Alex Leatherwood and the 5 Biggest Surprises From the Final Round of NFL Cuts

The final NFL roster cuts were took place on Tuesday, as all 32 teams needed to downsize their rosters from 80 to 53. Every team was forced to make tough decisions about who to keep and who to cut. It’s a difficult day for the coaches and the hundreds of players that don’t make their team’s roster.

There were a handful of twists around the leage. Jimmy Garoppolo agreed to return to the San Francisco 49ers as the highest-paid backup quarterback in the league, while Dak Prescott became, for now, the only signal caller on the Dallas Cowboys roster.

With the deadline passed, plenty of players are forced to find a new home with another team or hope for a spot on the practice squad. Here are the five most surprising moves from around the NFL.

Alex Leatherwood

Alex Leatherwood playing for the Raiders.
Alex Leatherwood during his time with the Las Vegas Raiders. | Chris Unger

Last week, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Alex Leatherwood could be on the chopping block come Tuesday’s deadline, and the rumors came to fruition. The lineman is now on the search for a new team.

Leatherwood was a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and has struggled mightily since entering the league. The Raiders have moved him around from tackle to guard, and he’s just never been able to put it all together. Leatherwood struggled this past preseason and was even benched against the Dolphins after conceding a sack. The Raiders were looking to trade him but received a no from the other 31 teams.

The good news for Leatherwood is that there are a lot of clubs out there that are in desperate need of offensive line depth; he’s already been claimed by the Chicago Bears, giving him another crack at NFL life.

O.J. Howard

O.J. Howard signed with the Buffalo Bills this offseason to revive his career with a new team but failed to make the cut in upstate New York.

The former first-round pick in 2017 had a strong start to his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but tailed off over the past few years, especially after suffering a torn Achilles in 2020. He combined for 1,456 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three seasons but didn’t manage to top over 200 yards in 2020 or 2021. Howard played on just 31% of the Bucs’ offensive snaps last season, which supports their decision to move on.

Howard was never going to be the starting tight end in Buffalo with Dawson Knox locking up that role, but it is alarming that he failed to beat out Tommy Sweeney or Quintin Morris for a roster spot.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cincinnati Bengals are hosting him on a visit and plan to sign the 27-year-old tight end. Although the Bengals brought in Hayden Hurst on a one-year deal, this could be an opportunity for Howard to receive some playing time in a particularly weak tight end group.

Marlon Mack

The Houston Texans’ decision to release Marlon Mack is one of the more notable moves among NFL roster cuts. Mack signed with the team back in April in hopes of playing a key role in the Texans’ run game, but the emergence of rookie tailback Dameon Pierce halted those plans.

While Pierce appears to have earned the starting running back nod after playing tremendously in training camp and the preseason, Mack looked fairly explosive as well, which makes this move all that more surprising. He carried the ball 10 times for team-high 55 yards in the Texans’ preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers.

During his time with the Colts, Mack was one of the best young running backs in the league. He recorded back-to-back seasons with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage but suffered an Achilles injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season and hasn’t been the same since.

Mack should be a popular target in the waiver wire. The Philadelphia Eagles, in particular, could use a rejuvenated running back in its backfield. Miles Sanders has been the Eagles’ lead back for three years but has yet to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a single season, leaving room for the 26-year-old Mack to handle some carries.

Josh Gordon

After a massive overhaul to the Kansas City Chiefs’ receiver room that saw the addition of three new receivers and the departure of Tyreek Hill, this was Josh Gordon’s best opportunity to remain on the roster and compete for a championship.

The Chiefs had other plans and decided to keep just five receivers on the roster, with Gordon on the outside looking in. He appeared in 12 games with the Chiefs last season and caught five of his 14 targets for 32 yards and one touchdown.

Gordon’s options moving forward are limited. He turned 31 in April and has been on four different teams since 2018. The Chiefs could be looking to bring him back on the practice squad, but that is yet to be determined.

One team that could be a potential landing spot for the former All-Pro receiver is the Chicago Bears. Currently, the Bears have one of the weakest receiver units in the league, and Gordon could provide a much-needed boost to the offense to help Justin Fields out.

Kellen Mond

Kellen Mond’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings came crashing down quickly. At the time he was drafted, Mond was a potential candidate to take over for Kirk Cousins. Now one year later, Cousins has signed a new contract, and Mond is no longer on an NFL roster.

Mond played in just one game last season after being at odds with then-Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Cousins was unavailable for the final week of the 2021 season, and Zimmer decided to start Sean Mannion over Mond, sparking the speculation that he won’t be sticking around in Minnesota long term.

The Vikings are under new leadership with both a new general manager and head coach and ultimately decided to move on from the third-round quarterback. The front office traded for Nick Mullens this offseason to become Cousins’ backup, which wound up being the nail in the coffin for Mond’s time in Minnesota.

As of Wednesday, he’s already found a home with the Cleveland Browns. We’ll have to see what the future holds for him in Ohio.

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