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Around The NFL: Takeaways From Cutdown Weekend

What did we learn as teams shaped their rosters?

Seattle Seahawks v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The kickoff for the 2017 NFL regular season is just days away. The final frenzy before the season came over the weekend when teams went from 90 players on the roster all the way down to 53. While we were all over the Giants’ moves on this site, there was a whole league worth of transactions that occurred elsewhere. If you missed any of it, here’s some takeaways from the last weekend before football starts.

Trades Are All The Rage

When the NFL eliminated the preseason’s middle cutdown to 75 players, the expectation was there could be a few trades for bottom of the roster players. There were more than a few. Instead of teams waiting for a player to be cut and go through the waiver process, they took a late round pick and decided to part with that to acquire a player.

Aside from an NFL with trades being more fun, it could be a solid strategy. While rebuilding teams are stockpiling draft picks, that’s more about the first three rounds than the fifths, sixths, and sevenths that were getting traded over the weekend. Getting veteran talent for draft picks has been an underrated path for team building, something the New England Patriots have used over the past couple years. A number of these trades might not matter, but there are a few that could have a major impact on the 2017 season:

Seattle trades Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to New York Jets for Sheldon Richardson.

This might have been the biggest win-win trade of the weekend. Kearse signed an extension with the Seahawks last offseason, but he underperformed in 2016 and he appeared to be no higher than fourth on the depth chart behind Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Paul Richardson. Kearse is still a talented receiver, though, and gives the Jets desperately needed talent at the position. The second-round pick is also a huge get. It’s clear the Jets are playing for the future, but until this pick, that had no extra assets in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft. Even with high picks in each round, it would be hard to create a turnaround with only originally team-owned picks. There’s now an additional asset, which is the first building for the future move the Jets have made.

In Seattle, Richardson adds to what was already the most dominant front-seven in the league. Richardson is on the final year of his contract and won’t have to be a start to make an impact surrounded by Seattle’s other defensive talent. But if he does play to his full potential, that’s defense could be unstoppable.

Cleveland trades sixth-round pick to Pittsburgh for Sammie Coates

Sammie Coates never lived up to his hype with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It didn’t help that he was probably overhyped after getting drafted in the third-round because Martavis Bryant was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season. Coates is a deep threat who has a problem holding onto the ball. The good thing here is there’s a lower breakeven point for how many of those deep plays need to connect in order to be successful. Last season Coates was targeted on average 21.6 yards down the field, which was the highest among players with at least 40 targets. The inconsistency is a killer for a team in the playoff hunt like the Steelers, but for a team that needs talent at receiver like the Browns, it’s a shot worth taking. Add him to Kasen Williams, who the Browns claimed from the Seahawks, and the Browns can now at least pretend to go four-deep at wide receiver, which is not something they could have said on Friday.

Patriots trade Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for Phillip Dorsett

This might mean Andrew Luck isn’t ready yet. It might not. The Colts took the quarterback off the PUP list over the weekend, but that just means he won’t miss the first six weeks of the season. When he starts from Week 1 to Week 6 is still in question. Indianapolis needed to do something at quarterback because behind Luck on the depth chart was Scott Tolzien and that’s it. They released Stephen Morris and Phillip Walker, though the latter was signed to the practice squad. Indianapolis spent the offseason pretending the Luck injury wasn’t a big deal and now they might be entering Week 1 with their backup quarterback only on the roster for eight days.

On the Patriots side, they got rid of a third-string quarterback for a deep threat at wide receiver, a position where New England is the deepest team in the league. Dorsett has been inconsistent in his two years in the league, but will undoubtedly have a big game when he goes off with 200 yards and two touchdowns sometime during 2017.

Buffalo Roster Turnover

Since head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane took over the Bills, they have not been shy in remaking the roster to their liking. Earlier in the offseason, that included trading away Sammy Watkins, the team’s best wide receiver, and Ronald Darby, the team’s best cornerback. On Sunday, those changes included cutting backup running back Jonathan Williams.

The presence of Williams was one of the reasons why the Bills did not match the restricted free agent offer for Mike Gillislee. But now the depth chart behind the 29-year-old LeSean McCoy includes sometimes fullback Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard and his 23 career carries in five seasons, and Taiwan Jones.

It’s not bad for the Bills to want their own players, but the current regime doesn’t appear to be taking talent into the equation at all. This was a team that was 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last season, much closer to contention than many would think. It now looks to be a while before the team will be that close again.

Brock Osweiler Back To The Broncos

The career path of Brock Osweiler has been fascinating. He played well enough to keep the Broncos in playoff contention during the 2015 season, but was forced to give the reigns back to Peyton Manning for the Super Bowl run. After Manning retired, the Broncos made a major push to keep Osweiler, but were outbid for the Houston Texans. Then after a terrible season, Osweiler was sent to the Browns along with a second-round pick for Cleveland to take on his $16 million annual salary. Then over the weekend he was cut in Cleveland and he now heads back to Denver on the veteran’s minimum.

Some are now criticizing the Browns for a failed trade, but that deal was always about gaining the second-round pick. Yes, they paid $16 million in cash to get it, but it wasn’t that big of a loss for a team so far under the salary cap. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the first Texans-Browns trade had a wink-wink agreement that set the stage for the draft day trade that saw Houston trade up to select quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston traded up to the 12th overall pick, which was held by Cleveland and in that trade the Browns got the Texans’ 2018 first-round pick, a better future asset.

Osweiler going back to Denver has little consequence on the field. More importantly it shows the Broncos really don’t want to upgrade at quarterback with better options still available, which could be a huge waste of their defense.

53-man Rosters Are Never Done

We make a big deal about players getting waived and for those who make the initial 53-man roster. But the truth is there’s never really a final 53-man roster in the NFL. With injuries and performances, there’s constant tinkering on the bottom end of rosters. There will be players who made a roster who won’t be there at the end of the season and there will be players who didn’t make it find themselves into playing time by December.