AFC North: Veterans on the roster bubble

We continue our series looking at one veteran player from each team who could be on their team’s roster bubble this summer.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns

Writer: Andersen Pickard

This may be the most obvious one in the league. The Steelers have a clear veteran on the roster bubble who is very likely to be cut following training camp. It seems as if Artie Burns’ time in Pittsburgh is coming to an end.

Burns is due an $800,000 on July 28, so despite working overtime during OTAs and minicamp in addition to spending extra time studying film, Burns is the most likely veteran to be cut by the Steelers. Burns was drafted in the 2016 draft, and through three seasons with the team, he appeared in all 48 regular season games but only made 31 starts, including a career-low six starts in 2018 (one year after starting all 16 games).

Last season, Burns defended just one pass, a significant drop from the 13 he defended in 2017. He did, however, record career firsts in two unique categories: forcing fumbles and recording safeties. He did both of those things once last season. He made 22 tackles last season (17 solo, five assisted), marking career lows in those categories while also recording a career low one tackle for loss.

Cincinnati Bengals: Hardy Nickerson, Jr.

Writer: Deon Bent

When a team is forced to cut down their roster at the end of training camp, sometimes the ones left off are those who cannot be versatile. Such is the case with linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr. 

The linebacker position requires mental quickness and physical strength against opposing running and passing offenses. Nickerson, Jr. was able to give the team the mental quickness when playing in special teams positions. However, he is going against the likeness of several great linebackers that have proven themselves in all phases of the game. 

In 2017, Nickerson was undrafted. He went through a series of transactions with the Bengals where he was called up to the 53-man roster and then sent back down to the practice squad. Due to injuries from the supporting linebackers, Nickerson saw more playing time. Unfortunately, he is wavering towards the bottom of the squad. 

With Vontaze Burfict serving yet another suspension to start the 2019 season, the Bengals have some tough choices to make. The team drafted two stellar linebackers this past season who have the potential to send Nickerson to the practice squad once more.  Rookies Germaine Pratt and Deshaun Davis will also be fighting for a spot on the roster. Because of these draft picks, the Bengals seem to be leaning more towards some fresh faces to highlight their 2019 roster.

Cleveland Browns: Seth DeValve

Writer: Deon Bent

Given that most of the attention in the NFL will be garnered towards the 2019 Cleveland Browns’ ‘superteam,’ there are some players that may not make the cut. This is proving to be the case with tight end Seth DeValve. 

Having stellar talent on the team means that every player has to prove themselves elite or risk being sent to the practice squad. DeValve is one player that may be facing these decisions at the end of this year’s training camp. While he started out hot for the Browns in his rookie year, it was his second year of playing that placed him on the roster bubble. 

Because of being injury riddled during last season’s training camp, DeValve saw his playing time overtaken by fellow tight end Darren Fells. Hauling in 48 receptions on 496 receiving yards and four touchdowns may not be enough for the tight end to retain his position. He is competing against David Njoku and Demetrius Harris which will most likely be locked to start the season. Orson Charles and Pharaoh Brown are the other two tight ends who will need to convince the Browns that they are deserving of a starting role.

Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Dixon

Writer: Michael Travis Rose

Kenneth Dixon came through in a big way for the Baltimore Ravens late last season, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt and rushing for 289 yards in just 47 attempts. But is it too little, too late?

Free agent Mark Ingram is firmly entrenched as the Ravens’ starting running back, with Gus Edwards looking a solid second in the running back depth chart.  This leaves the bottom spot between Dixon and fourth-round rookie, Justice Hill. Hill holds an advantage over Dixon in that he’s never been suspended nor injured as a Raven.

Dixon, on the other hand, has been suspended twice (four games for a PED violation and two more for violating the league’s substance abuse policy). Additionally, he missed the entire 2017 season to a torn meniscus. Fast forward to 2018 and Dixon landed on the IR once again with a knee injury, playing only six games for the one-and-done Ravens.

Out of a possible 49 games in the past three seasons, Dixon only played in 36 percent of those games; 12 percent of those games he missed due to league violations. Should the Ravens cut and run, they lose only $87,000 in dead money versus $720,000 in cap savings. Historically, the Ravens rarely carry more than three running backs on their roster come Week One of the regular season.

Dixon’s past transgressions and injuries along with his inconsistency over the past three years place him firmly on the bubble.

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