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NFL cuts 2014: Notable players released as 53-man rosters finalized

The Broncos released Duke Ihenacho, the Saints scrapped both kickers on their roster and more notable names didn't make it through Saturday's roster cuts unscathed.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 NFL Guide

The final wave of NFL roster cuts got underway over the weekend, and all 32 teams made it down from 75 to 53 players by the 4 p.m. ET deadline on Saturday. There were some big names that are now eligible to be claimed on the waiver wire or signed on the open market. Here are some notables:

Best players cut

SS Duke Ihenacho

Duke Ihenacho started 17 games for the Broncos last year, including two playoff wins and a Super Bowl defeat. Ihenacho is a solid all-around safety who didn't struggle much last season ... outside of the aforementioned Super Bowl, unfortunately. He's also a solid special teams player, which is why it was so surprising he was released on Saturday. Denver brought in T.J. Ward this offseason, but seeing Ihenacho lose his roster spot entirely was unexpected. Then again, he might be able to earn a starting role with some team next season.

S C.J. Spillman

The San Francisco 49ers have had a stellar special teams unit for years, and over the past couple, that unit has been anchored by C.J. Spillman. He was once released for lacking special teams ability, but was instantly dominant when he joined the 49ers. He's one of the few players who demands multiple blockers on punt coverage and he's proven effective in making big goal-line stops on defense on top of that. Smart money is on Spillman not being available for long.

K Connor Barth

Connor Barth was a consistent kicker from 2010-2012, but he missed all of the 2013 season due to an Achilles tear. Despite a career 84.2 field goal percentage, he was in a training camp battle against Patrick Murray. Given that he's gone while Murray is still with the Buccaneers, it seems as though Barth has lost. But it could have a lot to do with the fact that Barth had a base salary of $2 million for 2014-15, with a sizable roster bonus provided he made the official roster. Murray, on the other hand, will make less than $500,000 this season. Smart money is a on a kicker-needy team landing Barth.

Name recognition

CB Champ Bailey

Champ Bailey will go down in history as one of the best defensive backs to ever play the game, but his departure from the league has been in motion for some time now. He was released by the Denver Broncos after spending 10 seasons with them, and has now been released by the Saints. He's slowed down considerably and it's unclear where his career will go from here.

DE Michael Sam

Michael Sam made waves this offseason, and some wondered if he'd be a distraction. He wasn't, and he made the decision to release him incredibly difficult for the St. Louis Rams, a team that's already stacked along the defensive line. Sam was always a long-shot to make it on the Rams, but the preseason was a venue for him to show the rest of the league what he can do. If he doesn't find himself on a roster soon, he'll definitely find himself on a practice squad.

WR Stephen Hill

Hill isn't a big name due to success; he's a big name due to failure. Hill was a second-round pick in 2012, and the New York Jets expected big things out of him. Unfortunately, after just two seasons, Hill has now been released, but his career probably isn't over. He's played in just 23 games and has caught 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns. Those aren't great numbers, but he's only two seasons removed from being one of the more promising physical specimens in some time. Then you factor in the dumpster fire that is the Jets' quarterback position and Hill might just benefit from a change of scenery.

Other notables

K Shayne Graham, K Derek Dimke

The New Orleans Saints have had a kicking competition going throughout training camp and the preseason and at it's conclusion they have decided that ... nobody wins. Both Graham and Dimke were released as part of roster cuts on Saturday. It seems like the Saints were dissatisfied with both, and with guys like Ryan Succop and the aforementioned Connor Barth becoming available, New Orleans knew it could get better production on the open market.

WR Bryan Walters

Bryan Walters was a promising receiver for the Seahawks, and one of the front-runners for the return duties on top of that. His release is significant because it likely confirms that Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas will handle the primary punt return duties. Walters looked solid aside from a fumble during a preseason game, but he also rebounded from that fumble. He may not clear waivers.

WR Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown's career has been marred by injuries since the San Diego Chargers took him in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. But he managed to start 12 games with the Chargers in 2013, and though he didn't make headlines, he was a solid receiver. He's also had a productive offseason, and many predicted his roster spot would be safe. He was going to compete with guys like Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal, but now he'll be looking for a new team. Brown is a smaller slot receiver and there appears to be a lot to work with there, provided there's nothing to the calf strain he's been dealing with.

CB Leon McFadden

Leon McFadden struggled in 2013, and based on that play it's not entirely surprising that he was released. But McFadden was selected in the top half of the third round in 2013, and it's rare to see a rookie who was drafted that high get cut so quickly. The Cleveland Browns aren't exactly stacked at the cornerback position, but McFadden's release probably has a bit to do with the fact that there's a new regime in town as well. He still seems to have a lot of potential.

LS Kevin McDermott, LS Danny Aiken

We don't talk about long snappers much these days, but there were a couple notable moves on Saturday. First, the 49ers released Kevin McDermott, who took the job from Brian Jennings last season. Jennings had been the starter for 13 years, but McDermott got beat out by Kyle Nelson. Then there's Danny Aiken, who was the only long snapper on the New England Patriots' roster. He was battling Tyler Ott for the spot, but Ott was released earlier in the month. It's unclear where the Patriots will go at the position.