The life of an NFL veteran can be a very unstable one. Teams are constantly in search of younger, cheaper talent. Not even past accolades like All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors can save some veterans from the chopping block. Willis McGahee, Vonta Leach and Desmond Bishop are the latest notable veterans to receive their walking papers, but they won't be the last.
While training camp roster cuts are usually filled with fringe NFL players barely hanging on, there are a few surprising veterans mixed in with the group each year. New England released Deion Branch in the final cut last season while Seattle cut Kellen Winslow even though he was predicted to play a major role in the offense. So who will be among the surprise cuts this season? Here are a few players to keep an eye on.
Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
One of the most prolific return men in NFL history, Hester's tenure in Chicago appears close to an end. He is no longer in the mix at wide receiver for Chicago and he isn't guaranteed to win the return man duties either. New Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Hester would be "competing" for the return role, according to CSN Chicago. With the 30-year-old Hester no longer playing a role on offense and scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.85 million, the Bears may decide to move on sooner rather than later.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick was nearly released this offseason before agreeing to a restructured contract. That contact included a $3.5 million signing bonus, but Vick could still be in jeopardy if he doesn't win the starting job. The Eagles have solid quarterback depth with Nick Foles and Matt Barkley and could would save $3.5 million by releasing Vick before the season.
Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Like Vick, Henne could find himself on the chopping block if he doesn't win the starting job in training camp. The Jaguars are in the early stages of a rebuild and Henne, who will turn 28 in July, likely doesn't have much of a future in Jacksonville. Henne was marginally better than Blaine Gabbert last season and unlike Gabbert, has very little upside.
Michael Robinson, Seattle Seahawks
Robinson has played a big role in Seattle's run-first offense and became very popular with Seahawks fans for the "Real Robinson Report" but he's not a lock to make the roster. Robinson is 30 and scheduled to make $2.5 million next season. He's the third-highest paid fullback in the NFL and Seattle drafted his potential replacement in Spencer Ware. Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael are locks to make the roster, leaving Robinson and Ware likely competing for the final spot. Will Seattle choose experience and leadership or young and cheap?
Brett Keisel, Pittsburgh Steelers
Keisel has been a mainstay on Pittsburgh's defense, but he's 34 and coming off a down season. He's scheduled to earn $2.825 million in base salary this season in what could be his final season. Former first-round pick Cam Heyward is waiting in the wings behind Keisel and could be ready to take over the starting job.
Tim Tebow, New England Patriots
It's unlikely the Patriots would sign Tebow and tackle the media circus that comes with that if they didn't think he had a shot to make the roster, but it's still not a lock. Tebow is currently one of three quarterbacks on the roster, but New England carried two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster last season. Unless Ryan Mallett is traded or completely flops in training camp, Tebow is likely to be the No. 3 quarterback and firmly on the roster bubble.
Brad Smith, Buffalo Bills
When the Bills signed Brad Smith, then-head coach Chan Gailey had visions of an offensive super weapon. It didn't work out that way and with Doug Marrone now in Buffalo, it's hard to see much of a role for Smith. The Bills drafted two wide receivers and could save $2.75 million in 2013 by releasing Smith.
Nnamdi Asomugha, San Francisco 49ers
Asomugha chose to sign with San Francisco over New Orleans this offseason, but he's far from a lock to make the roster. Tarell Brown is slated to start at one of the cornerback spots and after he received a $1.25 million guarantee, Carlos Rogers appears to be in good position to make the roster. Asomugha will likely compete with Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox for two or three spots. If Asomugha returns to the form he displayed with Oakland, it could put Rogers on the chopping block. Rogers received a guarantee, but the 49ers could still save over $4.5 million by releasing him.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
The former first-round pick may have run out of chances. He fell behind rookie fifth-round pick Vick Ballard last season and has now moved even further down the depth chart with the signing of Ahmad Bradshaw. Brown doesn't do anything Ballard and Bradshaw can't, making him an expensive third-stringer.