Making Sense of the Kelvin Benjamin Trade

The NFL trade deadline passed yesterday and it was about as active of a trade deadline as I can remember the NFL having in some time. Maybe ever. A number of trades went down, or almost went down in the case of the Cleveland Browns and the Panthers were one of the teams involved.

It was a pretty quiet day for Panther fans overall. The team has a history of making some trades, but most of the time they are limited to draft day trades of picks for other picks and trades for guys towards the end of the preseason when rosters are getting shaped. Marty Hurney’s most famous trade was the Greg Olsen for a third round pick, but that happened over the summer during the middle of the 2011 offseason. Dave Gettleman traded for Jared Allen in 2015 about three weeks in, but neither GM has made much of a splash at the actual deadline before. Most fans were really hoping the Panthers would spring for a guy like TY Hilton or Vontae Davis to help propel the team forward towards a playoff push, but deep down, most fan’s expectations were pretty anchored down that the front office would likely stand pat. It was a pretty safe bet.

What ended up happening took everyone by surprise. Around 4:12 pm, twelve minutes past the 4:00pm deadline, Adam Schefter dropped the bomb:

Wait…..what?!

My friend Josh and I kept making jokes during the day, that the Panthers had just made a trade for (fill in the blank here), but we obviously never took each other seriously. I happened to pull Twitter up a minute or two after the news broke and did a double take. At first, I thought it was a fake tweet because there was just no way the team would make a move like this.

Reality set in pretty quick.

Alarm bells went off for me. First thing I did was lean over to Josh’s desk to tell him. I made sure to clarify that this was NOT a drill, but my tone and face pretty much told the story. The news spread throughout the rest of the office like a virus in the jungle. Push notifications, alerts and word of mouth sent the entire floor into a state of disbelief. It was wild. There were so many questions that people had and just not enough answers. Why did we do this? What did we get in return?

The return question was answered pretty quickly:

The why came shortly after:

My immediate reactions were really heavily skewed towards hating the trade and everything about it. I was very upset in the moment and I didn’t want to write about it without more perspective so I made a conscious decision to sleep on it. Now that I have had the opportunity to do that and listen to the reasoning from various people, I’m happy I made that decision and I’m much more prepared to offer a balanced take.

Here are my main thoughts and takeaways

1. The timing is weird — My initial shock/outrage of the move almost had everything to do with the timing of the deal. Sure, some of my anger came from my emotional attachment to Benjamin as a fan. You never like to see players your team drafts and develops just get shipped out without warning, but you really don’t want to see your team ship out the #1 WR on the roster when you’re in the thick of a playoff race and your offense is struggling. The player’s reactions were all pretty telling once the deal was made. KB was clearly well liked in the lockerroom and the move certainly took everyone by surprise. Shaking things up isn’t always a bad thing, but risking the chemistry by trading away a big weapon halfway through the season is a bold move

2. It makes sense financially — Kelvin was in the last year of his rookie scale contract. Dave Gettleman did exercise his 5th year option that are available to front offices for first round draft picks. That option was picked up back in March and is valued at $8.5 million for 2018, but after that expires, Kelvin was set to be a free agent. It just so happened, that Devin Funchess’s contract was set to expire after the end of 2018 as well which meant the organization had a decision to make. It was unlikely that the team would extend or retain both players and since extensions are handled the majority of the time before the final season of said contract starts, those conversations would have needed to been had a few short months from now. Marty Hurney opted to keep Funchess who arguably has higher upside and carries a cheaper price tag next year. That made KB expendable and Hurney went ahead and got something in return for later.

3. Does it improve the team? — From a talent perspective it does not. Funchess might be younger and have higher upside, but I do think that KB is the better player right now and the best receiver on this team. Taking away the best player at a position on your team is questionable, to say the least, for a team firmly in the thick of a division race. Personnel wise, I understand the reasoning. KB and Funchess are very similar players and neither one of them are taking the top off of a defense. The Carolina offense has been built to win games with great running and chunk plays in the passing game and right now, teams are matching up one on one with KB and Funchess because they know neither will beat them deep. They may keep one safety back to help in coverage, but defenses are routinely lining up 8-9 guys in the box to pressure Cam and stop the run game. Carolina has speedy guys in Shepard, Samuel and Clay that aren’t seeing the field because KB and Funchess have been dominating the snaps. Samuel, in particular, needs more snaps because his upside is so high and he has a 4.31 40 time to boot.

