Training camp is always one of the trickiest times of the NFL season to pin down. Everything is seemingly in good order for most teams, and then some under-the-radar player will turn some heads. Sometimes, this leads to veterans getting unexpectedly cut, after initially figuring that they will have a role on the team. It can feel like there's no rhyme or reason to it at times, but inevitably we see it every year.
We can only guess who's going to be on the chopping block this year, but some names do make sense more than others. There are some notable veterans who are trying to make one last-ditch effort to land a consistent place on an NFL roster, but their efforts may be for naught. In the end, they could just be cut before the season starts, for a variety of reasons. It's never a certainty, but it's never impossible either. For some, it's actually the likely outcome, and they'll be forced to take their talents elsewhere.
Who's bound to be a free agent come September? Let's take a look at some players who are hanging on by a thread with their current team right now.
Ranked below are 15 NFL players who will be cut from their teams before the season starts.
16 Alfred Morris
The Cowboys have an abundance of talent in their backfield right now, and Morris could be the one that ends up being a surprise cut. Of course, Ezekiel Elliott is the primary ball-carrier (if he doesn't end up getting suspended), but Darren McFadden figures to be the second player in the rotation. Morris is essentially used as a goal-line runner now, and there's no reason why someone else couldn't fill that void.
If an undrafted rookie is able to provide the same thing for cheaper, Dallas may end up moving on from Morris. He was once a feature-back with the Redskins, but he just can't replicate that same level of play anymore. If he does end up making the Cowboys roster, it will be as a fringe player, and he won't see much playing time.
15 Kyle Fuller
It's no secret that the Bears are not happy with Fuller right now, and are looking to move him. The former 1st-round pick missed all of last season due to injury, and now it looks like Chicago is ready to move on. While he was definitely inconsistent during his only two seasons in the league, he still showed flashes of brilliance, and could conceivably aid a team in need of decent cornerback play.
Exactly who that will be is anyone's guess. The Bears will probably seek a trade for Fuller first, but if that doesn't materialize there's a decent chance that he could just be cut outright. With the Bears in a bit of rebuild-mode in their secondary, Fuller's presence isn't necessary, and they may just decide to sever the ties at any cost.
14 Dion Lewis
It should be no surprise to anyone that Lewis could be cut, given the fact that Bill Belichick has shown in the past that he'll move on from just about anyone if he feels that it benefits the team. Lewis was just another in his stable of pass-catching running backs that are so integral to the Patriots' offense. He performed well for a couple of seasons, but he's hardly a lock to make the roster this year.
New England invested heavily in running backs this offseason after losing LeGarrette Blount in free agency, signing Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to combine with James White. It's a crowded backfield to begin with, and Lewis looks to be the odd man out. He'll have to produce with a great training camp in order to make the team this year, but knowing Belichick, he'll likely give him the ax.
13 Josh McCown
The now-rebuilding Jets signed the aging McCown to be a stopgap at quarterback until they find the franchise guy. However, it was a curious signing because they actually have two quarterbacks that they drafted currently on the roster. Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty may not be world-beaters, but it's interesting that the team seems to be overlooking them in favor of McCown.
If either one of them has a good camp, they should have the ability to unseat McCown as the assumed starter. He's is at the end of his rope, and the Jets would probably be better off just giving the experience to a younger thrower. They can cut him with no losses, so there's really nothing attached between the team and McCown. If they feel either Petty or Hackenberg is ready for the starting role, they'll cut ties with the veteran rental.
12 C.J. Spiller
Somehow still hanging around the league, Spiller's recent performances are a far cry from when he was considered one of the best running backs in the league during his time in Buffalo. The Chiefs decided to take a flyer on him, but with the likes of Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West and rookie Kareem Hunt on their roster, their backfield is pretty much good-to-go. Spiller is probably only a camp body, albeit one with a lot of NFL experience under his belt.
It just really looks like Spiller's time in the league is coming to an end. He's been on 3 different teams in the past 2 seasons, and hasn't been a reliable player since the 2012 season, which was far and away his best in the pros. Don't expect him to be around much longer, and consider him a long-shot to make the Chiefs' final roster.
10 Rueben Randle
Randle spent the 2016 season out of football when the Eagles cut him at the end of training camp. That scenario has the potential to play out again, as he'll join a suddenly crowded Bears receiving corps, with a lot of veteran talent on it. With Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and Victor Cruz in direct competition with him, Randle feels like the odd man out here.
Once a promising talent with the Giants, Randle's work ethic and production have really seemed to dip in recent years. Barring some kind of a miraculous comeback in Chicago, his career looks to be on the outs. To reiterate, he didn't play a single snap for an NFL team last season. For a former second round pick who caught 8 touchdown passes in 2015, that's a tremendous drop-off, and it doesn't look good for Randle from here on out.
9 Sammie Coates
The Steelers had high hopes for Coates last year, as he was supposed to help alleviate the loss of Martavis Bryant. While the speedy receiver displayed occasional flashes of great play, it definitely wasn't enough to ensure himself a roster spot this year. Now, with Bryant back for this season, along with Eli Rogers, highly-touted rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the elite Antonio Brown, Coates may be on the outside looking in.
