Once an opportunity for teams to pick up much-needed depth – or maybe even snag a jettisoned star – the NFL's round of June 1 cuts has largely become a smattering of damaged goods.
We've never seen a more shallow pool of dinged-up talent than this year's cut list.
Thanks to some crafty work with the salary cap in recent years, much of the key talent is typically released in the months leading up to June 1 – the date after which teams can cut a player and spread the salary-cap hit over two seasons instead of one. This year, several high-priced players were released early – in the past, they would have been part of a fresh free-agent bonanza in June – and the list includes tackle L.J Shelton, linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper, safety R.W. McQuarters and several others. Those early cuts have left a June vacuum, something expected to continue as teams stress salary-cap diligence.
Not that the projected dearth of stars spells doom. The smart teams will still find needed roster help. The New England Patriots feasted on June rejects in the first half of this decade, refining their team with modest pickups like defensive end Bobby Hamilton (2000), running back Antowain Smith (2001) and linebacker Roman Phifer (2001). All of them became important building blocks to Super Bowl teams.
That's a silver lining for teams that will be picking through this year's crop of expected cuts, many of whom have some sort of significant negative mark on their resume. Among the five who will draw the most looks should they all become available:
- Koren Robinson. The Seattle Seahawks wide receiver has been released and is easily the most talented of the cap-cuts bunch, but he might have more problems than anyone, too.
Robinson, who has a robust history of police charges, went through one substance abuse suspension last season, skipped practices and showed up late to meetings. And then in the ultimate fallout this week, news came that Robinson was set for a pretrial hearing on July 18 stemming from DUI and reckless driving charges. All of this happened after he assured Seahawks coaches that he was staying away from alcohol and trying to clean himself up.
Aside from his penchant for dropping a ridiculous number of passes, Robinson's off-field behavior is a more considerable risk.
- Rod Gardner. The Washington Redskins wideout is another receiver who has never reached the potential that made him a first-round pick. Gardner was given permission to seek a trade this offseason and got no offers.
With Washington's problems at quarterback, Gardner has had consecutive seasons of only 600-plus receiving yards. The Redskins have serious salary-cap issues, but there is a chance they will still hang on to Gardner.
- Kyle Turley. The St. Louis Rams tackle, who went through the much-publicized fit with coach Mike Martz last season, weighed as little as 240 pounds only a few months ago. It remains to be seen if his back is completely healthy, and there are many in the league who believe he'll never be an effective player again. If he can return healthy, he could be a huge steal for a team in need of line depth.
- Johnnie Morton. Released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, he was never a No. 1 receiver, and that was the mistake the Chiefs made when they signed him to a huge deal three years ago. In 11 seasons, Morton has caught more than six touchdowns only once.
Morton is a freak about keeping himself in shape, and though he's 33 years old, he could still be a quality No. 2 wideout for a few more years – if he's in the right system.
- Lance Schulters. A foot injury limited Schulters to three games last season with the Tennessee Titans, but if the safety is healthy, the 30-year-old could have three or four solid seasons left as a starter. He would be a quality upgrade for a team that needs solid run support in the secondary.
- Troy Brown is one thing, and safety Rodney Harrison is another. But the Patriots should be careful about penny-pinching defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Contract negotiations are dragging with Seymour, who has two years left on his rookie deal. There are rumblings that if he doesn't get an extension by the end of this season, he's committed to playing out his contract and hitting the free-agent market – where he'll quickly become one of the highest-paid players at his position.
New England had leverage with Brown, whose career is flickering. Even in the case of Harrison – who has four years left on a deal that pays him markedly less than other Pro Bowl safeties – the Patriots can point to his age (32) as a justification. But the 25-year-old Seymour is making about $3 million less per season than the league's other top defensive linemen, and he deserves an extension sooner rather than later.
- A holistic doctor says Ricky Williams is done smoking marijuana. Well gosh, I bet that's the stamp of approval the league needed, not to mention the Miami Dolphins' locker room. Surely, we're all holding our breath to hear whether the good doctor can see any more Whizzinators in Onterrio Smith's future.
- Raise your hand in Detroit if you are disappointed in the career of defensive end Kalimba Edwards. His weekend arrest for resisting police during a traffic stop is out of character, but it only seems to underscore the direction of his play.
The Detroit Lions have been coaxing the 2002 second-round pick along for three years to minimal returns (13 sacks in 47 games). Once considered a promising rookie, Edwards has been going backward ever since, failing to start a single game in 2004. His impact has been mediocre at best for the Lions, who passed on drafting a much-needed running back in Clinton Portis to take Edwards.
- Not to pile on Kellen Winslow Jr.'s problems, but it was a shame he couldn't stand up and apologize rather than issue a statement through the team last week. Such statements are hardly ever believable, as they typically come from the fingertips of a team's PR person or a player's advisors.
Hall of Fame running back and Winslow confidant Jim Brown practically said as much recently when he revealed in an interview with the NFL Network that Winslow's apology statement was put together by the player, his father Kellen Sr. and one of Brown's former teammates, John Wooten.
How hard is it for a man to put together an apology on his own, and then stand up and read it? And how legitimate is it when he doesn't do either?
- If you're looking for a good illustration as to why some New York politicians are so opposed to the New York Jets' attempt to construct a new $1.9 billion stadium, check out Thursday's edition of the Indianapolis Star.
According to the Star, the Indianapolis Colts' slam-dunk $900 million plan for a state-funded stadium is now $48 million short, as city and state officials argue over who is responsible for paying the fee for breaking the team's lease with the RCA Dome. The problem isn't expected to blow up the Colts' stadium plan, but it's a perfect example of the political infighting over finances – something almost certainly in store for the state of New York if the Jets' bid ever moves forward.
New York's Public Authorities Control Board is expected to take a vote on important stadium funding in the coming days.
- A league source said Wednesday that the Colts are expected to suspend safety Mike Doss from team activities starting early next week. Doss was arrested on Sunday for firing a handgun into the air outside an Akron nightclub. The exact length of the suspension isn't known.