The roads to final NFL rosters each August are paved with mean streets.
For NFL veterans in their third or fourth stop and hoping for one last grasp at glory, the ride all too often ends with the gruesome sound of the axe dropping on their pro football careers.
Such was the fate of Bears veterans Devin Aromashodu, Tom Zbikowski, Kyle Moore and Leonard Pope when the Bears announced their first round of training-camp cuts on their way to the 75-player roster limit.
What is particularly painful for these four is the knowledge they weren’t axed because the Bears have better players at their positions. Instead, they took the fall because the Bears have younger and lesser-known players on the roster.
Anyone who’s been with the team since training camp began knows it would be wrong to say Marquess Wilson and Joe Anderson are clearly better than Aromashodu today. Brandon Hardin may not even be as good as Zbikowski. Cornelius Washington clearly is not as prepared to contribute today as Moore; and Fendi Onobun, Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams could all still learn a lesson or two from Pope.
The reason these four veterans got their walking papers is because their “ceilings” have been reached, and we know we’ve seen the best that each has to offer.
The younger players they leave behind had two big advantages over the veterans in their roster battles, and the older guys knew it from the time camp began. Every one of the younger guys may still have a higher – perhaps much higher – ceiling.
If they’re not as good today as the veterans who’ve been sent away, there is still the chance they’ll be better than those players ever were with more time to develop.
To be clear, any of Wilson, Anderson, Hardin, Washington, Onobun, Maneri and Adams could be sent packing as soon as this Friday or Saturday. But even if it’s just a few more days, the organization’s investment of time and resources is better spent on them than the veterans they’ve outlasted.
Advantage No. 2 for many in the younger group is this coaching staff and front office has an investment in them it did not have in the others. Phil Emery spent draft choices on Hardin, Washington and Wilson, and as such, they will get extra consideration. As an undrafted gem Emery discovered last year, Anderson will get the benefit of the doubt as well.
And therein lies the rub. The younger, less-experienced players just need to do what’s expected of them to hang around. Journeymen veterans have to make themselves indispensable, and Aromashodu, Zbikowski, Moore and Pope couldn’t.
Moore appeared to have the best chance of this group of sticking, consistently running with the twos and, at times, the ones in practice. But Washington is a freak of an athlete and classic underachiever in college who, if the light goes on, could eventually be a difference maker. Moore was never going to beat him out if all he offered was a dependable, if not spectacular, No. 4 at defensive end.
Could any of the four veterans still catch on elsewhere? Sure, there’s always a chance. But the outcome is likely to be the same, while the young Bears they leave behind can still dream big – at least for a few more days.
Fair or not, that’s life in the NFL.