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Early Season Woes: 20 NFL Players On The Verge Of Losing Their Job

Young stars emerge through the preseason, and it seems likely that some veterans now may be jobless as the season progresses. We are in a very unique part of NFL history. It used to be about loyalty, and playing the best possible player. Now, it comes down to what financially makes the most sense. Granted, a lot of these players outplay the man whose job they take, but money gets involved with it too.

Some players are expected, while other players may be really unexpected. Things happen that lead to guys losing their jobs. As the season progresses, guys will get benched, traded or released. It’s a part of the game, and it is quite sad because these guys have families that they have to support. But at the end of the day, it’s a business.

When the draft comes around, teams are pretty much preparing guys to push other guys out of their positions. There are 256 draft picks, all with the same motive of hoping to take away another guy’s job. It’s a scary job to have when you think about it. There are generations upon generations working as hard as they can to take away the next guy’s job.

There will definitely be more than 20 guys who lose their jobs this season, but we have 20 guys who are on the radar who have a very good shot at losing their job this season. The names on this list may surprise you, considering some of them are the best at their respected position.

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20 Nathan Peterman - Buffalo Bills

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Walking into this job, Nathan Peterman knows he’s on the verge of losing his job. An abundance of mistakes will have him sitting on the bench, just like he did after throwing five interceptions in one half of a game last season.

With Josh Allen right behind him, there’s the future just waiting to be called on.

The Bills are choosing to move forward with Peterman because they believe he’s more prepared, and don’t want to throw Allen to the wolves so soon. If Peterman turns the ball over too much, or makes too many fundamental mistakes, like last year, his job will forever be gone.

19 Chris Carson - Seattle Seahawks

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There’s really not a guarantee that Chris Carson is a starter from day one, but with the uncertainty of Rashaad Penny, there’s a very good chance Carson starts. But with Penny creeping behind him, once he gets the clear, he should be the starter.

Carson was drafted out of Oklahoma State in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Carson last season averaged 4.2 yards per carry, on 49 carries with 208 yards. His experience isn’t really up there which is a negative, on top of the potential of Penny to become one of the more physical running backs in the league.

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18 Giovani Bernard - Cincinnati Bengals

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When Jeremy Hill signed with the New England Patriots, it seemed like Giovani Bernard had a better opportunity to get more carries with the Bengals. But as time goes on, there’s a shift towards Joe Mixon. The Bengals drafted Mixon in hopes that he could get back on track and become the star running back that he was at Oklahoma.

What does this mean for Bernard? Because he’s still young and has talent, he could become trade bait at any point in the season. But at the least, he will lose his starting role. His carries and time will go down, as Mixon’s goes up.

17 Damien Wilson - Dallas Cowboys

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Most people won’t know at this time, but he’s been a good help to the Dallas Cowboys linebacker group. Damien Wilson has been one of the outside linebackers part of this group, and looks to be the starter moving forward. But the team doesn’t think that will last much longer.

First round draft pick, Leighton Vander Esch, eventually will soothe his way into the starting rotation after progress is made.

Vander Esch looked good in the preseason, but there were some things the Cowboys felt he could improve on. Once Vander Esch is ready, Wilson will become depth, like he has for most of his career.

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16 LeGarrette Blount - Detroit Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Isn’t it crazy that a player who was just signed this offseason to a deal, could already be in jeopardy of losing his starting role? LeGarrette Blount was signed to potentially be the starter in Detroit, but may not have that role for long. Kerryon Johnson was drafted in the second round by the Lions, in hopes of improving their run game.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like Johnson will get much action. But if Blount struggles, Johnson could find himself in the rotation. And with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick in the backfield as well, it can go as far as seeing Blount get released.

15 Robert Kelley - Washington Redskins

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

It seems more and more obvious that the Washington Redskins plan to move on from Robert Kelley. When Derrius Guice went down, instead of trusting Chris Thompson and Kelley, they decided to sign Adrian Peterson. What that shows, is that there is very little trust in Kelley.

