Every season, all 32 teams in the NFL have to cut dozens of young players trying to make it to the NFL. It is an incredibly devastating and dismal day in the NFL, those these roster cuts are necessary. Focusing on the success stories, however few there are, of undrafted rookies playing their hearts out throughout the preseason and being rewarded with a roster spot is a positive twist on the day. NFL Legends like Kurt Warner and Shannon Sharpe survived roster cuts and went on to become stars of the game. Today, every NFL team finalized their 53-man roster. The Chargers roster cuts were announced around noon, an hour before the deadline, and there was some surprising moves.
While teams cut dozens of unknowns every year, they also make some surprising moves. Veterans who aren’t quite worth their contracts anymore, or are still playing well but simply aren’t part of a teams future plans. Defensive backs Joe Haden and TJ Ward are prime examples of stars who still have some juice left in them but were let go for financial or otherwise practical reasons.
The Los Angeles Chargers made several surprising moves this year. Here’s a look at the Chargers roster cuts and additions.
Surprising Chargers Roster Cuts
Dwight Lowery, who came to the Chargers last year as a free agent out from the Indianapolis Colts, was the starting free safety for the 2016 season. In his nine years of play, he was never more than an average safety (Pro Football Focus grades him at 77.8, which is average). While there will always be room in the NFL for players who can be consistently average like Lowery, the Chargers appear to have other plans.
The team did sign Tre Boston from the Carolina Panthers, who is apparently the new staring Free Safety. Boston appears to be a slight upgrade in pass coverage over Lowery. However, Boston struggles against the run at times. The team also drafted rookies Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King, and King in particular had a great preseason.
Ultimately, both of these rookies are too raw and inexperienced to start at safety right away. The team could be planning to make a run at all-pro safety T.J. Ward. They probably won’t land him considering he will come with a hefty price tag and will be heavily pursued by other teams.
Josh Lambo, the kicker for the last two seasons, will be kicking elsewhere as the Chargers are going with undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo. Lambo was on the opposite end of a kicking battle in the 2015 preseason when he unseated Nick Novak. Lambo managed a 81.3% field goal percentage over his career, which is good but not great. In 2016, he missed all three kicks he attempted that were over 50 yards. This could be the reason behind his release, but the team is probably just very high on Koo, who looked great in training camp.
Clemens, the veteran quarterback, did not impress in his preseason snaps. He completed just 14 of 27 attempts for 1 touchdown and two interceptions and 199 yards in two games. Many thought he would remain with the team simply because it was not apparent that Cardale Jones represented any kind of upgrade. When Clemens sat for the entire game against the San Francisco 49ers, the consensus was that the Chargers were giving Jones a chance to make the roster. It did end up being Jones’ best game, as he completed 18 of 24 passes. However, he did throw an interception and fumbled while failing to score. Apparently, the Chargers felt either Jones has more upside or Clemens was not worth the roster spot.
Exciting Roster Additions
The runningback out of Western State is simply fun to watch. He played well all preseason and flashed big play potential. He likely won’t get a ton of playing time behind Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver. However, Ekeler might prove to be an excellent change-of-pace back.
Harris was surprised when he went undrafted considering he posted a 4.57 40-yard dash time. That’s very quick for a linebacker. Playing three preseason games, he stacked up 15 tackles. Nine of which came against the Seattle Seahawks, which was the most of any player that game. While he is a little small, his speed allows him to be a sideline-to-sideline player. With Denzel Perryman injured for the first half of the season, Harris will battle for playing time with Korey Toomer and 2016 undrafted rookie Nick Dzubnar.
While there is a ceiling on how exciting a kicker can be, his name alone gets him a spot here. Lambo was an exciting addition once upon a time, but failed to be more than an average kicker in the NFL. Hopefully, Koo will be better. At least it’s an interesting change of pace to have a player from South Korea on the team.
Gotta love the underdog
With the additions of five undrafted rookies the Chargers have extended their streak of an undrafted rookie making the team to 20 years. In addition to the three mentioned above, tight end Sean Culkin and linebacker James Onwualu made the team.
The Chargers boast an impressive amount of star players who went undrafted. 2016 breakout receiver Tyrell Williams is one. The speedy Branden Oliver is another. Hard-hitting safety Jahleel Addae is one. Antonio Gates, a legend and future hall-of-famer, is perhaps one of the greatest undrafted players of all time. These additions go a long way in making up for the Chargers roster cuts.
It is unfortunate that these cuts have to happen. But the prospect of finding the next Gates keeps teams looking at the undrafted rookies every year. At the very least, they get a chance to prove their worth, and at least some of them are successful.
Now, with the Chargers roster cuts over, it is finally time to begin the 2017 season.