Noles in the NFL 2023 Season

As I've done most years, here's a post tracking where all of our former Noles are in the NFL. It's been quite the year of movement. Last year, there were 34 Noles rostered on various teams preseason. As of this writing, there are only 24, and that includes three rookies. As a result, let's first look at Noles who aren't on any rosters currently.

Vets Without a Job

The one everyone is talking about, of course, is Dalvin Cook, who, along with former Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott, has become the poster child for the NFL's movement away from paying veteran running backs after he was released by the Vikings and (so far) not found a landing spot. Dalvin has been connected in rumors to the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots, but so far no contract has been signed.

[Update: Dalvin joined the Jets with two weeks left in the preseason.]

All-time FSU center Rodney Hudson was also released by his team in Arizona. There were rumors this spring that he would be retiring, but he hasn't announced any retirement, and the team cut him. There have been no signs that he's looked for a new landing spot.

Someone who is actively looking for a new job is Ronald Darby. Cut by the Broncos this offseason for salary cap purposes, Darby recently worked out for the Texans (without receiving a contract offer) and has been letting teams know that his recovery from last year's ACL injury is almost complete.

[Update: The Ravens signed Darby with a little over a week left in the preseason.]

Two of Darby's former teammates are also without work. PJ Williams was let go by the Saints after 8 seasons with them, while Lamarcus Joyner parted with his fourth team, the Jets. Neither of them have appeared on any offseason NFL rumor lists so far and may have wrapped up their careers. If they have, they'll join former teammate Terrence Brooks in retirement. Terrence was in camp with the Texans last year, but he was cut during the preseason and never caught on with anyone else, eventually settling into a new role as secondary coach at Niceville High School.

As a quick runthrough of the rest of the men dropped from this year's list, Jacques Patrick became the XFL's second leading rusher last year and then signed a contract with Denver, but the Broncos cut him at the end of May. Auden Tate, who'd spent time on the Philadelphia practice squad last year, was signed by the Cardinals, but they released him in June. Big Marv Wilson, who spent a couple of years on the Eagles practice squad, was also let go to start the offseason. Bobby Hart, who somehow navigated an eight year career with five franchises while turning off fans at every stop (since I was tracking his career, I had the "joy" of reading it all), both with his tendency to give up sacks in games and his tweets expressing at different times various covid conspiracy theories, supporting another player's anti-semitic remarks, and his own homophobic views, hasn't been offered a contract by any teams this offseason. Also not offered 2023 contracts were guys cut from training camps last year: Ryan Izzo, Derrick Kelly, Rick Leonard, and Gabe Nabers. I was particularly heartbroken to see Gabe Nabers get cut, especially since the number of teams carrying a fullback continues to shrink.

[Update: Derrick Kelly signed with the Browns mid training camp. They cut him to get to the 53 man active roster.]

[Update: Bobby Hart signed with the Lions mid training camp. They released him during final cut downs.]

[Update: Jacques Patrick signed with the Titans with two weeks left in the preseason. He was released during final cut downs.]

[Update: The Eagles signed Marvin Wilson and Robert Cooper on the same day. They cut them on the same day as they try to get to their 53 man roster.]

With that unpleasantness out of the way, let's talk about happier things, like...

Vets Not Worried About Their Jobs

Lets talk superstars first. Derwin James is the best safety in the NFL. Madden ratings say so. So does future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce, who named Derwin as the player he'd pick first in a backyard football game on the podcast he and his brother Jason make (though Kelce may have said that while still feeling the body slam Derwin gave him in their first matchup last year). With Derwin, the question was never about his ability but his health, and after his second straight healthy season, he can focus on helping get his Chargers over the hump and maybe win a playoff game sometime.

Jalen Ramsey got his ring with the Rams, and when the bill for their (successful) campaign to buy a Lombardi via free agent signings came due, he also got himself a trade to another potential championship contender in Miami. Sadly, he tore his meniscus while covering his old arch-rival Tyreek Hill in practice and will be out for at least four months, though he swears he'll be back sooner. If by then the Dolphins have remained competitive while he's gone and otherwise stayed healthy, he'll be entering a great situation to wrap up the year.

Brian Burns just keeps getting better every year. He ended the 2022 season tied for 8th most sacks in the league, and he'll be looking to improve further and maybe be on a competitive team for the first time in his NFL career as the Panthers look to improve under their new head coach Frank Reich.

Asante Samuel Jr. hasn't quite reached superstar status yet, but after getting three interceptions in the first half against the Jaguars in the playoffs (let's just ignore what happened to the Chargers in the second half), he's put the league on notice. He'll be looking to increase his production further in this his third year in the league.

