As many fans of the National Football League know, the NFL jokingly stands for “Not For Long.” The term references the league’s high turnover rate at all positions on the field and levels within an organization, and has come to embody the sink-or-swim dynamic that is found in America’s favorite sport. This unyielding pursuit of results has pushed the NFL to the top of the professional sports food chain and made the game a better all-around product for fans, but at the same time has made the dream of holding a steady job on an NFL roster almost impossible.
Given the individual pressure each of the 32 teams face during the stretch of a season, it’s hard to fault general managers and owners for being so transient with their rosters. Wins are all that matter, and if the current crop of players isn’t delivering, then changes need to be made.
That’s where this list comes in. All of these players not only possess NFL talent but have shown an ability to be major contributors on successful NFL teams before. But that was some time ago, and player’s are often valued at what they can do n ow, not what they did in years past. It’s a fine line between making a team’s 53-man roster and making quarterpounders at the local McDonald’s, and once the 2016 season is up, these players will realize their futures look more the like the latter.
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15 Andre Johnson
It’s a little unfair to start out with Andre Johnson because he’s already had such a steady career. Johnson was the leading man in Houston years before Arian Foster and J.J. Watt came into the league and always put up admirable numbers whether it was Matt Schaub or David Carr under center.
Still, going on his second year removed from the Texans organization, Johnson is already onto his second team. After a lukewarm oneyear stint with the Indianapolis Colts, Johnson has now found his way onto the Tennessee Titans roster where he’ll be competing with Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews for the playing time. Seeing as Johnson couldn’t solidify himself among T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Coby Fleener in Indy, it’s unlikely he’ll beat out the Bgrade talents of Matthews and Wright on the Titans.
Barring a miraculous career revival in Tennessee, expect Johnson to retire at the end of the 2016 season.
14 Carson Palmer
After screwing up in the NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers to end the Arizona Cardinals 2015 season, Carson Palmer comes into 2016 with his butt uncomfortably attached to the hot seat.
Analysts around the country are likening Palmers’ epic collapse of two lost fumbles and four interceptions to that of Jake Delhomme’s own sixturnover debacle in the 2009 playoffs that spelled the end of his career. While Palmer has the talent around him and still possesses some talent of his own to ward off those terrifying premonitions, it doesn’t mean football fans should discount the relevant warning signs.
Palmer will turn 37 in December and has never been a stud in the playoffs. Neither one of those realities mesh well with the chronologically young Arizona Cardinals roster powered by their progressive head coach Bruce Arians and an organization that knows their Super Bowl window is closing fast. Palmer will be on a short leash to prevent him from doing his best Jake Delhomme impersonation, and even if he flirts with disaster, the Cardinals will most likely yank him out of the huddle and off the team for 2017.
13 Arian Foster
Another former Texan in Arian Foster who’s trying to find a home on a new roster will likely have that chase cut short sometime this season.
Foster has been force in the NFL since he was a practice squad pullup in 2009, posting four 1,200 rushing seasons, four Pro Bowls and netting over 2,000 yards receiving. His versatility and potential are enough to wet the chops of general managers and coaches around the league. Yet, Foster also has a litany of injuries, especially to his lower body, that have become more serious in recent years with a torn groin muscle and torn Achilles tendon in 2015.
Skepticism about Foster’s chances of surviving an NFL season are legitimate and prompt coaches to evaluate whether or not he’s worth the risk. For the Miami Dolphins, his current team, that choice is becoming easier to make as camp surprise Isaiah Pead is performing well enough to be the onetwo punch alongside current starter Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins are deducing what so many other teams will in regards to Foster: a great talent, but one whose star has faded along with his youth. Better luck in 2017, Arian.
12 Jimmy Graham
Wait...that Jimmy Graham? The one who wanted millions of dollars following the 2014 season because his usage was more like a toptier receiver than anything resembling a tight end? No way he could be out of a job by the end of the season, right?
Wrong. Graham had his 2015 cut short due to injury, but his presence was forgettable prior to his exit. After catching doubledigit touchdowns in 2013 and 2014 for the New Orleans Saints, Graham hauled in a whopping T WO touchdowns during his 11 games in 2016 for the Seattle Seahawks. Safe to say, Jimmy’s definitely got an uphill climb in front of him.
Though it’d unjust to put this all the onus on Graham. In New Orleans, Graham was a part of a system that played to his strengths as a finesse bigman and treated him as a receiver. Now in offensive coordinator Darell Bevell’s system with the Seahawks, Graham is in a more traditional tight en d role where he’s asked to come off the line and, dare I say, block rather than split out wide. The passing attempts for tight ends in Bevell’s system are few and far in between compared to the passhappy attack in New Orleans, and that may not bode well for Jimmy.
If Wilson and Graham fail to establish some kind of chemistry in 2016, it’s more than likely Graham will be looking for a new home in 2017.
