Job security is rarely ever guaranteed in the NFL. The league constantly filters out subpar material and players must consistently perform to avoid getting traded, or even worse, being cut.
The primary objective of any NFL franchise is to put a team together that can make a deep playoff run to win the Super Bowl. It's something that costs every franchise hundreds of millions of dollars to do each year.
The process starts at the top where team directors have to hire the right coaches to build the team. Hiring coaches is often a tricky task since one can usually only pick and choose from the league's rejects. As a result, teams frequently look at the secondary coaches of other teams when scouting for coaching talent. This is how the L.A. Rams landed their revolutionary head coach Sean McVay. McVay was the offensive coordinator of Washington before being signed by a struggling Rams franchise to turn the team around.
The next step is to acquire the right talent to comprise the team. With hundreds of players entering the league each year, coaches and general managers have a wide selection of prospects to choose from.
While most of them usually turn out to be mediocre or subpar, some of these players evolve into franchise-altering individuals. With only a small hand full of these individuals having prolonged successful careers, the rest peak briefly before declining to a point where they get cut.
Here are three NFL players who were once stars, but were eventually cut mid-season for underperforming.
#1 Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers
Jaylon Smith played four full seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, starting in 54 of the 64 games that he appeared in. The linebacker also earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in the 2019 NFL season. Two years later, he was cut after just four games of the 2021 season.
While the quick rise of rookie Micah Parsons may have contributed to the Cowboys' decision to cut Smith, his subpar performances were certainly a relevant factor. He appeared to have lost some of his explosiveness and ability to cover receivers.
The linebacker was signed by the Green Bay Packers shortly after, only to be cut following a two-game stint during which he made one tackle.
In his five NFL seasons, Smith recorded 330 tackles, 206 assists, 10.0 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions.
#2 Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although his first four seasons in the NFL were rather inconsistent, Josh Freeman still showed plenty of potential during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He exceeded 3,450 passing yards in three of his first four seasons while also totaling 25 touchdown passes twice. He surpassed the 4,000 passing-yard mark during the 2012 season, but was cut after just three starts in the 2013 season.
Freeman completed less than 43% of his passes during the 2013 season with just two touchdowns and four interceptions. He was benched after his third consecutive loss, before being released.
The quarterback was just 25 years old at the time, but made just two more starts for other teams for the rest of his NFL career.
#3 NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers
NaVorro Bowman was one of the best linebackers in the NFL during the peak of his career. In his prime, he was selected as a first-team All-Pro linebacker four times in five years. After dealing with multiple injuries, he was cut five games into the 2017 season, just two years after being elected All-Pro.
While Bowman started five games of the 2017 season, he clearly wasn't the dominant version of himself that he was in the past. The San Francisco 49ers decided to cut him after failing to find a trade partner.
Bowman signed with the Oakland Raiders, but lasted just 10 games before retiring.
In the 99 career games he played, he recorded 14 sacks, 585 tackles, and 9 forced fumbles.
Q. Which LB had the better career?
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