Some teams opt to get it out of the way as quickly as possible, like ripping off a band-aid. Others wait until the 11th hour, perhaps hoping that some of their decisions will become easier in time. Either way, all 32 NFL franchises have to trim their rosters down to 53 men by 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 31, meaning that the days following the end of the preseason are among the toughest on the league calendar.
Several familiar names were handed a pink slip Friday. Even more found themselves out of work on Saturday. Here are some of the key players released:
Jonathan Dwyer loses the Pittsburgh running back race
The Steelers' situation at running back has been one of the more muddled of the preseason. They provided some clarity Saturday by cutting fourth-year back Jonathan Dwyer.
The bulky Dwyer was thought to be in the mix for Pittsburgh's Week 1 starting job alongside Isaac Redman, with 2013 draft pick Le'Veon Bell coming back from a foot injury. With Dwyer now out of the picture, Redman has a stranglehold on that gig, with the newly-acquired Felix Jones and ex-Cardinal LaRod Stephens-Howling behind him. (Assuming, that is, that Redman is healthy himself -- he's been dealing with a stinger.)
Jones's future in Pittsburgh certainly looks more secure than the one in front of him with Philadelphia earlier this preseason. The Steelers traded for Jones a little more than a week ago, and he carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards in the team's final preseason game.
Despite owing him $5 million in guaranteed salary this season, the Chargers opted to release veteran receiver Robert Meachem. The former New Orleans Saint had been relegated to the second and third teams on offense this season, even with multiple players out of the lineup due to injury.
Former first-round pick Danny Watkins at career crossroads?
The story of Danny Watkins was one of those made-for-the-draft tales. Watkins was a hockey player in high school, a part-time firefighter for several years and spent two season at Butte College before transferring to Baylor. He then had a stellar senior season and blew up at the Senior Bowl, leading the Eagles to draft him No. 23 in 2011.
And that's where things took a turn. Watkins, who turned 27 years old midway through his rookie season, never lived up to his pre-draft promise. With a new coaching staff and scheme in place this season, the Eagles decided enough was enough, releasing Watkins on Saturday.
What's next for the soon-to-be 29-year-old lineman? CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank wondered aloud, via Twitter, if this was the end of the line for Watkins in the NFL: "I don't think Danny Watkins will play again," Frank tweeted. "I don't think his heart was ever in football. I don't think he likes playing the game."
Even if Watkins still has the drive to compete, finding another NFL home may be a challenge. Watkins is well past the prospect stage of his career, and he showed very little in 2011 or '12 to indicate that he can be a starter in this league. That journeyman Allen Barbre apparently beat him out for a backup job with Philadelphia certainly does not speak well of what Watkins has left in the tank.
For now, Watkins goes down as a draft bust.
Austin Collie's comeback stalls
It's hard not to root for Collie at this point in his career. The hard-luck wide receiver has fought tooth-and-nail to stick around the NFL, despite several devastating concussions and a knee injury. But the former Colt faced an uphill battle to make San Francisco's 53-man roster, and the impressive preseason work of fourth-round pick Quinton Patton and former Dolphin Marlon Moore made Collie expendable.
Collie delivered two catches in the 49ers' preseason opener and one in each of their final three exhibition contests. That was hardly enough to convince the 49ers to keep him. Though Collie's concussion history is no doubt a worry for any team considering signing him, the torn patellar tendon he suffered in 2012 probably played more of a role in his inability to stick with San Francisco.
Vince Young's stay in Green Bay a short one
Why did the Packers opt to release Young on Saturday, less than a month after signing him to compete for their No. 2 QB job?
"They have to," an NFL personnel director told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn. "He stinks. Looks like he can't retain the plays. He freelances."
Young's ability to improvise and create outside the pocket has long been a big selling point for his game -- he tortured defenses during his college days at Texas in that fashion. He has never been able to translate that style of play to NFL success, though, and Green Bay's decision to go with B.J. Coleman (for now) as Aaron Rodgers' backup is a rather damning indictment of Young's game.
Tebow survived New England's first round of cuts, which left him on the roster long enough to throw a pair of TD passes in a come-from-behind preseason win over the Giants. He was not as fortunate when the Patriots further reduced their roster on Saturday.
What's next for Tebow? The answer is anyone's guess at this point, though he would appear to be running out of chances to play QB in the NFL, even as a second- or third-stringer. Tebow did not seem any better prepared for those duties as a Patriot than he was as a Jet last season. In three preseason outings for New England, Tebow was 11-for-30 passing, though he did run for 91 yards on 16 attempts.
Packers also thin out running back ranks
On top of deciding that Vince Young was not a great fit as a backup QB, the Packers made a similar call on running back Alex Green. A 2011 third-round pick, Green started four games last season en route to 464 yards rushing. The writing may have been on the wall for him, however, when Green Bay used a pair of draft picks this April on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
Franklin's struggles throughout camp and a season-ending injury for DuJuan Harris kept the door slightly ajar for Green -- who had to try to fend off James Starks, too -- but he instead was the odd man out. The Packers will go with Lacy, Starks, Franklin and fullback John Kuhn as their primary ball carriers, barring another roster move.
Titans boot 16-game starter
The Tennessee Titans worked hard this offseason to rework their offensive line, following a disheartening 2012 effort. In addition to using a first-round draft on Chance Warmack, the Titans also plucked guard Andy Levitre and center Rob Turner off the free-agent market. Those developments squeezed out of the lineup Fernando Velasco, who started every game as the Titans' center last season.
Rumor had it that the Bills were looking to deal Scott before Saturday's cut-down deadline. No such luck. Apparently unable to drum up any interest for their 32-year-old linebacker on the trade market, Buffalo opted to cut Scott.
Scott's salary was rather manageable at $940K this season, but he had been pushed down the depth chart in spite of re-signing with the Bills this offseason. Scott had been a member of Buffalo's roster since 2007, racking up 27 starts and more than 300 tackles in that time. Even though Buffalo could not land anything for Scott in a trade, there does figure to be a team out there that could use his veteran presence.
Marvin Austin part of Giants' cut list
As the Bills did with Bryan Scott, the Giants tried to find a team interested in trading for DT Marvin Austin ahead of Saturday's roster deadline. It would have been a minor upset had they finished that quest, as Austin has failed to make any lasting impact since being selected in Round 2 of the 2011 draft. Austin missed all of his rookie season because of a torn pectoral muscle and a back injury limited him in 2012.
The Raiders re-signed Carter this offseason, despite Carter recording just 2.5 sacks last season (a half-sack off his career-low from 2004, when he played in seven games). Their decision to trim Carter from their roster Saturday could signal the end of the line for the veteran pass-rusher. The 32-year-old Carter did have 10 sacks in a starting role for New England back in 2011, so there may be some production left.Matt Flynn Terrelle Pryor Matt McGloin Tyler Wilson