11 Sam Bradford & Case Keenum
Two different players on two different teams that are in jeopardy of being jobless because of the same reason: both are veteran stand-ins for newly-drafted rookie quarterbacks who’re waiting in the wings to take over.
And when you look at both player’s careers, it’s hard to question their chances on any team. Keenum has been career backup in the NFL over his four years and has a record of 510 when under center; Bradford meanwhile, for all his hype as the number one overall draft pick in 2010, has gone 25371 with a subpar QBR in every year he’s played. Neither one of these guys are catching the eye of serious contenders anytime soon, and it’s probable that both of their best years are behind them.
Keenum and Bradford’s opportunity to secure future employment will come in the assorted number of games they start in for their respective teams this season. Though if things go south by Week 8 and the rookies are looking prime to takeover, don’t expect to see either Keenum or Bradford’s name popping up again in 2017.
10 Marvin Jones
Other than being known as the receiver opposite of A.J. Green for the Cincinnati Bengals, Marvin Jones was also known as a possession receiver prone to making big plays. That’s what he did in his 2013 breakout season when he caught 10 touchdowns and gave football fans the impression the Bengals were inundated with talent at all positions.
But after missing all of 2014 due to injury and making a respectable comeback in 2015, Jones now finds himself on a new roster with the Detroit Lions. The promise surrounding Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate III, Eric Ebron and Ameer Abdullah coupled with Jones’ arrival may have people thinking this is shades of 2013 Bengals again, but slow your roll. This is the same Detroit team that saw Ebron underperform for two straight seasons, has yet to figure out what they’re getting from Abdullah, and most of all, relies on Stafford’s elusive A-game to make an appearance to put all these players to use.
It seems Jones downgraded in terms of a team choice, and will pay the price for that decision when he’s deemed an overpaid, underperforming number two receiver.
9 Morris Claiborne
Once the Dallas Cowboys’ longtime rival, the Washington Redskins, traded up to take Robert Griffin III second overall in the 2012 draft, Dallas also traded up to try and nullify Griffin’s growth by selecting 2012’s top rated cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Although since he’s joined America’s team, Claiborne has been anything but a star . He’s never started a full 16game season, never recorded more than one interception in a single season and has struggled to etch a name for himself in Dallas’ current cornerback duo of Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr. What was once supposed to be the answer to Dallas’ prayers in a porous secondary has just become a glaring reminder that there is still work to be done, leaving Claiborne in a vulnerable position if he doesn’t.
The former LSU star earned his final chance with Dallas after signing a o neyear contract early this offseason. If he fails to put anything redeemable on tape, he may be watching football in 2017 as opposed to playing it.
8 Brock Osweiler
Similar to hypothesizing the end of Andre Johnson’s career, this feels equally unfair, but for different reasons.
Osweiler was easily the most lofty signing of the offseason, going 5-2 in the only seven games he’s started in his career. His success mainly came from a strong organization and the even stronger defense that were playing behind him, but despite that, the Texans found Osweiler to be worthy of 18M/year for the next four years.
Having tied their immediate future’s fortune to Osweiler’s arm, the Texans are setting themselves up for disappointment. Adding the newlyacquired Lamar Miller to pound the rock and the surprising stardom of DeAndre Hopkins to catch his passes, Osweiler has the tools to succeed but not the experience needed to make the most of those around him.
This move by the Texans is eerily similar to the various Matt Flynn signings that followed his own stellar (single game!) performance in 2011, and will leave Houston high and dry next offseason as they search for a more viable quarterback.
7 Ted Ginn Jr. & Corey “Philly” Brown
Another two player pick, but just like with Keenum & Bradford before, Ginn Jr. and Brown are in danger of losing their jobs to younger, sharper competition.
Cam Newton’s MVP season is 2015 was highlighted by his lack of talent at receiver. His two options outside of Greg Olsen were Ginn Jr. and Brown, both of whom were the “noname receivers that Newton was excelling with.” It’s true, Cam did excel with Ginn Jr. and Brown, but this is no “chicken and the egg” argumentNewton was definitely the key variable in the success those three shared.
Keeping that in mind, with the return of 2014 standout Kelvin Benjamin to the starting lineup and the rising stock of secondyear receiver Devin Funchess, the Panthers will look to foster an offensively fruitful relationship between Newton, Benjamin and Funchess throughout 2016. Ginn Jr. will be kept around for his return ability and Brown as a reliable backup to rotate in for snaps, but after another offseason the Panthers will look to move on from both receivers in favor of younger players with more upside.
6 Ryan Fitzpatrick
The once illustrious “Fitzmagic” seems to be starting 2016 off on the right foot by earning his desired contract, but that excitement will fade midway through the season.
Fitzpatrick turned out to be fool’s gold during his last longterm gig with the Buffalo Bills, and while he is a solid quarterback above the shoulders, Fitzpatrick is still just the lesser of two evils on a roster with Geno Smith. His success also mirrors that of Osweiler’s, where a top10 defense and coach committed to running the ball kept Fitzpatrick’s ugly side at bay for the most of the year. In the one game where it came down to Fitzy’s arm to earn a playoff bid, he fell short big time by throwing three interceptions and making a 106 record feel worthless.
