NFL News & Analysis

Immediate landing spots for the most surprising roster cuts: Alex Leatherwood, O.J. Howard and more

Canton, Ohio, USA; Las Vegas Raiders offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood (70) against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

QB Kellen Mond (cut by Minnesota Vikings)

After starting for four seasons for Texas A&M, Mond was the No. 66 overall selection in the 2021 Draft. He improved his preseason passing grade from 60.6 in 2021 to 65.6 in 2022, though neither of those grades ranked among the top 30 quarterbacks with at least 25 pass attempts in either year. 

Potential landing spots:

TE O.J. Howard (cut by Buffalo Bills)

Howard’s career got off to a fast start in 2017 — his 82.3 receiving grade ranked sixth among tight ends, his 16.6 yards per reception ranked first and his 11 touchdown receptions tied for seventh. Injuries have since derailed a once-promising career, but a resurgence in Cincinnati (where he reportedly visited Tuesday) with little competition on the depth chart at tight end could be in order. 

Potential landing spots:

WR Tyler Johnson (cut by Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

The Athletic’s Greg Auman characterized this move as “big and surprising,” even on a deep Buccaneers wide receiver depth chart that now includes Julio Jones. Johnson figures to be a strong waiver claim candidate for needy teams, even with limited production thus far in his career.

Potential landing spots:

DI Mario Edwards Jr. (cut by Chicago Bears)

Edwards signed a two-year extension with the Bears on the heels of a career year in 2020, earning an 88.6 grade with 21 quarterback pressures on 174 pass-rush snaps (12% pressure percentage).

However, his 50.4 grade in 2021 was a career low after serving a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, and he hasn’t played 300 snaps in a season since 2017. Nevertheless, he’s a solid rotational defensive lineman with positional flexibility from the interior at three-technique out to the edge as a seven-technique.

Potential landing spots:

DI McTelvin Agim (cut by Denver Broncos)

Agim was a top-100 selection in 2020 for Denver, the year before general manager George Paton arrived. The Broncos have completely revamped their interior defensive line unit, trading Shelby Harris to the Seattle Seahawks as a part of the Russell Wilson trade and also releasing Mike Purcell, though there is belief Purcell may return after some procedural moves.

Agim earned back-to-back grades in the 40s to begin his career but exhibited some pass-rush acumen in 2021 with 10 quarterback pressures on just 61 pass-rush reps. He figures to be a solid developmental option in a base 3-4 defense where he can focus on getting upfield in a hurry from the interior.

Potential landing spots:

S Anthony Harris (cut by Philadelphia Eagles)

Harris re-signed with the Eagles this offseason on a one-year deal after playing the 2021 season in Philadelphia on a similar one-year pact, just a year removed from playing on the franchise tag with the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. From 2018-20, Harris’ 90.2 grade ranked second among safeties. His 61.6 grade in 2021 ranked 56th and was his lowest as a full-time starter. 

The writing was on the wall when the Eagles traded for New Orleans Saints safety/cornerback hybrid Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — who they view as a safety — and 2019 sixth-round pick Marcus Epps earned a 72.8 grade in 2021 on a career-high 505 snaps. 

Potential landing spots:

CB Darius Phillips (cut by Las Vegas Raiders)

Phillips is a core special teamer who can be relied upon in a pinch as a reserve cornerback and should garner interest around the league. In 2020 with the Cincinnati Bengals, Phillips earned a 72.1 defensive grade on almost 600 snaps, adding an interception and eight pass breakups.

Potential landing spots:

OT Alex Leatherwood (cut by Las Vegas Raiders)

It’s extremely rare for a top-20 pick to be waived just one year into their rookie contract, as Leatherwood’s entire $5.9 million in remaining salary through 2025 is fully guaranteed.

Leatherwood’s selection at No. 17 overall was a massive reach in 2021, and he was quickly moved inside to right guard after earning a 30.7 grade on 257 snaps at right tackle. Despite a significant jump to a 53.9 grade at right guard, Leatherwood visibly lacked lower-body strength and was routinely beaten in pass protection.

The most concerning aspect of the situation may also be the fact the Raiders lost their projected starter at right tackle for the season in Brandon Parker — and have question marks along the interior, as well — but still felt compelled to move on from Leatherwood. All of that said, perhaps there is still enough potential to intrigue a team into trying to develop the former Alabama product on a cheaper contract.

Potential landing spots:
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