dazz Newsome. Newsome had recently returned to practice after breaking his collarbone during OTAs. The Bears are reportedly hoping to re-sign Newsome to the practice squad if he manages to clear waivers. A bigger surprise was the team’s release of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who left the Bears on August 13 in order to deal with a personal family matter. A 2015 Pro Bowler, Trufant is still owed $3.5 million from the Lions, who released him in March.
The Bengals parted ways with rookie running back Pooka Williams, who had just one carry for eight yards during the preseason. Williams, whom the Bengals will reportedly try to sign to their practice squad if he clears waivers, rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons at Kansas. He opted out of the 2020 season after Kansas’ first four games. Cincinnati also waived defensive tackle Mike Daniels — a former Pro Bowler who started 11 games during the 2020 season — and former starting offensive guard Michael Jordan.
Cleveland had several notable cuts, but the biggest one was the release of receiver KhaDarel Hodge. Hodge, whose prowess special teams was recently praised by Cleveland special teams coach Mike Priefer, caught two touchdown passes during the preseason that included a 22-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Baker Mayfield on Sunday night. The emergence of Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie Anthony Schwartz apparently made Hodge expendable.
In a close competition, Cooper Rush beat out Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci for the job as the Cowboys’ No. 2 quarterback behind Dak Prescott. Rush, who served as Prescott’s primary backup from 2017-19, went 29 of 46 for 272 with two touchdowns and zero interceptions during the preseason. Gilbert was 28 of 50 for 301 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. DiNucci was 35 of 66 passing for 348 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Denver released two of the four “quarterbacks” who started under center for them in 2020. The team released Brett Rypien and receiver Kendall Hinton, who started at quarterback against the Saints when Drew Lock, Rypien and Blake Bortles were placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. The Broncos will reportedly sign Rypien to their practice squad if he clears waivers.
As of 4 p.m., the Lions did not have a kicker after waiving Randy Bullock and Zane Gonzalez. Detroit also waived cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman less than a month after acquiring the veteran defensive back.
Green Bay Packers
The biggest headline out of Green Bay was the news that All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari would start the 2021 season on the team’s physically unable to perform. Filling in for Bakhtiari will be Elgton Jenkins, a Pro Bowl guard who has temporarily moved over to tackle. The Packers also waived receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who caught 28 passes in 24 games in Green Bay.
A week after acquiring him via trade, the Texans released cornerback Ka’Dar Hollman. The Packers’ sixth-round pick in 2019, Hollman appeared in 18 regular season games (with one start) during his first two seasons. Houston gave up a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft to acquire Hollman. The Texans also made headlines by cutting former starting receiver Keke Coutee.
The Colts’ most notable roster cut was rookie safety Shawn Davis, a fifth-round pick who became the second-highest pick cut before his rookie season began in Chris Ballard’s time as general manager. The Colts instead decided to keep Andre Chachere, a more versatile defender who is coming off of an impressive camp.
The Jaguars released several notable receivers that included Phillip Dorsett II, Devin Smith (who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State), Laquon Treadwell and Pharoh Cooper. Among the other notable Jaguar cuts included safety Jarrod Wilson and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor.
Kansas City Chiefs
For the first the first time as Chiefs general manager, Brett Veach has released one of his draft picks before the start of the regular season. That player is receiver Cornell Powell, a fifth-round pick who caught 53 passes for 882 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season at Clemson. Powell caught just four passes during the preseason.
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas granted receiver John Brown’s quest to be released. The Raiders had signed Brown to replace Nelson Agholor, who signed with the Patriots during the offseason. Las Vegas also released strong safety Karl Joseph, the team’s 2016 first-round pick who spent the 2020 season with the Browns.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers bid adieu to kicker Michael Badgley, who lost his position battle against Tristian Vizaino. The team’s kicker since 2018, Badgley made 80% of his field goal attempts and 95.3% of his point-after attempts over that span. He struggled in 2020, however, as he made a career-low 72.7% of his field goal tries and 92.3% of his point-after attempts.
Los Angeles Rams
After trading punter Corey Bojorquez to the Packers, the Rams restructured the contract of JK Scott. The team’s starting punter since 2018. Scott averaged 45.5 yards per punt last season, a 1.5-yard improvement from the previous season.
