A little over a year ago, when the Washington Redskins signed the ever-reliable David Patten to be a starting wideout, receivers coach Stan Hixon said the move was about production, not size. The 5-foot-10 Patten had ideal numbers, if not stature, but after just one season with the Redskins, he could be leaving town with neither.
Patten is a perfect emblem for this year's shallow crop of potential June 1 cuts – a group so undistinguished that teams searching the bargain bin may have a tough time finding a single starter. With Steve McNair's status still up in the air (and the likelihood he'll be traded rather than released), the class of summer castoffs will be robust only in its ability to provide depth.
That said, Patten qualifies as the best of the bunch despite a season that ended on injured reserve after catching just 22 balls for 217 yards. The offseason acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El have turned Patten into Washington's No. 4 wide receiver at best – a standing that won't justify his $1.085 million base salary in 2006, nor the remaining four years on his contract.
Patten turns 32 in August, but he'll make an attractive and cheap option for receiver-needy teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. And though he flamed out in Washington, that's more of an indication of a poor fit and an even poorer signing (he inked a five-year $13.5 million pact with a $3.5 million signing bonus).
Entering 2005, the Redskins were expecting something along the lines of Gary Clark – at best a playmaking No. 2, and at worst a productive 50-catch deep threat next to Santana Moss. But Patten never had the quickness to fit the Clark mold that coach Joe Gibbs envisioned.
Patten thrives in wide-open offenses where he doesn't have to be a primary or secondary read – evidenced by his production with the New England Patriots when he was operating behind David Givens and Deion Branch. The next team that signs him will have to expect just that.
Here are four other players that could be cut loose on Thursday:
Marcel Shipp, RB, Arizona Cardinals – The signing of Edgerrin James and the push to develop J.J. Arrington make Shipp's $1.425 million salary almost impossible to justify. And he should generate some solid interest when he hits the open market. Shipp is still young – he'll be 28 when the season starts – and can be a productive backup when healthy. That's a key phrase for a guy that ran for 830-plus yards in both 2002 and 2003 but has had injuries slow his production significantly over the last two seasons. Last year's 2.9 yards-per-carry average is more indicative of Arizona's horrendous offensive line play.
Bobby Hamilton, DE, Oakland Raiders – Another player destined for a backup spot, Hamilton's $1.335 million base salary in 2006 is too pricey. He's still a quality veteran who could be a valuable option for teams that lack depth or don't have every-down defensive ends and need a plugger against the run. He had 56 tackles in 13 starts last season, and he's been a remarkably healthy player, missing only two games in the last six years. The one thing working against Hamilton is his age (he turns 35 in July).
Kailee Wong, LB, Houston Texans – With the additions at linebacker and Wong's knee issues, his $2 million base salary – and the remaining three years and $8.625 million left on his deal – make it a virtual certainty that he'll be let go. The problem at this point is that Wong's injuries have kept him from returning to the field this summer. As of this week, he still hasn't gotten medical clearance, and a potential injury grievance means the Texans can't part ways with him until he does. That said, the 30-year old Wong should have plenty left in the tank to be a solid two- to three-year starter for potential suitors.
Lee Suggs, RB, Cleveland Browns – Like Wong, Suggs may be around a bit longer than June 1. The Browns have been trying to deal Suggs with no takers, but they seem intent on trying to get something of value in return for him. Cleveland could end up holding onto him until training camp, in hopes that another team suffers injuries in the backfield and is desperate to deal for help. But considering Suggs has an injury history that has limited him to 25 games and only three starts in three years, it's not likely the Browns will get many inquiries – if any. But Suggs turns 26 in August and has had some impressive moments in limited opportunities. He should draw the interest of multiple teams if he's jettisoned.
Dealing away former No. 3 overall pick Joey Harrington for some belly-button lint was bad, but Detroit Lions fans had better be bracing for some more hand-wringing. Word is offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't enamored with former first-rounders Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, and that neither will be in the top-three rotation at wideout when training camp begins. While Williams has time to turn around concerns about weight and dedication, the situation is getting dire for Rogers, who could be headed for the trading block in the coming weeks.
That brings to mind the mediocre reality of the first three drafts of the Matt Millen regime. Given the minimal three-year waiting period for assessment, Millen's first three drafts – which should account for the core of Detroit's roster – have left a lot to be desired. Of the 26 players selected between 2001 and 2003, 11 are still with the team. And of that 11, only defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has materialized as a Pro Bowl player. Of the three first-round picks in that span, Harrington has been traded, Rogers is headed in the same direction and tackle Jeff Backus is in stalemated negotiations for a contract extension.
Speaking of Martz, the scuttlebutt in scouting circles is that the quarterback that has caught his eye this offseason isn't Jon Kitna or Josh McCown. Instead, Martz has been telling friends he's been very impressed with 2005 fifth-round pick Dan Orlovsky. Martz apparently believes that Orlovsky has the tools, intangibles and leadership to be successful – but also thinks he can't be trusted to consistently make the right reads at this stage in his career. Kitna may enter 2006 as Detroit's starter, but keep an eye on Orlovsky as the future No. 1.
With the 2007 draft hype already beginning, an NFC scout had some interesting things to say about Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who has surfaced as the early favorite for next year's No. 1 pick.
"It reminds me a little of [Purdue's Kyle] Orton when he was going to into his senior year," he said. "There were still a lot of questions about, you know, the arm and the offense and what his numbers meant. What does a system translate into … what do those numbers translate into? You say Charlie [Weis] runs an NFL offense, and that's probably true with the verbiage and complexity, but Quinn is playing in a pretty wide-open game that's not going to excite everyone.
"Some people are going to look at his production, with the field all spread out, and if they don't like his arm, they're going to say there's inflation. Going into [his senior season], Orton had a lot of that talk about the Heisman Trophy and [being] a top pick. But a lot of questions were there. He had that good size and seemed to be where you wanted him to be mentally. But I think as a whole, people still weren't entirely sure about his arm. Right now, I would say Quinn is a far better athlete than Orton, but he's still got to show some of the same things. A lot of opinions can change."