NFL’s cut day puts some talented players into free agency
The day after the NFL’s final preseason games is annually one of the most hectic and difficult on the calendar. Teams have approximately 24 hours to cut their rosters down to 53 players for the regular season — down from the 75 they are allowed to carry through the preseason.
Those cuts inevitably send some surprising names into free agency, and it’s been no different this year.
A few of the most intriguing free agents to hit the market on Friday:
• Deion Branch, WR, Patriots: At 33 years of age, Branch’s best days are behind him. Even after the Patriots bid farewell to Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney, they still didn’t see enough from Branch to keep him around. Still, despite his diminishing speed, he had 51 catches last season and 61 the year before. He is also, by all accounts, a solid locker room guy, which could come in handy for a team in need of a veteran offensive presence.
• Dwan Edwards, DL, Bills: A combination of salary (Edwards was due to make $4.1 million) and Buffalo’s switch to a 4-3 defense left Edwards, a 3-4 end, without a spot. Teams that do play the 3-4 would find in Edwards a 13-game starter last year who had 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
• Joselio Hanson, CB, Eagles: You can throw a stone and hit a team in need of a cornerback, so Hanson, 31, figures to get a few phone calls. Hanson had served as the nickel corner in Philadelphia for a long stretch, with an occasional fill-in start, but are apparently opting for rookie Brandon Boykin instead. Hanson’s experience alone will get him another look.
• Dan Koppen, C, Patriots: Koppen, 32, started 119 games for the Patriots from 2003-10 before a broken leg sidelined him for all but one outing last year. He repeatedly said he was 100 percent this preseason, but the Patriots opted to go with Dan Connolly at center.
• Marvin McNutt, WR, Eagles: A whole host of talented 2012 draft picks and undrafted free agents will get their pink slips Friday — QB Case Keenum, WR B.J. Cunningham and OT Matt Reynolds among them. McNutt has some serious potential, standing 6-foot-4 and coming off a career at Iowa that saw him set the school record for most TD catches. He had a strong camp too, pushing Riley Cooper for a job, but the Eagles stuck with Cooper in the end.
• Alphonso Smith, CB, Lions: Smith appeared to be on the chopping block months ago, but Detroit decided it needed him at a thin position. The arrival of Kevin Barnes via trade changed that, allowing the Lions to send Smith packing. The Lions had not been overly impressed with any aspect of Smith’s game or his effort recently. He’s just 26, though, and has eight picks (and two defensive touchdowns) in the past two seasons.
• Seneca Wallace, QB, Browns: There’s no mystery left to Wallace — he is never going to turn into a Hall of Fame quarterback. But he has started 21 games (including three last year) and appeared in 61, so teams looking for some veteran experience on their QB depth chart could be interested. Joining Wallace on the unemployment line: New England backup Brian Hoyer and Philadelphia’s Mike Kafka. Both were also among Friday’s cuts.