Josh Sweat started for a team in the Super Bowl, so he's doing just fine. His output has continued to increase each of the five years he's been in the league, and he's returning on an absolutely loaded Eagles team looking to get back to the big game and win it this time.

Two years removed from winning a Super Bowl ring, Cam Akers is the undisputed number one running back for the Rams. He'll be trying to help the team achieve a better result than their dismal 2022 campaign, though getting his starting QB back might help with that.

After starting his career by going undrafted and getting cut from training camp, then heading to the UFL, I don't know that anyone would have expected us to be talking about Graham Gano starting his 15th year of professional football, but Gano's journey was unusual, not unsuccessful. After scoring the first points in UFL history, leading the league in scoring and field goals made, and then scoring the winning points for his championship team, Gano headed back to the NFL and has stuck around ever since, including kicking the Panthers into the Super Bowl back in 2015. He is currently the only kicker on the New York Giants roster, so he's not going anywhere.

DeMarcus Walker hasn't had quite the same strange journey as Gano, but he has had his share of twists and turns. Now on his fourth team in four years (after being on the Broncos for the first four seasons of his career), DeMarcus is getting his first chance to become a full time starter in the NFL after recording seven sacks as a rotation player (six starts last year) for the Titans. He is now the seventh highest paid Bear after having signed a three year contract to lead Matt Eberflus's defense in Chicago. Early reports are that he's really embraced that role, setting a hard working tone with his actions and being a vocal leader in the locker room and classroom. Best of luck to DeMarcus, who languished on far too many squads throughout his career.

Two-time Super Bowl champ Derrick Nnadi also has little reason to worry. Re-signed with yet another one year deal to be the Chiefs' nose tackle, his only competition in KC is a very raw late round rookie (who the team will probably groom to eventually take his place sometime in the future) and an older veteran who spent all of last season buried on the practice squad. He'll be looking to have his first fully healthy season in awhile (he's played through nagging injuries both of the last two years) and help his team get back to back championships, after which he'll no doubt do his usual good deed and sponsor free adoptions of shelter dogs in the KC metro area.

Not every vet with a stable situation is in line to be the starter. Jameis Winston restructured his deal with the Saints into a one year, veteran minimum contract (with several empty out years added to space out his previous signing bonus cap hit) to back up new starting QB Derek Carr. Jameis has expressed that he still looks at himself as being capable of starting in the NFL, but for now he's being a team guy for the Saints.

Also not going anywhere is Cam Erving, who re-signed with the Panthers to be a backup swing tackle (and, in a pinch, a guard or center) for Carolina. It's doubtful he'll be getting a second ring (his first came from his time with the Chiefs) with the Panthers, but he'll no doubt continue to be that guy everyone considers to be a great teammate.

[Update: In a bit of a surprise, the Panthers released Cam during final cutdowns. He may be brought back.]

Finally, though he won't be sniffing the starting lineup on a loaded Jets defense, Jermaine Johnson will continue to be a rotational pass rusher in New York.

Those are the vets that don't have real questions about their futures. Before getting to the other vets, let's stop in for a moment with

The Rookies

Jammie Robinson was the only Nole drafted this year, and he is the only rookie who will obviously be with his team after training camp. There's already discussion of him playing a role in the team's nickel, dime, and quarter personnel groupings as the Panthers take advantage of his versatility. I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops as the year progresses.

Pokey Wilson is one of only two Noles in training camps at the moment. He's a long shot to make the Chargers active roster as a wide receiver given the team's depth at that position, but he's already become a bit of a fan favorite thanks to strong mini camp and OTA performances. At the very least, he should be a strong practice squad candidate.

[Update: The Chargers waived Pokey at Final Cut downs. He had a strong camp so should make a practice squad somewhere if not LA.]

Another possible practice squad candidate is Robert Cooper in Seattle. Cooper was signed just after the draft, let go by the Seahawks, and then just re-signed to the roster. That doesn't sound like a good path to making the active roster, but if they thought enough to bring him back after another player didn't pan out, there's a decent chance Seattle would want him on their practice squad this season.

[Update: Seattle waived Cooper again. He was picked up by the Eagles for the last week of the preseason, on the same day as they also resigned Big Marv. He was then released -- with Big Marv -- as the Eagles pared down to their 53 man roster to open the season.]

That's all for the rookies this year. Let's get back to the vets:

Vets Battling for a Job

Dustin Hopkins has had a lot worse luck than Graham Gano. Injured for part of last season, the Chargers signed Cameron Dicker to cover the gap he left, and Dicker the Kicker played well enough to not only make it a competition but seemingly have a leg up (pardon the pun) on DHop. Hopkins is going to have to pull out all the stops to keep his job against his much younger rival.