Two seasons ago, Kelley rushed for over 700 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He looked decent, but then suffered an injury that cut his season short in 2017. Since then, it doesn’t seem like the Redskins like what they’re seeing. Kelley looks to drop further down on the depth chart, and close enough to being released.

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14 Jonathan Stewart - New York Giants

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When Jonathan Stewart signed with the New York Giants, there was some feeling that he could be the starter. At the time, the Giants were still in the talks of drafting Eli Manning’s successor.

For a while, it seemed like the Giants would draft Josh Rosen, and let Stewart be the starting running back in 2018.

Well, plans changed in 2018. Saquon Barkley is the starter, and very well could leave very few carries for Stewart. If the Giants see Stewart isn’t getting the football, out of respect and to save money, they may just release him to give him a chance to sign elsewhere.

13 Rishard Matthews - Tennessee Titans

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

No, Rishard Matthews will not get released. But there’s a very good chance he could slip to the no. 2 wide receiver, losing snaps as the top receiver. With Corey Davis turning heads in training camp, it seems like he will eventually win the job at some point this season, kicking Matthews to the curb.

Now, that doesn’t mean anything terribly concerning to Matthews, except his production might decrease. Over the past two seasons, he’s been a top targeted receiver. In 2018, that may not be the case with Dion Lewis catching from the backfield, and Davis growing into the new star.

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12 Mark Ingram - New Orleans Saints

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Getting suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season looks like it will back fire on Mark Ingram. Ingram was suspended for violating the NFL performance enhancing drugs policy, which may cost him a job. As Ingram’s contract expires at the end of the season, the Saints don’t look to be in a position to extend him. With Alvin Kamara looking like potentially a top five running back, there’s no need for the Saints to pay Ingram.

Ingram’s going to be worth a lot considering his recent success, but they don’t have to pay him. What seems likely, is that the Saints would look to trade him right before the trade deadline, once his suspension is out of the way and he’s been back on the field.

11 Carlos Hyde - Cleveland Browns

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Hyde sometimes seems very underrated. In San Francisco, he looked really good. And if he had the opportunity to play behind a solid offensive line, he would easily rush for over 1,000 yards a season. The Browns offensive line is improved, but there are plenty of better ones out there.

Hyde will be the starter for now, but Nick Chubb could be an interesting name as the season continues.

Chubb was selected in the second round, as the Browns continue to stack up with big names in the draft. Hyde could be on the cusp of being a star, to being a nobody.

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10 Sam Bradford - Arizona Cardinals

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Bradford is living the life that every NFL player wish they could have. Constantly getting paid big bucks, to be unsuccessful and miss a ton of games. Despite an injury-prone history, Bradford signed a one-year deal worth $20 million with the Arizona Cardinals.

Bradford comes in as a starter, but knows that his main role is to be a mentor to Josh Rosen. And at any point, the Cardinals can pull the trigger and switch to Rosen. Rarely does a rookie quarterback sit the entirety of a season, especially if the Cardinals don’t have a realistic chance at making the playoffs.

9 Devin Funchess - Carolina Panthers

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers went from a receiver core with little talent, to maybe one of the most diverse receiver cores in the game. Last season’s no. 1 receiver was Devin Funchess, but that could easily change this season. Funchess could go from the most targeted receiver, to a no. 3 receiver. Curtis Samuel when healthy can be a game changer, considering his explosive ability to make plays. And this year’s first round pick could become the top receiver in D.J. Moore.

Funchess is in an uncomfortable spot where he was the guy, but could easily lose that role. Funchess will have to work twice as hard to be that guy.

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8 Terrance Williams - Dallas Cowboys

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If Terrance Williams had a contract that the Cowboys could get out of with saving money, they most likely would. But considering it won’t matter, the Cowboys will keep him on the roster. Many analysts have negative opinions on the Cowboys receiver core after it lost Dez Bryant. But, this receiver core could actually have more depth. Allen Hurns will be the no. 1, while Michael Gallup is making it really difficult to start Williams.

Gallup was drafted in the third round, and has developed a connection early with Dak Prescott.

