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What we learned: 18 takeaways from roster cutdowns

An All-Pro from the last three years was released out of nowhere on Saturday, and it wasn't even the most jarring news of the afternoon.

Minnesota's acquisition of Sam Bradford for a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018 isn't the kind of move we're used to seeing during the NFL's annual 53-man roster cutdown day. Two teams dramatically changed course for the season just days before it is set to begin. The Vikings are trying to jump through a Super Bowl window, while the Eagles chose to happily take a ride on the Carson Wentz rookie quarterback rollercoaster. (Wentz will start over Chase Daniel in Philadelphia once he's healthy, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.)

While the Vikings quickly replaced Teddy Bridgewater, their NFC North rivals in Green Bay created a new hole on their roster. The Packers' release of guard Josh Sitton was the surprising roster cutdown casualty we've seen in many years. Sitton played at a high level last season and was due only $6.5 million, a reasonable total for a top-shelf starter. Perhaps there will be more to the story that comes out this week. In the meantime, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Here were Saturday's other notable takeaways:

Most surprising moves

  1. The release of Sitton came as such a shock in part because the Packers don't have a logical candidate to replace him. Don Barclay, Lane Taylor or possibly moving Bryan Bulaga inside are all possibilities.
  1. Give Browns executive Sashi Brown for getting terrific value all week in trades. After nabbing a fifth-round pick for Barkevious Mingo and a fourth-round pick for punter Andy Lee, Brown picked up a sixth-round pick from Pittsburgh in exchange for cornerback Justin Gilbert.

Yes, Mingo and Gilbert were embarrassing draft busts for the organization. But Brown had nothing to do with those picks and both players weren't going to make the team. The Steelers are showing their desperation in the secondary by acquiring Gilbert, who has looked lost as a pro since going in the top 10 of the 2014 draft.

  1. The Jetswaived-injured cornerback Dee Milliner and cut tight end Jace Amaro, who were taken No. 9 overall and No. 49 overall, respectively, earlier this decade. General manager Mike Maccagnan has spent a lot of timing cleaning up the mistakes of previous decision makers. The Jets have perhaps the least inspiring tight end depth chart in football.

Least surprising moves

  1. Mark Sanchez is joining the Dallas Cowboys as the team's backup to rookie Dak Prescott, which only felt like a matter of time. The Jones dynasty smartly waited out Broncos executive John Elway, who released Sanchez. (The Broncos picked up Austin Davis as their No. 3 option.) This feels like another long setup to seeing Sanchez start on Thanksgiving again.
  1. Ronnie Hillman started the AFC Championship game at running back last year but was beat out for a roster spot this year by Kapri Bibbs, who can help the squad on special teams. Rookie Devontae Booker showed well throughout camp and will back up C.J. Anderson.
  1. After years of chances, the Patriots gave up on 2013 second-round pick Aaron Dobson. With Keshawn Martin also released, the team must have some confidence that Danny Amendola can get back on the field soon.
  1. Colin Kaepernick made the 49ers' roster, which is no surprise after watching his performance Thursday night. We're not buying the theory that Kaepernick will be stashed, RGIII style all season. Chip Kelly will want to give him a test drive after Blaine Gabbert struggles against a brutal early season schedule. (Surprise No. 3 quarterback Christian Ponder also figures to get a spin eventually. Rookie Jeff Driskel was released.)
  1. Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon's preseason performance made it too easy for the Ravensto release veteran Justin Forsett. While Dixon is recovering from a knee injury, the Ravens could wind up bringing back Forsett in a reserve role.
  1. The Seahawks cut guard Jahri Evans. A future Hall of Fame candidate who was once the best guard in the league, Evans' career could be over.
  1. Chicago placed Pernell McPhee, its best defensive player, on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning that he'll miss the first six weeks of the season. It's a huge loss for their defense.
  1. Jeff Janis hope springs eternal. He is on the initial Packers roster at wide receiver.

News that might only interest me

  1. The 49ers acquired receiver Rod Streater from the Chiefs for an undisclosed draft pick. It's not a great sign for San Francisco that two of its top four receivers (Streater and Jeremy Kerley) were acquired over the last week in low-level deals. If Kelly can make this offense shine, he deserves Coach of The Year consideration.
  1. Getting rid of a previous regime's mistakes is just what happens on cutdown day. But it was eye-opening to see Cleveland keep all 14 of its draft picks heading into the season, including four rookie receivers.
  1. The Cowboys placed running back Darren McFadden on the non-football injury list, which means he could be activated later in the season. (McFadden's mysterious broken elbow looms larger now.) Rookie running back Darius Jackson made the team.
  1. The Jets kept all four of their quarterbacks. Geno Smith's spot as the team's backup was cemented when second-year pro Bryce Petty hurt his shoulder in the preseason finale.
  1. The Patriots waived fan favorite running back Tyler Gaffney in favor of undrafted rookie D.J. Foster. Don't be shocked if Foster winds up challenging third-down back James White for snaps.
  1. Keep in mind that players are only eligible to be "designated to return" off injured reserve if they are on the roster into next week. Tony Romo, for instance, is on the Cowboys' roster for now but could be placed on IR next week to open a roster spot.
  1. Hard Knocks fans who don't want "spoilers" should stop reading now. Some of this season's favorites were cut: Eric Kush, Ian Seau, Austin Hill and Paul McRoberts.
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