It seems like every year there is a player who makes the team that nobody sees coming. It’s typically a great story about a player who overcomes odds to land a spot on the roster and completes a childhood dream.
Unfortunately, there’s another side to that same story. A surprise player on the 53-man roster comes with a surprise player who didn’t make it. And if you are to believe Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, we may be headed down that around again this year.
“There’s some guys that maybe were counted out that have a chance of making this team,” Campbell said after the second preseason game. “And then there’s some ones that maybe everybody thought was gonna make it and they’re not gonna make it.”
With training camp over and the cutdown date just a few days away, let’s do the impossible and try to predict the unpredictable.
Who could be a surprise Detroit Lions cut?
My answer: I’m going to go above and beyond and give you three players who could be a surprise cut. And for the record, I currently have all three of these players on my 53-man roster projection, that’s why their cut would be a surprise!
WR Breshad Perriman
I’ll start with the least surprising of the three. Nobody fits that Campbell quote better than Perriman. He was brought in expecting to be the team’s No. 2 receiver, but an injury derailed his camp pretty early. Since coming back, he has failed to make an impression, and to be honest, he wasn’t very active before his injury either. That being said, $2 million of Perriman's $2.5 million salary is fully guaranteed, so the money could save him. But many are starting to wonder if the Lions would be willing to eat that dead money.
Plus, it really is starting to feel like Tom Kennedy has won over the coaching staff, and this would be an easy way to fit him on the roster (even if it leaves the Lions shorthanded at outside receivers).
RB Jermar Jefferson
If we’re going purely on rep order in practice, Jefferson has held the RB3 position for all of training camp. However, the actual competition for the spot has been heated. Truly, all three players below him on the depth chart have displayed flashes, especially Craig “Netflix” Reynolds. I still like Jefferson’s skill set the best, but this is a competition that could be decided on Friday night.
DT Da’Shawn Hand
I think the most likely scenario with Hand is that he makes the initial 53-man roster only to be placed on IR so that Detroit can bring back a player like Kevin Strong or Bruce Hector if they clear waivers. If the Lions want to put Hand on IR and have him come back this year, they need to put him on the 53-man roster first, because players on IR before then are not eligible to return to play in 2021.
But it’s also quite possible that the coaching staff looks at Hand’s young career and sees a player they simply cannot trust to stay healthy. That would certainly make it easier to keep Strong or Hector without risking them on waivers.