By Sunday morning some NFL players will find themselves on a new team, on a practice squad or out of the league.
Roster cuts loom heading into the final week of the preseason. For players that have spent the offseason living on the roster bubble, their fate will be decided on Saturday.
One name that is on the roster bubble in New Orleans is DE Hau’oli Kikaha. The former 44th overall selection of the 2015 NFL draft hasn’t panned out the way the Saints had hoped. After struggling with injuries during his time with the Washington Huskies, the same can be said thus far in the NFL.
Kikaha, a versatile defensive end, has the skills to be lined up in different spots along the defensive line. Known for his relentless effort, Kikaha managed to become a second round pick in spite of injury concerns.
During his final two seasons with the Huskies, Kikaha racked up 31.5 sacks. He hold the record for most sacks in Huskies history with 36 and most sacks in a single-season with 19.
A high-motor pass rusher with that much production in college hasn’t reached his full potential - mostly due to being derailed by injuries.
Saints May Move On
When New Orleans made the trade for DE Marcus Davenport, some considered it one of the worst trades in recent memory because of what the Saints gave up.
Davenport was paired veteran DE Cam Jordon to form a duo the Saints desired. A duo that may signal the end of Kikaha due to having other depth at defensive end that present less of a concern for potential injury.
So why should GM Jon Robinson target a player who is injury prone?
Here is why.
Kikaha is only 26 years old. That’s a good age for a pass rusher. Kikaha hasn’t reached his prime yet. He could benefit from a new training regimine that may help reduce his chance of injury.
Another reason? Bolster defensive depth on the edge. Yes, the Titans acquired LB Kamalei Correa, but where he will line up is still to be determined.
With OLB Derrick Morgan out for a good chunk of the season and rookie OLB Harold Landry recovering from an injury to the same ankle he dealt with last season, his availability - despite the optimism of him being seen without a walking boot - remains a mystery.
If cut, Robinson wouldn’t have to trade any draft capital and can gamble on a player that has a high-ceiling - if healthy.
Once Morgan and Orakpo are at full health, the Titans will have a nice rotation of capable pass rushers that could reduce the number of snaps each needs without affecting their impact. Orakpo has already stated his production could see a boost by playing fewer snaps.
Odds are the Titans add a few players to their final 53 that spent the offseason in different uniforms.
Whether or not Robinson will elect to target pass rushers is unknown. However, one key thing to keep in mind is the market for productive pass rusher is not cheap.
History has shown that the price of an elite pass rusher can break the bank. This is why most choose to draft pass rushers with elite potential in the top half of the first round.
In today’s NFL, some teams are forced to overpay for above average pass rushers because the elite and the great are coveted by the team they are on. Or - those player receive the franchise tag.
In Kikaha’s case, he doesn’t have any leverage if he hits the free agent market Saturday. His deal would likely be a one-year “prove it” deal laced with incentives. Some incentives could include playing a certain number of games.
Injury aside, Kikaha would be a solid value pickup. He wouldn’t be expected to start, but could help hold it down while other Titans defenders heal up.
Kikaha would fit right in with Correa and Titans QB Marcus Mariota, who he played against during their battles in the Pac-12. Kikaha has always had high respect for Mariota - evening going as far as saying he’d be the only QB he’d help up after a sack.
Yes, there are a few pass rushers currently on the market - and more will be Saturday following cuts - but Kikaha should be considered if he is in need of a new team.
Junior Galette - who was a teammate of Kikaha’s in New Orleans - is also a viable option. He’s met with other teams and, like Kihaha, can be a very productive situational pass rusher if injuries don’t sideline him.
When comparing both Galette and Kikaha’s numbers, it’s interesting to not that Galette had three sacks in 16 games.
Kikaha had four - in 12 games.