The Chiefs finally pared their roster down from 75 to 53 men on Saturday, per league rules, and there were certainly a handful of surprises.
Among the notable cuts were defensive end Mike Catapano, center Eric Kush and receiver Fred Williams.
The team also announced that it has traded safety Kelcie McCray to the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Catapano, 25, was the team’s seventh-round pick in 2013. He saw action in 15 games as a rookie before having his entire 2014 wiped out by a gastrointestinal virus and a concussion.
Catapano returned to the field this preseason and saw plenty of action, logging 121 snaps — tied for the fifth-most on the team. His Pro Football Focus grade of 5.1 was the second-highest on the defense, as well, and he even saw some time with the starters in passing situations. But it apparently wasn’t enough to save his job.
The Chiefs selected Kush, 25, a round ahead of Catapano in 2013. He spent the first two years of his career as Rodney Hudson’s understudy, starting only one game, before he was elevated to a starting position when Hudson left for Oakland via free agency in March.
Kush held the job through organized-team activities, rarely relinquishing any snaps, but that changed once training camp began, as second-round center Mitch Morse seized the job only a week into camp.
Morse never let the job go, and the fate of Kush, who did not play any other positions in preseason games, was likely sealed when second-year lineman Zach Fulton turned in an impressive effort in the Chiefs’ 24-17 win over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, his first-ever game at center.
“I thought he did a pretty good job there,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Fulton, who was particularly impressive on double teams. “Any of those combo blocks where you have to kind of work to that one-technique or even a three-technique, but still cover the a-gap there and fit and you still get the ball out (is tough).
“Whether it was from the gun or it was from underneath, that’s not an easy thing to do and still snap it accurately. I thought he handled that well, I thought he did a pretty good job for the time he was in there.”
Williams, meanwhile, was the sensation of the preseason, hauling in 15 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. But with five locks to make the team in front of him, the Chiefs opted to keep the 27-year-old Williams’ primary competition for the final spot, Frankie Hammond Jr., likely due to his superior special-teams ability.
The trade of McCray, 26, is a mild surprise, given the fact he was one of the Chiefs’ best special-teams players and also contributed on defense in secondary-heavy subpackages.
However, a fifth-round pick was good value for him, especially when you consider he was acquired last year for guard Rishaw Johnson, who is currently not on a team. The Chiefs were also deep at safety, with Eric Berry, Tyvon Branch, Ron Parker and Husain Abdullah ahead of him, and second-year safety Daniel Sorensen — who ended up making the 53-man roster — a burgeoning special teams player, as well.
Other notable players who were cut Saturday include inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson, safety Sanders Commings and receiver Da’Ron Brown.
Johnson, a fourth-year pro, started nine games in 2014 due to injuries to starters Derrick Johnson and Joe Mays, while Commings was a 2013 fifth-round pick who had his first two years wiped out by injuries. He was waived with an injury designation Saturday, which means he will revert back to the Chiefs’ injured reserve if he clears waivers.
Brown, meanwhile, was a seventh-round pick in May who showed flashes once the pads came on but couldn’t beat out Hammond for a job.
Others who were cut Saturday include tight end Ryan Taylor, offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley, offensive lineman Garrett Frye, offensive lineman Daniel Munyer, fullback Spencer Ware, cornerback Kevin Short, defensive end David Irving, inside linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, receiver Tello Luckett, cornerback Deji Olatoye, running back Darrin Reaves and tackle Derek Sherrod.
Tight end Richard Gordon (ankle) was placed on injured reserve. They also placed cornerback Sean Smith on the reserve/suspended list. He was suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season.
The next step for the Chiefs is to figure out who they want to appear on their 10-man practice squad. NFL teams can start signing players for that at noon Sunday.
Rookies like Brown and Irving would appear to be obvious candidates, along with other eligible players with one or less accrued seasons under their belt like Pughsley and Williams.
But the league also allows each team to have two players with two accrued seasons on their practice squad, which would make players like Kush and Catapano eligible, too.
Chiefs’ 53-man roster
▪ QUARTERBACKS (3): Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray, Alex Smith
▪ RUNNING BACKS (4): Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, Anthony Sherman, Charcandrick West
▪ WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Jason Avant, Chris Conley, Frankie Hammond, Jeremy Maclin, De’Anthony Thomas, Albert Wilson
▪ TIGHT ENDS (3): Demetrius Harris, Travis Kelce, James O’Shaughnessy
▪ OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8): Jeff Allen, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Paul Fanaika, Eric Fisher, Zach Fulton, Ben Grubbs, Mitch Morse, Donald Stephenson
▪ DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6): Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito, Jaye Howard, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Dontari Poe, Nick Williams
▪ LINEBACKERS (10): D.J. Alexander, Dee Ford, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Josh Martin, Josh Mauga, Dezman Moses, Ramik Wilson, Frank Zombo
▪ DEFENSIVE BACKS (10): Husain Abdullah, Eric Berry, Tyvon Branch, Marcus Cooper, Jamell Fleming, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Ron Parker, Marcus Peters, Daniel Sorensen
▪ SPECIALISTS (3): Dustin Colquitt, Cairo Santos, James Winchester