Miami’s roster cuts included linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who will reportedly be signed to the Dolphins’ practice squad assuming he clears waivers. The former Seahawk and UCF standout was signed by the Dolphins on July 23.
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Minnesota addressed its need at tight end by trading for former Jet Chris Herndon in exchange for draft pick compensation. A fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft, Herndon caught 71 of 103 targets for 796 yards and seven touchdowns in 33 games with the Jets. The Vikings’ most notable cut was defensive end Everson Griffin, who was recently re-signed by the club.
New England Patriots
No one saw New England releasing Cam Newton on Tuesday. But given Mac Jones’ preseason success, Bill Belichick decided to end any speculation about the team’s plans at quarterback entering Week 1. In 15 series, Jones went 36-of-52 passing for 389 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions during the preseason. In seven series, Newton went 14 of 21 for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Jones’ first regular-season start will take place at home against the Dolphins on Sept. 12.
New Orleans Saints
Shortly after Sean Payton confirmed that Jameis Winston would be the Saints’ starting quarterback, the team released Trevor Siemian, who went 4 of 8 for 59 yards in his only preseason appearance. The team is not done with Siemian, as NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero has reported that the Saints are planning to re-sign him later this week. The plan is for Siemian to be the Saints’ No. 2 quarterback, with Taysom Hill expected to be used in a multitude of ways while also serving as one of Winston’s backups.
New York Giants
For the second straight day, the Giants traded for an offensive lineman. One day after they traded for former Bengals offensive lineman Billy Price, the Giants have acquired interior lineman Ben Bredeson via a trade with the Ravens. The Giants will receive a 2022 fifth-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round pick after sending the Ravens a fourth-round pick. The move comes after New York released several offensive linemen on Tuesday that included center Jonotthan Harrison, guard Kenny Wiggins, tackle Jackson Barton and center Brett Heggie.
New York Jets
Among the Jets’ notable roster cuts included rookie quarterback James Morgan, receiver Vyncint Smith, cornerback Lamar Jackson, linebacker Noah Dawkins and defensive lineman Ronald Blair, who played for Robert Saleh in San Francisco. Dawkins, who appeared to be in the mix for a starting job, could be back with team once they place players on injured reserve.
Philadelphia parted ways with Travis Fulgham, its leading receiver last season. The Lions’ sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft, Fulgham caught 38 of 67 targets for 539 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games last season. But Fulgham — who caught 29 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns over a five-game span — saw his production fall off after suffering a foot injury. An inconsistent training camp ultimately led to his release.
As expected, Dwayne Haskins made the Steelers’ initial roster following a solid preseason. Notable players who did not make Pittsburgh’s roster included running back Jaylen Samuels and reserve offensive lineman B.J. Finney. A 2018 fifth-round pick, Samuels tallied 1,009 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns during his three seasons in Pittsburgh. The team’s top backup interior lineman from 2016-19, Finney returned to Pittsburgh this offseason after spending the 2020 season in Seattle and Cincinnati.
San Francisco 49ers
Former first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix failed to make the 49ers’ roster despite having a pick-six during the team’s preseason finale. San Francisco also parted with veteran receiver Travis Benjamin.
After recently acquiring him via a trade with Houston, Seattle waived cornerback John Reid. The Seahawks will reportedly try to sign Reid to their practice squad if he clears waivers. The 141st overall pick in the 2020 draft, Reid made just one start during his rookie season while appearing in 13 games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s hard for a rookie to make any roster, let alone the roster of the defending Super Bowl champion that kept each of its 22 starters from the previous season. Despite this, six of Tampa Bay’s seven rookies managed to make the team’s 53-man roster, with the exception being seventh-round cornerback Chris Wilcox. Rookie quarterback Kyle Trask managed to make the cut, as he will play behind Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert.
With Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds manning the Titans’ top-three receiver spots, fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick didn’t do enough during camp to secure his spot on the roster. Fitzpatrick, who could be re-signed to the Titans’ practice squad if he clears waivers, caught 154 passes for 2,589 yards and 21 touchdowns in four seasons at Louisville.
Washington Football Team
By making Washington’s roster, tight end Sammis Reyes became the first Chilean-born NFL player. Reyes, who will play alongside fellow tight ends Logan Thomas and John Bates, is considered the team’s best blocking tight end. Reyes was signed by the Football Team in April after participating in Florida’s pro day.