At the end of the day, I think the team got less talented in a pretty critical time of the season. The silver lining we can lean on is that Carolina has had a lot of success without Kelvin Benjamin and removing him for different types of personnel may help the team down the stretch. And hey, we get Brenton Bersin back again so.

 

Panthers Just Made the WTF Roster Move of the Season

Who ever said Mondays were boring???

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, my Monday was still boring as shit up until about 7:00pm EST tonight. That’s about the time that I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and found this little gem from Max Henson:

Let’s keep this 100 real quick. This is a nothing football move and the fact that this all of a sudden made my boring Monday “less boring” should show you exactly how boring my Monday was. That being said, when you look at the reasoning behind why Marty Hurney made this move for Carolina, there are a ton of interesting layers behind it.

First let’s add some context. QB Gilbert in the tweet is referring to Garrett Gilbert, a quarterback that Dave Gettleman signed in the offseason to add some depth to the position for camp and OTA’s while Cam’s shoulder was recovering from surgery. Gilbert showed enough during camp and his preseason appearances that the coaching staff decided to keep him around with one of the team’s 10 practice squad spots. Dez Southward is a safety that was brought in (under similar circumstances to Gilbert) to compete for a spot and provide depth to his position. Southward initially was on the practice squad, but was called up to the active roster a couple of weeks ago to fill in for some injured guys at his position. DL Purcell is some guy I’ve never heard of and wasn’t aware he existed until this tweet so he is irrelevant.

Another thing to remember with this, is that the positions the players play matter more than the players themselves. Both guys are either backend roster guys or technically not even on the roster to begin with. The NFL is cruel SOB for players in that position and turnover happens regularly with those types of players.

OK, let’s take a deep dive here.

The big picture of the move is that the result leaves the Panthers with FOUR quarterbacks on the active roster. Not one, not two…..four. Historically, most teams break camp/preseason with two quarterbacks on the active roster. It’s ironic in a sense that that’s the case since the position is the most valuable one in sports, but given how little you rotate in quarterbacks mid game and the fact the only one plays at a time, coaches find that two QB’s is sufficient and keeping more depth at skill positions or lineman is more valuable than stashing more guys at QB that won’t sniff the field.

The Panthers have been routinely keeping three QB’s on the roster over the past couple of years which isn’t as common. Sure, multiple teams do it every season, but it’s a very small percentage. Joe Webb stuck around Carolina a couple of seasons, because while he was solid depth at QB, he was also a stand out special teams player and could fill in at wideout in a pinch. His flexibility made him too valuable to drop. Another scenario as to why a team like Carolina would keep three QB’s is what they are doing currently. During roster cut day, Carolina claimed Brad Kaaya off of waivers from Detroit because he felt like there was value in having a young QB in the pipeline. Derek Anderson is in the last year of his deal and Carolina hasn’t drafted a QB in some time. Kaaya was a late round pick in the most recent draft which shows that he has value and potential. Teams that don’t have immediate use for guys like that typically use a roster spot on them in order to protect them from other teams.

When Carolina promoted Gilbert up to the roster, instead of cutting Kaaya, they cut Southward, a safety. So now, the Panthers are currently holding four QB’s on the active roster. No one keeps four QB’s on the active roster.

My immediate reaction is that a trade is potentially forthcoming. Teams like Green Bay and Tampa saw their starting QB’s get injured over the weekend meaning there could be a need for one of them (or some other team) to add depth to that position while they wait for the injury to heal.

Would one of these teams (or another team) be interested in acquiring one of Carolina’s quarterbacks perhaps? Let’s look at the likelihood of this.

Derek Anderson — We obviously won’t include Cam in this scenario because that’s our guy and in no sane universe would there be a scenario that we trade him. That leaves Anderson as the highest guy on the depth chart. The only conceivable reason that DA could get traded is because he’s a free agent at the end of the season and the Panthers aren’t looking to resign him. I’m not sure if that last part is true or not, but either way it’s a long shot. Given that Cam isn’t fully healthy still from his shoulder surgery, having a “reliable” backup like DA around isn’t something you can trade away. Likelihood: 1/10

Brad Kaaya — This is the most intriguing side of a potential deal because Kaaya is still fresh enough out of college and the draft that some team that liked him a lot during the vetting process, but passed on him in the draft to address greater needs, etc may really be tempted to give up a pick to get him away from Carolina. If Kaaya were to get traded, he’d still be the backup, but his “ceiling” could be enough to convince teams that he’s worth having around as insurance for this year with the potential to grow into much more going forward. Likelihood: 5.5/10

