Building an NFL roster isn’t for the faint of heart.
Although some may want you to believe it can be broken down into a science, there’s nothing all that precise nor black and white about finding the perfect mix of players when forming your 53-man squad.
The process commences at the start of the new league year in early March. By this time an organization will have their plan of action in place for which free agents they want to sign, whether it’s players from other teams or ones they are looking to bring back (see Nick Perry, etc.).
Once the veteran free agents are all signed and sealed, it’s then time to select the best available college talent in the draft before the kickoff of off-season practices, which are a prelude to summer training camps.
It is here where the fine tuning takes place, as several rookies and veterans alike compete for roster spots, although not everyone is on the same footing.
Going into the preseason, any team’s player personnel can be divided into three parts: the mainstays, the longshots and the guys on the roster bubble.
The latter are composed of veteran performers that have demonstrated enough talent at one time or other to contribute to a team’s success, but come with question marks that may push a team to replace them with younger and generally more inexpensive options.
The Green Bay Packers will find themselves in this predicament soon enough as will the other 31 NFL franchises. Here’s a group of eleven current team members that could get the hook if they don’t bring their “A” games.
The Wisconsin born-and-bred wide receiver is a silky-smooth route runner with soft, reliable hands. Unfortunately for Abbrederis, he came into the league with a history of concussions and started his 2014 rookie season on a sour note by tearing his ACL. The following season saw the former Badger suffer a concussion during the first practice of training camp only to later sustain a rib injury in a Nov. 17 contest versus the Lions that put him on the shelf for two weeks before his return. Abbrederis is looking more and more like an injury waiting to happen and may see rookie speedster Trevor Davis overtake his spot.
The raw tight end played all of 55 snaps in his 2015 rookie year, which consisted mostly of special-teams coverage duties. One of Backman’s redeeming qualities as a former sixth-round pick was his 4.66 speed. After a year in Green Bay’s system, Mike McCarthy will need to see more from the UAB product especially in the form of big-play ability down the middle of the field.
The coach made it clear that he wants to see more big plays from his big pass receiving targets at the tight end position in a recent press conference. Backman has had a year to acclimate himself to the pros; it’s time for him to show improvement or he may be looking to latch on elsewhere.
Much of what was written about Backman also applies to Perillo, who made notable strides in his development last season. In addition to adding 10 pounds to his frame, the 25-year-old tight end has become a better blocker.
But it was his performance in Green Bay’s 18-16 loss to the Lions that really saw the Delaware native emerge as a viable pass catcher, as he pulled in five receptions for 58 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown. There’s a good chance that Kennard and Perillo will be competing for one roster spot with newcomer Jared Cook sitting atop the tight end depth chart.
While most Packers fans were tempted to bang their foreheads against the nearest wall upon receiving word of Barclay’s recent re-signing, the 305-pound turnstile is playing under a non-guaranteed contract. The backup lineman’s abysmal performance in 2015 has earned him a very short leash this summer especially with the arrival of incoming rookies Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy.
If Barclay wants to win a roster spot, he’ll need to prove that he’s versatile enough to play tackle as well as guard. For a variety of reasons, including a 2014 ACL injury he may never have truly recovered from, the fifth-year veteran has shown that he lacks the footwork and flexibility to neutralize outside rushers. That will need to change—and fast.
The 310-pound space eater may end up a numbers-game victim given the amount of players the Packers have competing for six spots on the defensive line. Boyd missed practically the entire 2015 season due to a fractured ankle and torn ligaments surrounding the joint.
When healthy, the former fifth-round pick has proven to be a solid early-down run stuffer, but he’s hardly a game changer. He’ll need to prove he’s fully recovered from his injury and significantly outplay fellow linemates, such as Christian Ringo and rookie Dean Lowry, to have a realistic shot of making the final 53.
The backup inside linebacker is a great story in that he came into the league as a undrafted free agent in 2014 and has carved out a role for himself due to the confidence he displayed early on in getting after ball carriers instead of thinking or hesitating too much as several inexperienced players are prone to do.
Thomas offers value as a quality special teams coverage guy, but newcomers Blake Martinez and Beniquez Brown are two promising rookies who provide the types of instincts and upside to push Thomas off the roster.
One can certainly question why the former Arizona State Sun Devil is still on the team. In two years as a Packer, Bradford has done little to nothing to justify a roster spot. He was supposed to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker, but that plan quickly went to smoke when the California native’s lack of length (i.e. short arms) proved to be too much of a detriment for him to develop as an edge defender.
His transition to inside linebacker has been similarly uninspiring with Bradford failing to show the ability to get off blocks. In terms of his special-teams prowess, Bradford has yet to demonstrate the kind of tenacity to fight through traffic and wreak havoc on the opposition’s return game. It may not be long before Ted Thompson finally cuts ties with the fourth-round flop.
The former hoopster-turned-cornerback is still learning how to defend receivers, although he was somewhat useful in 2015 by ranking third in special-teams tackles (12). Goodson’s four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, however, certainly complicates matters.
I mean, why would the Packers need to show patience with a work-in-progress defensive back when he can’t even keep his nose clean off the field? To make matters worse for the third-year corner is the presence of other young, up-and-coming athletes at his position including Ladarius Gunter and Robertson Daniel.
The 29-year-old veteran is best described as a middling punter, who lacks a power leg, but makes up for it with his ability as a directional kicker and the amount of hang time he gets on his punts.
Although the Packers special teams unit as a whole was terrific in allowing the lowest average return yardage on punts (4.2), Masthay’s 22-percent rate on kicks placed inside the 20 was an all-time low for him. The signing of free agent rookie and Green Bay native Peter Mortell may plant the seeds for a shakeup at the punter position.