As the NFL comes closer and closer to week one, it is no surprise to see quality players off of a roster. This season, however, there’s a lot of ELITE talent still remaining without a team because of injury among other things. We know the NFL is a business and although seeing these guys off a team seems unreal, it makes sense that clubs stray away from guys who aren’t healthy or are aging. At the end of the day, teams are going to do whatever it takes to win and if moving on from guys, or adding them, is going to help them then that is what they’ll do. The guys in this article are players who have had a rough 2020 in their own ways, but still have plenty of quality football in them.
Mitchell Schwartz – OT
Schwartz is among the highly-rated tackles in football, a rare club to be part of because of the hardwork and dedication required to be respected at that level. In the Chiefs 2020 championship run, Schwartz was easily a top 5 tackle in football, allowing not a single sack in 1,046 snaps played. In fact, Schwartz had the highest rated PFF grade in the postseason during that run. In this past season, the All-Pro tackle had a down year due to injury. The Chiefs entire O-line really suffered a lot last year and that was on display in their Super Bowl loss to the Bucs. Schwartz was limited to 10 games with a back injury and was released in March, drawing a close to his 4-year career in Kansas City. If he had remained healthy he would easily be among the highest paid tackles in football, but that unfortunately is not the case. The thing with Schwartz is that he had surgery on his back in late February and he also has been getting back to football shape, posting updates regularly on social media. A lot of teams are in the market for a proven tackle and if Schwartz can get back to form, he is sure to be picked up soon. Teams like the Chargers, Bengals, and Dolphins are in dire need of insurance for their young QBs so don’t be surprised to see Mitchell Schwartz taken soon.
K.J Wright – LB
The longtime Seahawk linebacker has found himself without a team after basically being replaced by Seattle’s high draft picks. Wright took on the SLB role this season, a season in which had 11 tackles-for-loss (tied most with Jamal Adams for Seattle) to go with 10 passes-defended, both which rank second in his career. It’s not like Wright was playing bad, he’s just getting older and Seattle opted to go with their younger guys. 2020 1st and 2nd rounders Jordyn Brooks (WLB) and Darrell Taylor (SLB) are set to take on starting roles and if Wright stayed he would have had to settle for less playing time. He is currently in talks with the Raiders but he still hasn’t fully ruled out a return with Seattle, especially after Pete Carroll’s “door is still open” quote.
Richard Sherman – CB
A mixture of off-field issues as well as on-field health are keeping Richard Sherman off of a roster. A calf-injury kept the longtime CB out of action by limiting Sherman to just five games this past season with San Francisco. In those games, Sherman produced just 18 tackles and 1 INT. The reason the injury and production hinders his chances so much is because he had an elite 2019-20 season. IF we are to look at Sherman’s 2019 season; he had 61 tackles, 11 passes defended to go with 3 total INTs. Sherman also held opposing QBs to a passer rating just under 63 when targeted, allowing a single TD on the season. There is no doubt that the 5-time Pro Bowler and 2-time All Pro has plenty in him still, rather his off field issues are a big red flag. Over the summer, Richard Sherman was driving drunk when he crashed his car into a construction zone. To make matters worse, he walked to his in-laws house where he tried to break his way in before cops showed up. It doesn’t stop there. He had a scuffle with police and suffered minor lacerations from the k-9 unit that was needed to stop and apprehend him. No doubt Sherman can be on a team right now. His passionate play and leadership in the locker room have always been raved about. If his mental health and physical health don;t improve, we might have seen the last of Richard Sherman.
David DeCastro – OG
Yet another elite offensive lineman without a team due to injury is former Steel David DeCastro. After missing Steelers mini camp, it was revealed DeCastro had suffered yet another ankle injury. This time, the Steelers had decided to cut DeCastro in June because of a “non-football” injury and immediately moved on by signing Trai Turner. The issue is DeCastro is a quality Guard and given how rare that kinda quality is found, he’d be a big name if he stays in the NFL and if he can get healthy. DeCastro, conflicted on his career, said the 3rd ankle surgery is the ultimate deciding factor on whether he returns or calls it quits. He underwent ankle surgery number 2 last season but admitted he still had some lingering problems and that it “nagged” at him pretty badly throughout all last season. Through all this, the 2-time All-Pro was named to his sixth consecutive pro bowl. In fact, even with the down year he still didn’t allow a sack in 845 snaps played and has just 2 sacks allowed total since 2017. Should DeCastro have a successful surgery and opt in to football again, he’s gonna get grabbed fast. But for now, his 9-year run in the Steel City is done.
Jurrell Casey – DT
Casey has always been a solid player in the NFL. From 2015-19, he was named to the Pro Bowl in each season thanks to his hard work and tough play. From 2013-19, he never averaged less than 5 sacks on the season. Because of his consistent play, Casey was awarded a 4-year $60 mil deal with the Titans in 2017. But before the 2020 season, Casey was traded for cash and a 7th round pick to the Broncos who were willing to take on his contract if it meant he’d play at a caliber everyone was used to seeing from him. Before his career in Denver could actually settle, Casey suffered a bicep tear in September that left him out for the rest of the campaign and ultimately prompted his release. He finished with 3 game appearances and 14 tackles, resulting in his first ever no-sack season. But now that he’s back and healthy, and with teams struggling to find the pieces to assemble a solid D-line, Casey is sure to find a home. His 6”1, 305 pound frame is a lot to handle and his veteran mind can easily help any team. He still is a little younger than other free agents (31) and a return to form in different scenery can be what he needs to prove his contract wasn’t a mistake.