Garret Gilbert — If you’re comparing Gilbert to Kaaya at face value, Kaaya is the more attractive player. Gilbert had a nice preseason, but he stuck around on the Panther practice squad for a reason. Teams can sign guys off other team’s practice squads at any time so there is definite vulnerability for a team to have a guy that they like on a practice squad with no formal protection of his rights. Gilbert was never signed away from Carolina. Possibly because teams didn’t have a need for him, or possibly because teams felt like he didn’t present enough of an upgrade to what they already had. That’s why this move is so interesting because he was promoted to the active roster without taking another QB’s spot. Perhaps the Panthers got wind of another team’s interest of him and protected him enough so that they could get a draft pick back? There isn’t much of another explanation out there. Likelihood: 7/10

The other scenario is that Hurney promoted Gilbert up without cutting another QB purely to protect him until teams like Green Bay and Tampa address their QB needs. Once those teams do, he will turn right around and release him back down to the practice squad and replace him with a player from another position. That would be the ultimate troll job and a total move the Panthers WOULD execute. For my sake, I hope that’s not the case. I’m craving a trade!

*Update*

Marty Hurney is officially a troll.

 

Sunday’s Game is Crucial for the Offense

After Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Carolina will have successfully completed a quarter of their season. Logic says that a trip up to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady will result in a loss and a subsequent 2-2 record. Being .500 after four games in the NFL certainly isn’t a death sentence, but with the way other teams in the division (namely the Falcons) are playing, the margin for error is pretty thin going forward.

If there is anything that Panther fans can lean on for optimism going into this week’s game, it’s that the New England defense is absolutely awful. New England’s defense ranks at the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories and are on pace for a historically bad season. They lack the personnel to get good push up front and there simply aren’t enough to playmakers on the backend to compensate for the difference. The Pats have been especially vulnerable when it comes to defending backs like McCaffrey who can dice you up with receiving yards out of the backfield or in the slot. Carolina and Shula have proved to be unafraid to feed CMC the rock early and often so I expect he will be pretty involved throughout the day.

The problem though for Carolina has been their inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities regardless of whether they’ve played a bad defense or not. Cam Newton is clearly not 100% coming off his shoulder surgery. Even if the shoulder itself is healthy, his timing and reads that he’s making are behind, off or completely nonexistent. As much as we can pass some blame around to Shula for lackluster play calling, the offensive line for lack of protection, etc. Cam has and deserves a decent amount of criticism. He has missed multiple plays that, as a starting QB in the NFL, you should never miss and more often than not, those misses would have either been scores or a big gain down the field.

As good as the defense is, they’re not invincible. Drew Brees proved that last Sunday as he picked them apart for four quarters. Rivera has often relied on the defense to win games for him during his tenure, but frankly, if Cam and the offense can’t get points, then the pressure on the defense to perform every time out is too much.

I’m as concerned as anyone about Cam’s performance this season. I’m still firmly on his bandwagon because the guy is simply too talented to not rebound at some point. However, if Rivera is insistent on limiting Cam’s running opportunities to protect him, but his shoulder isn’t fully back from rehab then it’s going to be hard for Carolina to outscore their opponents on a weekly basis.

Losses in the NFL typically spark overreaction so the Saints game may end up being an anomaly, but fans will definitely need to see strides from the offense against an absolutely awful defense. Even if the team loses, but the offense proves they can score, then we should feel better going into the second quarter of the season. If Carolina continues their trend, then there will be some hard questions to answer on Monday.

Roster Move Friday

Welcome to “Roster Move Friday”! The segment where we recap all of the roster moves that the Panthers make over the course of the week. Doesn’t matter if it’s a trade, a practice squad signing or someone going on IR, if it’s a roster move, we don’t discriminate.

9/11/17 — Panthers reach injury settlements with Brenton Bersin, Gino Gradkowski, Chris Scott & L.J. McCray. All players released/waived.

The Panthers filled that IR list up in the preseason. Pretty much anyone that was injured, but wasn’t a true threat to make the team was put on IR for the season. I guess that’s pretty common practice, but either way, that run for these four was short lived. Shouts to Chris Scott and Brenton Bersin real quick for their service. They did enough to be memorable, but not enough for us to be that sad about them leaving. Best of luck to them in their future endeavors.

