The NFL is littered with important contributors who were originally cut, waived, or released by another club, so cutdown day doesn’t signal the end of the football playing days for everybody.
Raheem Mostert went undrafted in 2015 then was cut by six different teams before landing as the feature back in San Francisco with the 49ers. He’s now in a two-back timeshare in Miami with Chase Edmonds. Isaiah McKenzie was waived mid-season by the Broncos in 2018. He’s entering the 2022 season as Buffalo’s starting slot receiver.
Teams have until 4 pm ET today to decrease their roster size to 53 players, and I’m tracking the released players most worthy of being added by another club. I’ll continue to update this tracker as more moves trickle in Tuesday — these 53-man rosters are far from finalized.
Below you’ll see those players, with information on which team released them, the round in which they were drafted — if applicable — and a link to their Mockdraftable spider chart, which showcases how they tested at the combine or their pro day when they were prospects.
Released by: Bills
Draft status: Round 1 – 2017
Positional athleticism: Elite
Howard was signed by the Bills in March in hopes of him raising the level of depth in the tight end room behind Dawson Knox. The No. 19 overall selection in the 2017 draft barely made waves during camp and had three grabs for 16 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.
While Howard didn’t appear to be quite as explosive as he was at Alabama or early in his NFL career, this is still a physical specimen at the tight end spot at around 6-foot-6 and 250-plus pounds who can block and work well as a red-zone weapon. He has 15 touchdowns on 119 career catches in the regular season.
RB Duke Johnson
Released by: Bills
Draft status: Round 3 – 2015
Positional athleticism: Average
In some in certain NFL circles, Johnson’s been criminally underrated and underutilized his entire pro career. He hasn’t received more than 100 carries in a single season since his rookie campaign, and since that first year in the NFL, he’s averaged a healthy 4.4 yards per carry and more than nine yards per grab.
This preseason in Buffalo, Johnson looked spry on his way to a four yards-per-carry average, and he scored twice on the ground. While he’s probably not as dynamic as he was early in his career, Johnson can still play and serve as a quality, pass-catching specialist RB3.
Released by: Eagles
Draft status: Round 2 – 2015
Positional athleticism: Above-average
Safeties with Tartt’s experience level and productivity aren’t casually available every August. He played in 80 regular season games for the 49ers starting in 2015 and amassed four picks with 18 pass breakups along with an average of 56 total tackles per season.
A rocked-up safety best viciously attacking the middle of the field and line of scrimmage, Tartt’s type of safety has recently become trendy in the NFL. He had five tackles and a sack in Super Bowl LIV. Only 30, Tartt should have plenty of suitors on the open market. Because he’s a vested veteran — more than four years accrued in the NFL — he is not subject to waivers and can sign with another team immediately.
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Released by: Bears
Draft status: Round 6 – 2021
Positional athleticism: Well below-average
Newsome was my #TrustTheTape prospect in the 2021 class. It tested horribly. On the field at North Carolina, Newsome was electric. Newsome produced in all four seasons for the Tar Heels and had more than 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns as a junior in 2019.
He was a member of this article last year, actually, when the Bears released him before the 53-man cutdown. He was signed to Chicago’s practice squad and caught two passes for 23 yards in a few spot appearances late in the season. Now, his 2019 season in the ACC has mostly been rendered irrelevant, and his poor combine seems more like to have been a strong indicator that Newsome simply isn’t quite athletic enough to win consistently as a slot wideout in the NFL. After a strong minicamp and flashes in training camp, Newsome had just two for 27 yards in preseason. He’s worth rostering as an underneath, gadget-type slot receiver.
Released by: Broncos
Draft status: Round 5 – 2013
Positional athleticism: Irrelevant
Check the punter stats from 2021 — the net punting average, that is — and you’ll see Martin near the top. His 42.8 average was the third-best in football, and his 28 punts downed inside the 20 were tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. Year over year consistency is vital for punters, and in each of the past three seasons, Martin finished 12th or better in net average. For a club looking to upgrade the punter position, Martin should be priority No. 1. Punters are people, too, remember.