[Update: DHop didn’t win the competition in LA, but they did trade him to Cleveland, who cut their previous kicker. He’s back for another season in the NFL.]

Keir Thomas has similar competition problems. After wowing everyone with his hard nosed play in training camp last year, Keir was signed to the Rams practice squad and actually made it to the active roster for eight games. However, the Rams drafted three edge rushers this spring, which really complicates Keir's path to a roster spot and rotational role in the defense. He can overcome this with more stellar play, but the degree of difficulty has increased.

[Update: Keir was waived by the Rams during final cut downs. He is now back with the Rams on their practice squad.]

Janarius Robinson is looking at a similar numbers problem in Philadelphia, where he has three DEs in front of him (the Eagles play an interesting hybrid alignment that features a hand-down DE as Edge on one side and a stand up OLB as Edge on the other side) including fellow Nole Josh Sweat. He's going to have to fight to make the active roster.

[Update: The Eagles waived Janarius during final cut downs.]

Jashaun Corbin is looking at similar problems in New York, where the Giants have an absolutely loaded running back room. He's too good not to at least make the practice squad, but he's going to need a lot of luck to make it to the active roster.

[Update: Despite a strong camp, the Giants cut Jashaun during final cut downs. He is now on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad.]

Mario Edwards Jr. will be fighting for a roster spot in Seattle as well. The Seahawks are MEJ's sixth franchise (seven if you include his time in Jacksonville's training camp last year) as he continues to extend his now nine year career. Seattle signed him to a veteran benefit contract (which reduces the cap hit for a player with sufficient time in service), which makes him simultaneously more attractive to keep rostered and easier to cut. We'll see which side of that equation wins out.

Both Roderick Johnson and Josh Kaindoh have uphill battles ahead of them on their respective teams. The Eagles just recently demoted Roderick to third team reps after signing a free agent tackle to take a second team spot. Josh is on this third training camp with a Chiefs team that's built a lot of depth along the edge, which means it's not a lock for him to even make the practice squad if he doesn't show out.

[Update: The Eagles put Roderick on season-ending IR. Either he'll spend the entire 2023 season rehabbing his injury or he'll eventually be released with an injury settlement and will be able to seek employment with another team if he passes a physical. Given his age and the team's OL depth, I'd put the odds favoring the injury settlement.]

[Update: Kaindoh was waived by the Chiefs during final cutdowns. He'd made progress this offseason, but not enough to secure a spot on the 53 man roster.]

Finally, Hamsah Nasirildeen is in a bizarre state with the Jets where, because of the makeup of the team, any of the four logical outcomes (snagging a starting spot, playing as a backup on the active roster, getting picked up for the practice squad, getting cut outright) could happen. He's currently vying for New York's third starting linebacker spot, but with the fluidity the Jets have used to approach their roster construction, I have no idea what will happen.

[Update: The Jets solved that mystery by releasing Hamsah after the Hall of Fame game. He's now looking for a job.]

That's everyone listed on an NFL roster but one.


Eddie Goldman has had an odd journey in the NFL. He made the All-Rookie team his first year with the Bears, played well enough to get his contract extended after three seasons, lost a season due to taking the COVID opt out in 2020, and then was released after one year back. He was signed by Atlanta, but then announced his retirement. He came back this spring, but then left Falcons training camp last week to deal with a personal matter. The team, who said he "looked phenomenal" when he came to camp, placed him on the Reserve/Left list, alerting NFL fans everywhere that such a list exists. There's a good chance he'll retire again, but it's really up in the air what's going to happen. Best wishes to the big guy.

That's everyone. If you'd like a handy reference to all those players currently on rosters, here's a table:

Cam Akers Los Angeles Rams Running Back
Brian Burns Carolina Panthers Linebacker
Dalvin Cook New York Jets Running Back
Ronald Darby Baltimore Ravens Cornerback
Mario Edwards Jr. Seattle Seahawks Defensive End

Graham Gano New York Giants Place kicker

Dustin Hopkins Cleveland Browns Place kicker
Derwin James Jr. Los Angeles Chargers Safety

Jermaine Johnson New York Jets Linebacker

Derrick Nnadi Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Tackle
Jalen Ramsey Miami Dolphins Cornerback

Jammie Robinson Carolina Panthers Safety
Asante Samuel Jr. Los Angeles Chargers Cornerback
Josh Sweat Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End

DeMarcus Walker Chicago Bears Defensive End

Jameis Winston New Orleans Saints Quarterback

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