At this point in the offseason, before free agency is in full force, and still a couple of months out from the draft, it’s a good time to do a deep dive into the more obscure players already under roster control before things really heat up. And, there are no more obscure players than those signed to reserve/future contracts. First, a refresher on what reserve/future contracts are:
It’s the same as a regular active-roster contract, with the regular rules for minimum veteran salaries, cap charges, signing bonuses, etc. The only difference is that it doesn’t take effect until the start of the next League Year.
Teams can sign players to futures contracts as soon as the previous regular season is over, but the contract won’t count against the salary cap or 53-man limit. Instead, it’ll count against the salary cap and 90-man camp limit of the following season.
These guys are basically the beginning of the back-end of the 90 man roster, slated to compete against drafted rookies and undrafted free agents for the last 2-3 slots on the 53-man roster and the totality of the practice squad.
Many of these players themselves were once late round draft picks or previously undrafted. Some of them were even profiled here previously on Hogs Haven. In fact, it was a recent re-discovery that I had profiled Jordan Brown before the 2019 draft that ignited interest in doing this article.
What follows below are brief vignettes of the offensive players currently under reserve/future contracts with the WFT, as well as links to additional background information:
Jeff Badet (WR) - Badet was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Vikings after the 2018 draft. After a brief stint in the XFL, he was signed to Washington’s practice squad in 2020 and was actually promoted to the active roster for several games to assist the team’s depleted WR corps. Badet is a blazing fast (4.27 speed) WR with unrefined route running skills and some concerns about durability given his size (6’0”, 180lbs).
Tony Brown (WR) - Brown, out of Colorado, was picked up as an undrafted free agent by Cleveland after the 2020 draft. In college, he was one of star quarterback Stephen Montez’s favorite targets, catching 56 receptions for 707 yards and 5 TDs during his senior season. Brown’s speed is underwhelming (4.65), but he’s a good route runner with an ability to compete for contested balls.
Trevor Davis (WR) - Davis was selected by the Packers in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. Davis hung on the edge of the Packers roster for a couple of years, and then bounced around several other rosters before being signed to Washington’s practice squad in October 2020. Davis had the third fastest time in the 2016 Combine (4.42), and has had some success as a punt returner, but he’s also had persistent fumbling issues throughout his career.
Dylan Cantrell (TE) - Cantrell was taken by the Chargers in the 6th round of the 2018 draft as a wide receiver. He was later picked up by the Cardinals, with the intention of switching him to tight end. Coming out of college, he was noted as a strong downfield blocker with good hands and solid route running ability. His primary shortcomings are his lack of speed (4.59) and athleticism, which make his transition from WR to TE seem like a sensible maneuver.
Tyrone Swoopes (TE) - The Seahawks grabbed Swoopes as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 draft. In a familiar story, Swoopes was a college QB at Texas who was converted to tight end to have a better shot of making it in the NFL. Nicknamed the “18 wheeler,” Swoopes is a powerful runner (6’4”, 254 lbs) who picked up 7 rushing TDs in his senior season. His size and athleticism could set him up to follow in Logan Thomas’ path, if Pete Hoener can work his magic again.
Javon Leake (RB) - Leake was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent after the 2020 draft. He was waived before the season and picked up by Washington and activated for a late season game as RB injuries piled up. At Maryland, Leake was an award-winning kick returner his final season, being named first team All Big Ten as a return specialist, averaging 27 yards per return and collecting two return TDs in 2019. Leake also had an impressive 7.9 yards per carry as a RB during his college career.
Jonathan Williams (RB) - Williams was drafted by the Bills in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. He’s since seen playing time with the Saints, Colts, and Lions. Williams was his most productive with the Colts, in 2019, and was likely the casualty of a crowded RB room that included Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines. With the addition of Jonathan Taylor in the 2020 draft, Williams, a free agent, became expendable. From his highlight film, Williams looks like the real deal against NFL competition. Assuming there’s not some unspoken issue with Williams, I could absolutely see him competing for a roster spot this season.
Rick Leonard (OT) - Drafted by the Saints in the 4th round of the 2018 draft, Leonard has bounced around several practice squads since that time. Leonard only played offensive line for two years in college (he had been a defensive end previously), and was considered a raw prospect out of school. While possessing the athleticism and power to be an NFL lineman, he likely still needs to improve his fundamentals.
Which of these players do you think is most likely to make the 53-man roster this year?
This poll is closed
Jeff Badet (WR)
Tony Brown (WR)
Trevor Davis (WR)
Dylan Cantrell (TE)
Tyrone Swoopes (TE)
Javon Leake (RB)
Jonathan Williams (RB)
Rick Leonard (OT)