9/13/17 — Panthers claim Ladarius Gunter from the Packers, waive Harrison Butker.

A big point of contention among the fan base was that the Panthers broke training camp with two kickers on the final 53 man roster. Certainly that’s not common practice in today’s NFL, but Hurney tried to get get a trade return for one of Butker or Gano during a time where a couple teams had some dicey kicking situations. It didn’t work out, no harm no foul.

Gunter is a solid acquisition when you consider the quality of player usually available on the waiver wire. Gunter has some legit game tape unlike most guys floating out there making him much more of a known commodity and it’s a bonus that he plays a position the Panthers could use quality depth at. Gunter should also be an instant contributor to special teams and teams can always use guys that can execute there.

9/14/17 — Harrison Butker added to practice squad. Eric Crume waived.

Plenty of fans were concerned that the rookie kicker would get claimed by someone if he were to get waived, which is why most wanted the Panthers to part with Gano instead. I think Hurney played this one perfectly though and passed Butker through waivers after a couple kicker needy teams claimed other players to fill that void. Butker was always destined to return to the practice squad if he cleared waivers. The hope will be for him to assume full time kicking duties next season once Gano becomes a free agent.

9/14/17 — Panthers claim John Theus from the 49ers, place Cole Luke on IR.

Hurney making moves! I don’t know anything about Theus other than he was a 5th round pick for San Francisco back in 2016 and he plays offensive tackle. To be honest, that’s fine with me. You can NEVER have enough depth a tackle and I like grabbing guys that were recent draft picks and stashing them on the roster. Our coaching staff is proven and has had success developing reclamation projects. Hoping Theus can fill in as productive depth behind Kalil, Williams, etc.

Cole Luke going to IR definitely helps validate the Gunter claim. Luke was the only UDFA to crack the Carolina 53, but nursed an ankle injury ever since the final preseason game. I guess Luke could theoretically be designated for return, but it’s unlikely as he isn’t as talented as the guy they replaced him with. The NFL is tough.

9/15/17 — Bucky Hodges added to practice squad, Keyarris Garrett waived.

This is a move that has me excited! I have been calling for the Panthers to draft a young developmental tight end for a couple of years now and I know I’m not the only one. It’s no secret that beyond Greg Olsen, Carolina doesn’t have an adequate receiving threat at tight end. Not sure Bucky will be that guy, but he’s definitely got the skill set to develop into a productive second or third option. He’s not on the active roster so I don’t expect to see Hodges anytime soon, but I like that there is at least a young piece hanging around.

Keyarris Garrett came in with some hype, but ultimately, he didn’t amount to much.

1-0 Party! 3 Takeways From Carolina’s Blowout Win

Football is baaaaaccckkkk! You know what? Shouts to football and the NFL for finally being back. We literally spend every single day of the offseason wishing it was on and to have it finally back and actually count is a good feeling.

As good as it is for football to be back, there aren’t many worse feelings for a fan base than to watch your team catch a L in week one. That’s perilous shit right there. Very few teams in the league can recover from a 0-2 hole in the NFL and recover in time to make the playoffs. To my math, there have only been 14 teams since 1991 that have accomplished such a feat. So when you go 0-1 after the first game, your season is pretty much on the line that next Sunday. Scary stuff.

Fortunately for Panthers fans, we don’t have to worry about that! Carolina took care of business out west and blew the 49ers out in a game that was never close. There were some fans that remained cautiously optimistic heading into the game, but we can just chalk that up to the unknown and first game paranoia as a fan. Any sane person new how big of a difference there was in talent and it showed.

Here are my five biggest takeways from the game yesterday:

The Defense is stout — This has been a pretty common occurrence for Carolina for the past several years. The talent on this side of the ball is undeniable. Luke Kuechly is easily the best linebacker in football and a top 3 defensive player in general, KK short and Star are monsters on the interior line and there is a stable of ageless talented vets (Thomas Davis, Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, etc) and a crop of young up and coming stars (Shaq Thompson, Vernon Butler, James Bradberry, etc) that round out the unit. When healthy, this unit has the ability to be the top defense in football.

Cam Newton was rusty — This was to be expected somewhat. The guy only threw two passes during the preseason, but there were definitely throws he missed in that first half that he should have made. Fortunately for him, he got into more of a rhythm in the second half completing all six of his passes. The schedule early in the season is forgiving so it’s a best case scenario when trying to get back into your groove. Cam will be fine. Perhaps the most encouraging Cam story line that came from the game though was…..

