Perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey was among the victims Saturday as NFL teams pared their rosters to the 53-man limit by the 4 p.m. ET deadline (scroll down for notable cuts by team).
It was the second time Bailey had been cut in 2014. He was released in March after 10 years with the Denver Broncos and again Saturday by the New Orleans Saints, who signed him in April.
He struggled with a foot injury throughout much of training camp but returned to practice in late August, telling reporters his foot issue was minor.
But it wasn't enough to save his job. The Saints kept five other cornerbacks, including undrafted rookie Brian Dixon.
When Bailey, 36, was released by Denver, he was adamant that he wanted to keep playing. In New Orleans, he thought he had found both a team that could contend for a Super Bowl and maximize his veteran abilities.
Now it is fair to wonder if Bailey's career might be over. He played in only five games in the regular season for the Broncos last year (three starts) after injuring his foot during the preseason. He was deemed healthy enough to play in the postseason for the Broncos and started in the Super Bowl defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.
"Whatever happens to him in the short-term won't change his legacy," Broncos general manager John Elway said Saturday. "He's going to be a Hall of Famer. A guy that will go down as one of the best ever."
Other prominent players who were released Saturday included wide receivers Nate Burleson and Stephen Hill as well as NFLPA president Eric Winston and quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
The agent for Hill, the New York Jets' second-round pick in 2012, criticized general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan for not giving him more of a chance to develop. The Jets released him after 45 receptions with four touchdowns in 23 career games. Hill had just three catches for 42 yards and was targeted just eight times in four preseason games.
"I'm disappointed in Idzik and Rex with the way the whole thing went down there,'' Hill's agent, Alan Herman, told USA TODAY Sports. "Two years in that kind of situation is disheartening.
"He didn't have a chance that first year with that whole Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez fiasco. ... His second year, Geno Smith was learning how to play quarterback. So they never threw the ball deep because they wanted to simplify things for Geno."
The 6-4, 215-pound speedster (4.36 40 at 2012 combine) out of Georgia Tech came into the league still unpolished, and his disappointing tenure with the Jets was marred by drops and nagging knee injuries.
Herman is hopeful Hill will get a second chance with a receiver-challenged team such as the Cleveland Browns.
"I would think the Browns would put in a claim," Herman said. "(Coach Mike) Pettine knows him and they need receivers and Stephen can stretch the field."
Burleson had expressed sentiments that this would be his final NFL season and that he wanted to have a strong 2014 campaign for the Browns before riding off into the sunset. Unfortunately, he won't get that chance.
Burleson sat out the first three preseason games due to a nagging hamstring strain suffered Aug. 6. He caught a 27-yard pass from Browns rookie backup quarterback Johnny Manziel in Thursday night's 33-13 win against the Chicago Bears.
But it wasn't enough to convince general manager Ray Farmer, coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan that he had enough left in his 33-year-old legs to help Cleveland's young receiving corps, which will be without suspended all-pro Josh Gordon this season.
Burleson spent the previous four seasons with the Detroit Lions. If this is indeed the end, he finishes his 11-year career with 457 receptions and 39 touchdowns. The Minnesota Vikings' third-round pick in 2003, Burleson is one of five receivers who has recorded at least one touchdown reception each season from 2003-2013.
The Seahawks parted with both Pryor and Winston. Pryor started nine games for the Oakland Raiders in 2013 but could not beat out backup Tarvaris Jackson. Winston, recently elected as the union's president, was vying for the team's open right tackle job but lost out to rookie Justin Britt.
The Philadelphia Eagles were among the first teams to officially set their roster at the 53-man limit. They waived-injured running back Kenjon Barner, who played at Oregon for Chip Kelly and was recently acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. Struggling kicker Alex Henery also lost his job to another recent trade target, Cody Parkey.
The Broncos' offseason quest to upgrade their defensive roster meant at least two players who were starters last season are now out of jobs. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who started 29 games over the previous three seasons but dislocated his hip in 2013, and strong safety Duke Ihenacho, a 17-game starter last season, were among the players cut Saturday. Marvin Austin's solid play made Vickerson expendable while Ihenacho was bumped out of the starting lineup when the Broncos signed Pro Bowler T.J. Ward.
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