Ten notes from the NFL roster cut-down day madness (here’s a list of the notable players released) …
1. On Saturday night, I told two of my friends—one of whom is a Patriots season ticket holder—that Dolphins’ Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills were traded to the Texans ... and they didn’t know who Tunsil was. So I called around to see how the offensive lineman is regarded across the league. Two execs I texted with regarded him as a top-five left tackle. Another said he’d put him at the top of the second tier, not quite what Tyron Smith or Trent Williams were in their primes, but not far off. So regardless of the price, Houston is getting a very worthy replacement for Duane Brown, two years after trading him.
2. Tunsil’s arrival shifts things with several players on Houston’s offensive line, notably their first- and second-round rookie linemen—the new left tackle is only two years older than Tytus Howard and Max Sharping, so it’s not like either is going to be positioned as Tunsil’s heir. After flipping over some rocks, my sense is that Howard will eventually become the team’s right tackle, and Sharping is at guard to stay. Of course, how quickly that happens boils down to their development.
3. Herein lies the crux of the Texans trading Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle—will pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo and LB Jacob Martin be worth moving on from Clowney? Had Houston allowed Clowney to play the year out, they likely would have reaped a 2021 third-round comp pick for letting him walk next spring. That means that Houston is essentially trading 16 games of Clowney for Mingo and Martin (and getting that third-rounder a year earlier). And for a team clearly in win-now mode, with QB Deshaun Watson still on his rookie deal, losing those 16 games of Clowney is yielding value.
4. Meanwhile, the Seahawks will either sign Clowney long-term or get that third-rounder back in 2021. Martin, who Seattle really liked, became expendable with the emergence of rookie Cody Barton. And Clowney, of course, will be more than adequate in replacing what team loses in the journeyman Mingo.
5. To contextualize the Dolphins’ return in the Tunsil trade, it’s significantly more than what the Raiders got for Khalil Mack last summer or what the Giants got for Odell Beckham in March. You can argue with the move (it’s become increasingly tough to find young linemen), and what it might mean for the 2019 team, and for new coach Brian Flores in the short term. But it’s hard to argue that GM Chris Grier didn’t get the most he possibly could for a really good young tackle.
6. The Saints’ deal for Kiko Alonso is logical—they’re giving up a guy who is a solid special-teamer with some ability at linebacker, in Vince Biegel, for a player who can start at the position. Given that New Orleans’ top concern coming out of camp was depth at the position, it’s a smart, buy-low move.
7. The Chiefs’ post-Kareem Hunt rebuilding of the tailback depth chart is a testimonial to the belief of Andy Reid’s teams on the position—you can find solutions in many different ways. Kansas City found Damien Williams on the scrap heap of free agency in 2018, then signed him to a two-year, $8.1 million deal after Hunt’s release. The Chiefs then draft Utah State’s Darwin Thompson, who’s been a revelation, in the sixth-round. And overnight, they added Reid’s old friend LeSean McCoy, cut by Buffalo, on a reasonable one-year deal. Just like that, the Chiefs have quality and depth at the position.
8. Biggest surprise of cutdown day—the Jets whacking third-round pick Jachai Polite. The just doesn’t happen, unless you wait until after the draft to fire your general manager. I’m told that, on the second night of the draft, that pick came down to Polite and Michigan State CB Justin Layne for the Jets. Layne wound up picked 15 selections later, going to the Steelers with the 83rd overall pick.
9. Polite’s journey has been a strange one. He was regarded a potential first-round pick in January. He bombed interviews at the combine, ending any shot at that, but still wound up a high third-rounder. And then the GM who picked him got fired. For what it’s worth, I’d heard Polite’s combine interview with the Eagles was a disaster. Which is interesting, given that Jets GM Joe Douglas was Philadelphia’s vice president of player personnel at the time. Douglas, maybe predictably, wound up cutting him. He cleared waivers Sunday. That makes him a practice squad candidate, which is a pretty stunning end result to all this.
10. It only takes one team, but it’s hard to imagine that Melvin Gordon will find a suitor will to give him the blockbuster deal he’s seeking and give the Chargers the kind of return that would motivate a trade (remember, they’ll get a comp pick for him next year, if he leaves in free agency). Los Angeles has had an offer around $10 million per on the table. So long as the structure is right, I think he’d be smart to go back to them and take it.
And here’s a bonus item: Scouting departments take pride in seeing their players claimed on waivers after the massive league-wide cutdown, because that’s often a display of depth. In all, 36 players were claimed after the first wave, and nine teams had more than one guy plucked. The two Super Bowl teams led the way, with the Rams having five poached, and the Patriots four. And the Bills and Ravens had three each.
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