Through Friday night, as NFL teams work to carve their final rosters, two potential cuts loomed large, and they both came from the NFC West. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart(notes), that former 10th overall pick in 2006, has been busy playing his way out a roster spot, has been quoted as saying that he's outplayed all comers on the roster, and doesn't understand the prospect of languishing behind Derek Anderson(notes) on the depth chart as surprising rookie Max Hall(notes) pokes him with a stick.
Underperforming and failing to understand your role? That's a common thread among high-profile cuts, and Seattle Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) finds himself in similarly choppy waters. I happened to attend several Seahawks preseason practices, and it was pretty obvious that the new regime wasn't going out of its way to feature Chad Ochocinco's(notes) former bestest buddy. In Cincy, Housh got a lot of good looks from Carson Palmer(notes) as Ocho received the Bengal's share of A-level coverage, but former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell once again displayed his catastrophic inability to evaluate receivers by paying Housh like a #1 receiver just last year. Seattle signed him to a five-year, $40 million deal in March of 2009, and now are apparently ready to take 2010's $7 million in guaranteed salary as sunk cost just to move on.
While Leinart and Housh await their collective fates, here are a few surprise guys who got the axe on Friday:
New Orleans Saints DE Bobby McCray(notes): The Saints have a better sense of how to use undrafted rookies than just about any other team, so it's not too shocking that as Junior Galette(notes) has outplayed McCray, the veteran found himself on the bubble. Still, seeing one of the rotational guys from a Super Bowl championship defense of just a year ago is always a bit jarring.
Chicago Bears S Al Afalava(notes): This was the shocker to me. Afalava was a low-round pick out of Oregon State just last year, and started 13 games in Chicago's depleted defensive backfield. Waiving him seems like a weird move -- the kid's only making $395,000 this season - but the Bears have seen their share of unusual transactions in the last few seasons. Afalava will be a bargain for a team looking to bolster its depth at safety.
New Orleans Saints RB Ladell Betts(notes): A surprise to a point if you didn't see undrafted rookie Chris Ivory run the ball; it seems that Ivory impressed the Saints' coaching staff enough that he will take Mike Bell's(notes) place on the roster.
San Francisco 49ers WR Jason Hill(notes): The 49ers have drafted a great many athletic receivers with nebulous NFL-level abilities in the last few seasons, and Hill - a former burner from Washington State -- never really caught on and missed an ideal opportunity when he failed to stand out after Isaac Bruce's(notes) motor finally died out.
Arizona Cardinals ILB Monty Beisel(notes): While fellow ILB Gerald Hayes(notes) has been moved to the PUP list, the removal of Beisel is as much about the play of rookie Daryl Washington(notes) of TCU. Washington has blown up in the preseason and lived to what the Cards hoped when they selected him in the second round to be Karlos Dansby's(notes) replacement.
Arizona Cardinals OLB/DE Cody Brown(notes): Then again, being a recent Cards high draft pick is no reason to assume roster security. If Leinart can't testify to that just yet, Brown certainly can. Just one season ago, Arizona selected Brown in the second round as a defensive end and tried to convert him to 3-4 outside linebacker. But he missed his entire rookie season with a dislocated wrist and failed to impress in 2010.
NFL teams have until Saturday at 6:00 PM EDT to get their rosters down to 53 players. Expect more surprise cuts along the way...