NFL

Who Will Be This Year’s Notable Training Camp Cuts?

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Training camp is all about competition. And unfortunately, every competition must have a loser. Sometimes, the losers of these training camp battles are relegated to lesser roles on the depth chart. In other instances, they are bumped off the roster entirely.

Now that every team is at least a full week into training camp, we’re taking a look around the league at some notable players at risk of becoming training camp cuts.

1. QB Jay Cutler, Chicago

Not only is Cutler a bad quarterback, but he’s a terrible fit with new head coach John Fox. Cutler lacks discipline and turns the ball over far too much, traits that are sure to land him in the doghouse of his old-school coach.

The Bears do not want Cutler to be their starting quarterback — a sentiment they made clear on draft day when they attempted to trade him to Tennessee — but are stuck with him because of his burdensome contract. Cutler’s seven-year, $126.7 million deal, which he signed in 2013, is guaranteed in full in 2015 and includes $10 million in guarantees in 2016.

Will the Bears be content to spend the next two seasons in the NFC North cellar because they do not want to bite the bullet on Cutler’s massive deal? That’s tough to say. But we know Cutler has led Chicago to the playoffs just once since arriving in 2009 and a second appearance is not in the cards for 2015 (the Bears are well behind the Packers, Lions and Vikings).

If Cutler keeps turning the ball over and fails to improve his consistency, it’s possible the Bears could cut ties with the strong-armed gunslinger and send a message to the locker room that playing time will be earned by on-field performance alone.

If the Bears choose to release Cutler, Jimmy Clausen becomes Chicago’s starting quarterback while Mike Vick, Jason Campbell and Josh Freeman start getting their arms loose for an inevitable workout.

2. WR Roddy White, Atlanta

White has been outspoken in his belief that teammate Julio Jones deserves a new contract that would make him the highest paid receiver in the league, so file White’s placement on this list under “be careful what you wish for.”

As the Falcons evaluate their spending in anticipation of giving Jones an extension that will average north of $14 million per season, they may take a long, hard look at White’s contract. The 33-year-old receiver will count approximately $5.5 million against the cap this season, with more than $2 million coming in the form of an unguaranteed base salary.

White, 33, is clearly in decline. After averaging more than 1,300 yards per season from 2008-2012, he has averaged just 816 yards in the two years since. White has also averaged less than 12 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons, something that never happened during his first eight years in the league.

Part of the problem is White’s ailing knee, which had to be drained before the team’s June mini camp. White has indicated it will have to be drained again during the season.

“It’s not a concern to me because it’s just like a little irritation,” White said. “My cartilage in my knee is not smooth. It’s kind of rippled. You can elect to have surgery, but I just decided not to because I’m not a surgery guy. I just don’t want to do it.”

The Falcons are an offense in transition under new head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. They added a couple receivers this offseason in free agent Leonard Hankerson and fourth-round pick Justin Hardy. If Hankerson stays healthy and Hardy proves the leap to the pros is not too much to handle, Atlanta may decide its money could be better spent at other positions.

3. LB Donald Butler, San Diego

Butler enters the second season of a seven-year deal on thin ice. He comes of a disappointing 2014 season in which he set a carer-low in tackles (73) and failed to force a single turnover. Also, he was undisciplined as a run defender, which was a big reason why the Chargers allowed a whopping 4.5 yards per carry.

The Chargers made it clear such uninspiring play would not be tolerated by drafting the Miami hammer, Denzel Perryman, in the second round. Perryman is a ferocious run defender who plays downhill and hits with authority.

The team’s other starting inside linebacker, Manti Te’o, has been one of the stars of the offseason program and is primed for a big season if he can stay healthy. That means if/when Perryman gets on the field, it will come at Butler’s expense.

It is possible the Chargers will decide Butler is a luxury they cannot afford, especially considering the team already has another veteran backup (Kavell Conner) on the roster. Butler has a cap hit of $5.48 million in 2015, with more than half of that coming in the form of his unguaranteed base salary ($3.25 million).

Butler underwent a couple minor surgeries this offseason, but those inside the organization are more worried about his heart than his health.

4. RT Phil Loadholt, Minnesota

Another Viking (Cordarrelle Patterson) was a strong candidate for this list, but those who know the team well insist Loadholt should be even more concerned about his job security. That’s especially true after the team moved rookie OL T.J. Clemmings back to tackle after a brief experiment inside at guard.

The plan was for Clemmings to take over for Loadholt after the veteran’s contract expired following the 2016 season, but that switch could take place sooner than later.

“[Clemmings is] another young, developing offensive lineman that has an awful lot of good skills,” said head coach Mike Zimmer.

Loadholt’s skills, meanwhile, are highly questionable after allowing 34 sacks in his first six seasons. He allowed five sacks in just 11 games last year and was a big reason Minnesota’s offensive line graded out as one of the league’s worst pass-protecting units.

Loadholt projects to take home more than $10 million over the next two seasons, a price tag that could cause the Vikings to balk given the production they are receiving in return.

Who will be this year’s notable training camp casualties? Discuss with author Michael Lombardo during his weekly NFL chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … you can ask your question now!


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.