Front offices around the NFL are scrambling to set their initial rosters, ahead of the regular season opener on September 8, and several interesting cuts were made across the league as teams trimmed their rosters to 80 players on Tuesday, August 23.
Whether it was due to losing out in a position battle or being buried on a roster behind either veteran standouts or cheaper rookies with upside, there were 160 players who became available during the second round of cuts.
Here’s a look at some of the most surprising players to be cut as teams trimmed their rosters to 80 players, and some potential best fits for each.
LB Genard Avery (Released by Steelers)
Genard Avery’s release by the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of the bigger surprises of the first two rounds of roster cuts around the league.
Avery had emerged as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 linebacker and had been playing reasonably well during the preseason, producing a solo tackle against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A former fifth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, Avery has totaled 100 tackles with 7.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 9 run stuffs.
Avery’s best fit: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have some depth concerns at linebacker, and Avery’s linebackers coach during his tenure with the Cleveland Browns was Al Holcomb, now the run-game coordinator on Matt Rhule’s staff in Carolina. If nothing else, Avery could provide steady veteran leadership for rookie Brandon Smith, and contribute meaningful snaps during obvious run downs.
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton (Released by Lions)
The Detroit Lions released linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, after he played sparingly during the preseason, but his ability to play meaningful snaps on defense and contribute on special teams could make him an attractive option for several teams across the league.
Hamilton, a former standout at the University of Alabama, was originally chosen by Washington in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. Through the first three seasons of his career, Hamilton logged 97 total tackles with 2.5 sacks, and one interception.
Hamilton’s best fit: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are woefully thin at linebacker, as they are several positions on the roster, and Hamilton is a thumper with a good nose for the football who could push for playing time right away. Hamilton also help bring along rookie Troy Andersen, who looks like he could make an instant impact.
RB Kenyan Drake (Released by Raiders)
Kenyan Drake wound up the odd-man-out in the Las Vegas Raiders‘ crowded backfield after the team selected Zamir White in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft.
Drake is two years removed from rushing for a career-high 955 yards, as the focal point of the Arizona Cardinals’ ground game, and remains a versatile playmaker. In 2021, his lone season in a Raiders uniform, Drake rushed for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while averaging 4.0 yards per carry, and adding 40 receptions for 291 yards and another score, in 12 games.
According to Pro Football Focus, Drake averaged 2.57 yards after contact per attempt and rattled off five explosive runs of 10 yards or more. At minimum, Drake is an ideal change of pace back, with the upside to carry the load if a team suffers an injury to its starter.
Drake’s best fit: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been actively shopping for veteran running back help to round out the backfield, and given Drake’s skill-set, he just might be a prototype for Nick Sirianni’s offense. In 2021, Eagles running backs were targeted 105 times while producing 513 receiving yards and a touchdown.
With Miles Sanders entering the final year of his contract, and coming off a season in which he was plagued by nagging injuries, Drake could carve out an immediate and significant role in Philadelphia.
K Eddy Pineiro (Released by Jets)
The New York Jets moved on from Pineiro, deciding instead to go with veteran Greg Zuerlein this upcoming season, after signing Pineiro down the stretch of the 2021 campaign.
Pineiro was consistent down the stretch, hitting a perfect 8-of-8 on field goal tries in 2021, including a season-long of 51 yards. He also converted nine of ten extra point attempts, before splitting the uprights on a 26-yard try this preseason.
For a team on the cusp of competing, but looking to add a consistent kicker, Pineiro should be among the first calls.
Pineiro’s best fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
Short of signing former head coach Urban Meyer as kicker — we hear he has a penchant for kicking, and for kickers — Pineiro may be the Jaguars’ best option. Jacksonville did claim James McCourt off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers, but McCourt is a rookie and has never kicked in an NFL game. If nothing else, Pineiro could push the University of Illinois alum, in a bit of a redux of a dreadful summer kicker competition.