The O-Line didn’t allow a sack — This is HUGE. Cam was absolutely demolished by opposing defenses at times last season and the wear and tear certainly caught up to him by the end of it. Given how long it took for him to rehab and recover, it would benefit both him and the Panthers to keep him as clean as possible going forward. The line did a great job of containing and the staff called a game that allowed Cam to utilize those short throws all game. More of this going forward please. Definitely need Cam healthy to contend.

 

Carolina will take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1:00pm EST

Recap of the Final Roster & Subsequent Transactions Part 2

This is Part 2 of my recap of last weekend and all the moves the Panthers made during and after roster cuts. Read part one here.

Hurney’s Second First Trade: For the first time the NFL adjusted the rules of the cut down process to eliminate the 75 man cut down and just have one cut period where the rosters would go from 90 to 53. As a result, there were a ton of players scheduled to hit the waiver wire/open market all at once. One thing that was pretty noticeable were the amount of trades made league wide. I guess GM’s were trying to get ahead of the market a little bit.

I’m a big trade guy. Those are always fun for me regardless of the sport. Not all trades work out in your favor and the initial transaction isn’t always something to be happy or excited about, but as someone who loves player transactions in general, I love a trade. I love deep diving into a guy trying to figure out how we just landed the missing piece to a future title run and how the new pieces mesh with the existing ones. It’s just fun.

The trade Marty Hurney made wasn’t a big headline grabber, but I like the end result for the team. Hurney flipped WR Kaelin Clay and a 2019 7th round pick for Buffalo 2016 6th round pick DB Kevon Seymour. To be honest, I don’t know much about Seymour other than what I’ve read and watched of him post trade. His stats as a rookie were pretty solid. He made 15 appearances and 3 starts as a rookie last year and only allowed one reception for every 14.8 snaps he had on the field which was the best mark for any rookie DB last season (including James Bradberry & Daryl Worley).

In Seymour, the Panthers inherit a guy with three more seasons of control and can slot in as depth on the outside and inside right away. Given the fact that he’s been working in a Sean McDermott system all summer, the defense under Steve Wilks shouldn’t be too hard for him to pick up. It’ll be important that he’s ready by Sunday since UDFA Cole Luke is dealing with a nagging ankle injury.

The dynamic of the trade interests me as much as anything. Hurney told the press that he was the one who initiated the call to his old buddy Brandon Beane in Buffalo. That makes sense due to Buffalo receiving a pick as part of the return compensation. My guess is that the scouting department under Dave Gettleman had pretty high marks on the kid during the 2016 draft vetting process. Makes me wonder if Dave and the staff were looking at Seymour as a possibility for the pick that ended up going to Zack Sanchez, another 2016 DB draft pick that was waived over the weekend.

When Sanchez was picked, he was marked as a guy that could develop as a nickel corner due to his size and instincts that could also fill in on the outside as needed. His performance as a rookie was certainly less than inspiring and even after playing pretty well during the preseason, he left the Pittsburgh game with a groin injury and was waived without going on IR and wasn’t even brought back on the practice squad. Pretty telling that they were ready to move on from him.

Buffalo is a rebuilding team. They have been selling players like Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby away for band aid replacements and draft capital. When you look at what the Panthers gave up to get Seymour, it falls in line with what Buffalo has been doing. Kaelin Clay had a nice August and earned his spot on the roster, but the Panthers already have speedy receivers and return specialists in Byrd and Samuel so he was surplus and likely not to get much burn. The 7th round pick was a throw in given that Seymour is the higher ceiling player to even out the trade. The fact that Buffalo got a player back in the deal in general makes me wonder if they asked for someone like Byrd instead and had to settle on Clay and a pick (which they need) when the Panthers politely declined. In the short term, Clay gives Buffalo a deep threat they can rotate in and value in the return game.

All in all I liked the trade for Carolina. It won’t move the needle, but it helps give them quality depth at a spot they needed it.

Working the Waiver Wire: The trade wasn’t the only work Hurney did to acquire players over the weekend. He also spent some time on the waiver wire making a couple of successful claims to add some more depth to the roster.

