NFL news of the non-labor negotiation variety is kind of scarce right now, but there have been a few notable transactions this week. Most notable was a house-cleaning in Cleveland, where six veterans were released. Below are some thoughts on the releases of DT Shaun Rogers, DE Kenyon Coleman, OLB David Bowens, ILB Eric Barton, TE Robert Royal, and OT John St. Clair. We’ll compile these moves with other February releases in an upcoming post.
The Browns entered the post-Eric Mangini era in earnest by cutting four starters from their 3-4 defense, paving the way for a move to a 4-3 scheme. The biggest name on the chopping block was Rogers, a massive nose tackle who makes a ton of plays when motivated. But Rogers isn’t always an ideal teammate or a high-motor player, which made his big paycheck unpalatable for Cleveland. Still, there aren’t many nose tackles in the NFL who can play at Rogers’ level, and even fewer on the open market. So he’ll get plenty of looks in free agency and should find another job quickly – especially since he’s one of the few players who can sign despite the pending lockout. Bowens, a 3-4 outside linebacker, still makes a few plays and could be a decent veteran hand for a team looking for help at that position. Bowens’ best bet may be to wait until training camp and see if any injuries open a spot for him. Coleman is more of a backup player as a sturdy but unspectacular 3-4 end, and Barton is the same kind of player at inside linebacker. Both are long in the tooth and are so closely tied to Mangini that they could find getting new jobs difficult. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland axed blocking TE Robert Royal and starting ORT John St. Clair. Royal could find a minimum-salary role as a blocker somewhere, while St. Clair is flexible enough to play both tackle positions without killing a team and therefore could be a nice fallback for a team fighting injuries, as the Steelers were when they signed Flozell Adams last August. Some of these six players are useful, but they’re all veterans, and cutting them clears the payroll and helps new head coach Pat Shurmur start a new era with his own guys instead of Mangini’s.