The 2019 preseason has come to a close and as of yesterday, each of the NFL teams has successfully purged their roster down to just 53 players. Long story short, nearly half of NFL players were cut yesterday. It's a brutal part of the business -- but also an opportunity to new fits and underdogs to successfully make the leap. It's also the end of the initial evaluation period of the 2019 rookie class -- and believe it or not, we already have a top-100 pick who has been cut.
That, my friends, brings us to the top five losers of the preseason from the AFC.
1. The Houston Texans
Have you guys ever seen the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"? There's a scene in the movie where the main character, Peter, tries to go surfing with an aloof surf instructor, Kunu. Kunu's instructions on learning how to surf?
"Ignore your instincts...don't do anything. Don't *try* to surf. The less you do, the more you do."
That's effectively been how the Houston Texans handled improving protection for Deshaun Watson this offseason. And with each passing wave of the offseason (free agency, the draft, the preseason...) we've seen the Texans try to do less in order to do more. And then it hit them -- their starting five was Matt Kalil, Tytus Howard (maybe), Nick Martin, Zach Fulton and Seantrel Henderson. Allow us to channel Kunu once more.
"Well, no...you're gonna have to do more than that."
So the Texans, who are without a general manager -- a brilliant idea, might I add -- spent a week chasing after Miami Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil via trade. The Texans dangled DE Jadeveon Clowney and a 1st-round pick in Miami's direction, to which the Dolphins said no. They wanted more. And the Texans were ready to give it to Miami. Some of the rumored packages that Houston was willing to offer is enough to make your head spin.
Just one problem. Clowney didn't want to play for Miami because they're not expected to contend this season. And so Clowney, who hadn't signed his franchise tender, killed the mega-deal with the Dolphins on the spot. Once that deal was killed off by Clowney, the Texans did exactly what they did on Draft night when the Eagles jumped them for OT Andre Dillard: they panicked.
The end result? Houston agreed to deal Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks yesterday...for a 2020 third-round pick and linebackers (note: NOT offensive linemen) Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin. And they got their man in Laremy Tunsil -- at the expense of first round picks in 2020 and 2021, a second round pick in 2021, OT Julie'n Davenport and CB Johnson Bademosi. Let the record state that's a bigger haul than the Oakland Raiders got for DE Khalil Mack.
Next time, ignore your instincts, Bill O'Brien...don't do anything.
2. (Former) Jets DE Jachai Polite
The New York Jets drafted Jachai Polite in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft -- as in like...four months ago. And yesterday he got cut. Uhhhhh, yikes. Polite had about as disastrous a pre-draft process as you could possibly imagine. He bombed his interviews. He bombed his medicals. He didn't show up to his workouts in shape. It was a nightmare.
And for all that smoke, it turns out there was really a fire. It stinks for the Jets to have a notable investment canned so quickly. But it is even more telling that they were so quick to pull the plug. Buyer beware moving forward on Polite.
3. Dolphins QB Josh Rosen
What the hell did this guy do to tick off the football gods? Rosen was drafted 10th by the Arizona Cardinals and promptly thrown into the fire -- where he predictably struggled under the guidance of a very poor coaching staff and an abysmal supporting cast. After his rookie season, Rosen was traded to the Dolphins -- who have promptly welcomed him by rigging the deck against him during a quarterback "competition" against veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and trading the team's only plus starter on the offensive line (Laremy Tunsil) before the start of the season.
Welcome to Miami.
And so the Dolphins have two options with Josh Rosen and the handling of the young quarterback. Either the Dolphins knew this last moment plug pull was in the cards and are protecting Rosen from the process of rebuilding the roster, or they've already decided Rosen doesn't have the goods and they're aligning themselves to draft a Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert or Jordan Love next April. Or Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
Here's hoping -- for Rosen's sake, the Dolphins are protecting their potential investment and not just punting on him already.
4. The Los Angeles Chargers
Where should we begin with the NFL's most cursed franchise, the Los Angeles Chargers? Should we start with the foot injury to Derwin James? The broken foot that has landed him on the Injured Reserve? Or how about the holdout of RB Melvin Gordon -- one of the key cogs in this offense? As of yesterday, Gordon was cleared to seek out a trade as he continues his holdout against the Chargers. What about the news that LT Russell Okung will start the season on the Non-Football Injury list and miss the first six games...at a minimum.
The Chargers are the 'Bad Luck Brian" of the NFL -- just when they're primed for a big break, they're met with a bad break instead.
5. The Cincinnati Bengals
The Dolphins aren't the only team focused on hitting pay dirt and drafting early in 2020. But at least the Dolphins are (seemingly) making that decision for themselves. The Bengals? 2018 first-round pick Billy Price lost his starting job to Trey Hopkins. 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams went down with injury and will miss the entire season. The team will start the season with star WR A.J. Green on Injured Reserve.
It isn't just that the Bengals are banged up, it is that their recent investments are imploding. Price not being able to win a starting position on a line that features Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, John Miller and Bobby Hart on it is, ah...not great. The team also cut 2018 third round pick Malik Jefferson after just one year on the squad. And with the team stuck in quarterback purgatory and with a young, rookie head coach, this thing could get ugly. Fast.