The most notable move he made will be the one the provides the least amount of impact up front and that was picking up the rights to Brad Kaaya. The Lions took Kaaya in the 6th round of this year’s draft and opted to go with Jake Rudock as the backup instead. I personally like the move low key — it still doesn’t make me miss Joe Webb less — but I like it. My faith in Derek Anderson has been waning along with most of the fan base the past couple of seasons and I have felt that it might have been in the Panthers interest to have invested a late round pick in a developmental QB the past couple of years.

Carolina is lucky to be set with a franchise QB, but having a young backup you can develop is never a bad idea. They may not start, but if they show out in camp or spot snaps here or there, they become a tradeable asset. Carolina hasn’t had a young QB in the pipeline since 2011 when they drafted Cam. Jonathon Jones of SI mentioned that Hurney was a big advocate of Kaaya pre draft while he was still hovering around the media prior to reclaiming his GM post. Kaaya effectively comes in as a Hurney draft pick for this season. Perhaps it will work out, perhaps it won’t, but having Kaaya around to learn from Cam for a season isn’t a bad thing. Important to remember that Derek Anderson is a free agent at the end of the season.

The other selection was Demetrius Cox from Cincinnati. Cox was a UDFA this year out of Michigan State and can play both safety spots. He comes to Charlotte as just the fourth safety on the roster and will be looked at to play right away. I don’t know much about Cox’s game or skill set, but he had a nice game against Tampa during week one of the preseason.

Practice Squad Notes:  The ten players (eleven this year for Carolina) that usually fill out the practice squad are always a big talking point at the time they’re established, but rarely do these guys come up and play.

Fan favorite Alex Armah is the headliner of the class. He’s a young fullback that has shown some skills, but he is still raw so having a year on the practice squad will benefit him going forward. The Panthers were also able to stash a couple of safeties that I thought had decent showings this summer, but the fact that they were stashed prior to us picking up Cox off waivers was interesting.

Eric Crume is the most likely player to get called up in case of injury with Love and Butler both banged up.

 

Everything is in full go and it’s time for the big boys to separate themselves. I like what the Panthers have done so far and I think they have a squad that can compete for a playoff spot. We should see some more roster moves over the next couple of weeks, but for now, it’s time to focus on beating the 49ers on Sunday.

Recap of the Final Roster & Subsequent Transactions Part 1

At long last, it’s finally game week! No more empty weekends without Carolina Panther football for the foreseeable future. If you’re an avid investor in the stock market, I’d suggest looking into local businesses like Bojangles to invest in as their business should begin to spike as tailgate season officially kicks off alongside the actual NFL season.

Of course, in order to get there every team must go through camp and, more importantly, roster cuts. Like it does every year, the Panthers had some guys get released that we weren’t expecting and some guys make the team that we weren’t expecting. New/Old GM Marty Hurney also go involved in some waiver claim action and joined in on the trade train that every team in the league seemed to jump on.

There was a lot to process and reflect on. Here are the highlights:

Biggest Surprise Cut: Joe Webb. Pretty clear answer here. A week ago, my buddy and I were discussing with each other who we felt like the biggest surprise cut would be and neither of us had Webb on our radar. If you had told me beforehand that a QB was going to get cut, I would have confidently believed that Derek Anderson was the one you’d be referring to. Given Joe Webb’s position flexibility as a wide receiver and his production on special teams, his value felt obvious. Webb’s release was reportedly not a popular one among the locker room which makes sense. The reason they let him go also makes sense which I’ll get into during part two of this post.

Biggest Surprise Inclusion: If we were just listing an individual, I’d go with lineman Greg Van Roten who was a late addition to the training camp roster. That’s a feel good story, but the biggest surprise from the initial final 53 was definitely the inclusion of two kickers. The battle between Graham Gano and Harrison Butker has been widely publicized throughout the summer. Going into the Pittsburgh game, the feeling I got from the media was that Gano had been the better kicker in practice and the job was really his to lose. Similar reports had come out that Hurney was shopping Butker across the league looking for a potential trade.

The turning point in the competition was during the aforementioned game when Gano clanked a 51 yard attempt off the left upright which was his second such miss of the preseason. After the game, the reports shifted that the competition was even. Gano’s struggles last season are well known and it’s pretty obvious that the leash is short. I was surprised that given the depth issues at some positions, the staff opted to roll with two kickers. I’m sure Hurney is still trying to field potential trade offers for one of the two, but I can’t imagine they can afford both guys on the roster past Week 1. Gano has been tabbed to start, but if he misses any of his chances, he could find himself on the bottom.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of the final roster breakdown where I dive into the trade and waiver claims!