Speed only goes so far, and Coates is going to need to prove that he can handle the nuances of playing the WR position at the NFL level. The Steelers are stacked at the position right now, and they definitely aren't in a position where they'll be forced to keep him. Consider Coates to be facing an uphill battle in camp this year, and an under-the-radar candidate to be cut.
8 Nelson Agholor
Agholor has been one of the most disappointing receivers in the league over the past two seasons, after being a 1st-round pick by the Eagles in 2015. His failure to live up to expectations has been a major loss for not only himself, but the Philly receiving corps at large. It's only now starting to get better, with the signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but that means that Agholor is no guarantee to the make the team this time around.
Maybe not the most likely to be cut by his current team, but if Agholor plays poorly enough in camp, it could happen. His track record isn't helping him at all here, and it could only be a matter of time before he's gone. Agholor will have to do a lot to prove that he belongs in Philly for the long-term.
7 Jamaal Charles
The Broncos inked Charles to a deal this offseason to see if the veteran running back can still match his past production coming off of a major injury that sidelined him for most of last season. The problem is, he's entering a backfield that already includes Devontae Booker and C.J. Anderson. There doesn't seem to be much room to be a significant contributor, and the Broncos have no previous ties with Charles to begin with.
Best case scenario, Charles can work his way into a change-of-pace role, but Denver may not want to deal with the injury risk when it comes down to it. Don't be surprised if Charles gets the ax, even though he's one of the best running backs of his generation.
6 Martellus Bennett
A bit far-fetched? Yeah, probably, but the Packers have always done things a little different. Coming off of a Super Bowl victory with the Patriots, Bennett has taken his talents to Green Bay, where he's expected to be the go-to TE for Aaron Rodgers. However, there's no secret that Bennett is no stranger to controversy, and that if he gets on the wrong side of the Green Bay regime, his time there could be short.
He's also getting to the point where he'll be past his prime, although he does still have a chance to be productive. The questions mainly stem from Bennett's tendency to be a locker room question mark, and how he'll adapt to an environment as unique as Green Bay. Maybe not a likely cut, but stranger things have definitely happened.
5 Mark Sanchez
The last few seasons haven't been kind to Sanchez, and even though the infamous "butt fumble" is far in the past, it still comes up to haunt him every now and then. There's a strong possibility that he's just a camp quarterback for the Bears this year, as the team has Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings. There's really no room for Sanchez in this circumstance, unless the team wants to keep three quarterbacks.
Sanchez has nowhere to really go at this point in his career. After he failed to crack the Broncos roster last year when he seemingly had a great opportunity, it's unlikely that we'll ever see much from him again, at least as a starter in regular season games.
4 Carlos Hyde
The new regime of the 49ers hasn't been shy about letting go of their incumbent players, and players who initially figured to be starters for the 2017 season. Realistically, there's no chance that San Francisco is able to compete this year, and they shouldn't hold on to a player that they're soured on just because they might have a marginally higher skill level than a temporary replacement. As such, Hyde could be gone soon.
That said, he also could serve as the full-time starter this year in the 49ers backfield. There's no doubt that he's talented enough, as he's played at an extremely high level at times. But Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch may be past the point of no return, and if that's the case, Hyde's not likely to stay.
3 Matt Forte
The Jets have cut so many veterans this offseason in order to prepare for their rebuild that it's almost surprising that Forte hasn't been among them. The veteran running back has somehow held on to his roster spot through it all, and could be in line to be the starter in the backfield yet again in 2017. Then again, there's really not much of a reason to have a veteran on a team starting a complete overhaul of the roster.
Forte may actually request to be cut, in order to get him on a contender before he retires. If winning is a priority for him, he'll be out of luck in New York this year, and he should be looking to move on. The feeling may be mutual, if the Jets re-evaluate the situation and decide that he won't be useful in their rebuilding plans.
2 Brock Osweiler
Cleveland has a plethora of quarterbacks on their roster, and it's no secret that Osweiler isn't necessarily in the long-term plans to be the franchise quarterback. The fact is, he's just not very good to begin with, and the Browns will probably end up catering to Cody Kessler and 2nd-round pick DeShone Kizer instead of trying to force Osweiler on to the roster.
It may seem strange, because not long ago many were convinced that Osweiler had the ability to be a long-term starter for the Texans, coming off the 2015 season when he filled in for Peyton Manning, which helped lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory. Turns out there's a big difference between being a quality 2nd-string option, and being a perennial starter expected to go the length of the season. The Texans soured on Osweiler quickly, and so will the Browns.
1 Eddie Lacy
What an up-and-down career it's been for Lacy, who was once considered to be a rising star with the Packers. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons he was a productive, physical runner who was able to give the Green Bay offense the kind of running game that worked perfectly in tandem with Aaron Rodgers. However injuries, discipline, weight issues and a lack of production signaled an early exit from the team.
Now, he'll attempt to contribute to the Seahawks' backfield, but there are immediate questions that need to be answered about fit. Seattle already has some established running back options, including Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins, along with a bevy of peripheral options looking to make the roster. A spot isn't guaranteed in this scenario, and having only signed a one-year deal, the Seahawks will have no issue moving on from him if need.
Frankly, the chips are stacked against Lacy. He needs to prove that he's overcome his on and off-field struggles to the point where he can be a consistent contributor. A lackluster training camp could send him out of Seattle in short order.