And not to mention, Tavon Austin looks like a nice pick up, which has added some explosiveness to the offense. Williams is in a bad position.

7 Golden Tate - Detroit Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A decision needs to be made eventually on what the Detroit Lions want to do with Golden Tate. Tate will be a free agent next season, which is a tough decision considering Marvin Jones looked really good last season, better than Tate. Tate just turned 30 years old, but would be due a nice contract considering his past production. Unfortunately, because Jones is younger and played better, the Lions may move on.

When you think of the Lions, Tate comes to mind as the no. 1 receiver. But if the Lions choose to move forward with Jones, you will clearly see Jones being their top guy.

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6 Tyrod Taylor - Cleveland Browns

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Things can get really tricky for the Cleveland Browns at the quarterback position. The Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor to help mentor Baker Mayfield, but Mayfield could become a starter earlier than expected. Taylor has looked really good since training camp, which could lead to his departure. If Taylor plays well and leads this team to success, he becomes more valuable. If at any point the Browns believe Mayfield could easily step in, Taylor could get traded. There's also the possibility of an early-season slump getting the fans and ownership restless.

The Browns could possibly gain more value for Taylor than they initially traded for him. Don’t sleep on these Browns, they can come out and surprise you.

5 Dante Fowler Jr. - Jacksonville Jaguars

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Dante Fowler Jr. finally looked like what he did at Florida last season. But, it may be too late for the Jaguars.

Considering the team has put together the best defense in the league, they don’t seem to feel the need to pay Fowler what he could be worth.

Fowler Jr. was drafted in 2015, and never lived up to his potential until 2017, when he finished the year with eight sacks. Considering how long it took, the Jaguars could trade him and bring in younger defensive players. And they already have teams that are interested, including the New York Jets.

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4 Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the time is ticking on Joe Flacco’s career. With Robert Griffin III and Lamar Jackson behind him, the Ravens have to be thinking that if Flacco doesn't return to his old form this season, that's the end of him in Baltimore. If Flacco plays well, he most likely stays the year. But if he begins to struggle, someone else is coming in.

With the AFC in a position where anyone can make a run for it, the Ravens are going to do whatever they can to get into the playoffs. They fell just short last season, and would love to push themselves in, especially if one of their backup quarterbacks can take over and do the job.

3 Demaryius Thomas - Denver Broncos

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Here comes a stunner. After the Denver Broncos drafted Courtland Sutton, there’s a good chance that Demaryius Thomas could get traded in the near future. Thomas is one of the higher paid receivers in the league, yet his numbers have been dropping since 2014. In 2014, he caught for 1,619 yards. In 2017, those numbers were down to 949 yards.

Thomas is a talented receiver, but the Broncos need to find out if they can justify paying Thomas the type of money he’s getting paid. And they can also lean towards Emmanuel Sanders as well. Thomas seems more likely to be a cap casualty because of both his salary, and the similarities between him and Sutton.

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2 Earl Thomas - Seattle Seahawks

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The holdout is done. Earl Thomas will be playing with the Seattle Seahawks this season. In an Instagram post that stated he has never “let his team down,” he decided to make his way back to practice. But also in the post, Thomas made it very clear that he will never forget the way he was treated. Understanding that, there seems to be no shot that Thomas plays in Seattle past this season.

No matter what they offer, it won’t matter. And the Seahawks may realize it, and trade him.

If the Seahawks begin to struggle, the front office may decide to grab some draft picks and ship Thomas.

1 Le'Veon Bell - Pittsburgh Steelers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike Earl Thomas, sources state that Le’Veon Bell could hold out all the way until mid-season. No one really expected it to be an issue, until Bell never showed up to the first week of practices. Offensive linemen began making comments about Bell’s salary in comparison to theirs, and things seem to be out of hand.

James Conner will be the starter while Bell is gone, but Bell may be forever gone. If the Steelers aren't paying him top dollar to sit out, they may just trade him. He’s a great player, but the reoccurring drama series is not worth the team’s time.

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