So Jets fans are rejoicing now, but should be wary that good quarterbacks are rarely something you just stumble across. The organization knows this, and will be looking to add a signal caller much earlier in the offseason next year.
5 Olivier Vernon
Out of the three big ticket players the New York Giants signed this offseason somewhat desperately by general manager Jerry Reese, new defensive end Vernon has the biggest chance to fall flat.
Part of this belief is rooted in a lauded 2015 season that fails to live up to the hype in hindsight. Seven and a half sacks, 60plus tackles and a failure to cause any turnovers among a defensive front that boasted talents like Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell make Vernon’s impact seem a lot smaller. Add in the fact that last year was when the AFC East played the AFC South and NFC East, two of the worst divisions in football during 2015, and Vernon’s stat line is all the more unimpressive.
The other part of this belief is the typical failure of expensive defensive free agent signings. Situations like the Denver Broncos are rare, where three big name defenders all came in and year one were immediately effective like they did in 2014 with Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib. With Damon Harrison brought on to stop the run and Janoris Jenkins to shore up the secondary with incumbent Dominique RodgersCromartie, it appears Vernon is the oddman who’s role on the team is the least solidified, yet also is the most expensive of the three new additions. If Vernon’s anything but special in 2016, he’ll be out of work in 2017.
4 Brandon Browner
Browner has always had a curious way of finding success in the NFL. He helped spearhead the Legion of Boom’s notorious persona in 2012 and buddied up with Darelle Revis in 2014 for New England’s Super Bowl run. Now, after a disastrous 2015 with the Saints, Browner is looking to rekindle some old magic with Seahawks in 2016.
However, don’t let the uniform switch fool you. A change in scenery isn’t going to bring out the Browner of 2014, let alone 2012. What was seen last year with the Saints is what Browner is now: an old cornerback who is a liability against the NFL’s plethora of shifty receivers.
Browner himself may not acknowledge his failing play, but that won’t stop him from taking the field. Seattle’s looking to use this blast from the past to help out their team in 2016, but will be kicking themselves early into the year for signing a geriatric Browner. Expect the Seahawks to put out the old flame between themselves and Browner before the season’s over.
3 Matt Ryan
After a scorching start where the Atlanta Falcons rifled off 5 straight wins and went 6-3 through their first nine games, they followed it up by going 2-5 in the final seven. Much of the team’s dilapidation stemmed from Ryan’s inability to make throws when the offense had to tone its running game down due to an injury to their lead back, Devonta Freeman.
Even worse, Ryan was making a large amount of his bad throws in the red zone, where he was one of the league leaders in throwing interceptions from inside opponents’ 20-yard line. All of this helped make for a historically bad season for Atlanta, who became one of six teams since 1970 to start the season 5-0 only to miss the playoffs.
As icy as Ryan has been in his past, he’s on especially thin ice entering the 2016 season as the Falcons are flush with talent and have little excuse to miss the postseason again.
2 Robert Griffin III
Red flags are flying up all around RG3 for his marital 180, going from dedicated husband and father to over-infatuated schoolboy seemingly overnight. Though despite those off the-field concerns, Griffin has shown fans both good and bad when under center in the Cleveland Browns’ two preseason games, prompting mixed feelings from a damaged fan base.
The tricky part with RG3 is if he can manage not only his own expectations but can he preserve his teammates’ respect. In past press conferences with the Browns and his former team, Washington, Griffin has said all the right things that would make him appear to be a surefire starter. However, those bold words rarely translated to great results on the field.
When RG3 came up short in games, he passive-aggressively deflected blame toward coaching decisions or other players on the roster. Griffin has failed to anoint himself as the problem whenever faced by the media, and that blind confidence in his ability could create such dissension in 2016 that this season may be his last in the league.
1 Jamaal Charles
There was a time that the self-proclaimed “LeBron James of the NFL” actually earned some (I repeat, some) credibility to that title. But after a season that only saw Charles take part in one victory and an offense that got along swimmingly without him, the Kansas City Chiefs premier back is now a man on the verge of unemployment.
When Charles collapsed with a non-contact ACL injury last October, many predicted the 1-5 Chiefs were as good as dead. Shockingly, it was just the opposite, as quarterback Alex Smith had one of his best seasons and a stellar defense led the Chiefs to 10straight wins and a wildcard playoff berth. Now as Charles looks to reclaim his sport atop the depth chart in Kansas City, many will be wondering if the Chiefs are better off splitting reps between two backs and emphasizing a more effective passing game that carried their win streak last season.
Charles is a prime victim of “addition by subtraction” as the Chief realized their potential once they didn’t feel obligated to feed him the ball. With a playoff-caliber quarterback, head coach and defense the Chiefs are loaded with talent, meaning Charles might have to take his elsewhere in 2017.
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