The New Orleans Saints must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. To get there, I have them losing three members of their 2015 draft class (first-rounder Stephone Anthony, third-rounder Garrett Grayson and fifth-rounder Damian Swann).
The Saints already cut 2015 seventh-round pick Marcus Murphy earlier this summer and fifth-rounder Davis Tull last year. But that still leaves four players from that nine-man class on the roster (offensive lineman Andrus Peat, defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha, cornerback P.J. Williams and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison).
Here's a final 53-man roster projection:
Easy choice here as neither Grayson nor Ryan Nassib has done enough to force his way onto the 53-man roster this summer. Grayson remains a strong candidate to return to the practice squad, where he spent last season.
Lasco makes the cut -- barely -- because he is valued as a core special-teams player (even though his fumble and dropped pass in Thursday night's 14-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens didn't help him secure his spot). Veteran Travaris Cadet, meanwhile, was my most difficult cut on the roster. The Saints have valued him for years as a runner/receiver/return man. But I just don't see a clear role for him now that Kamara is in the fold. Undrafted rookie Darius Victor has also impressed this summer, but there's just not enough room for him.
FULLBACK (1): John Kuhn
An easy choice after Kuhn's strong debut season in New Orleans last year.
Lewis has been terrific again this summer in both games and practices. I'm not sure he'll be much more involved in the offense than he was last year, when he had a total of seven catches and three rushing attempts. But he would be the next man up if any of the top four guys gets injured, and he can also be used as a kick returner. Veteran Corey Fuller has had a strong camp, but there isn't enough room for him.
Sean Payton surprisingly revealed that Armstead might be ready to return from shoulder surgery early enough in the season to avoid being placed on the physically unable to perform list. So I'll put him on my active roster for now. However, if he does start off on PUP (which would sideline him for at least six weeks), the Saints may keep young backup John Fullington or scour other teams' cuts for some added depth.
The toughest decisions on the roster for me, with Tapp, Loewen and Obum Gwacham all firmly on the bubble (and veteran DT John Hughes III making a late push with two big plays Thursday). Tapp is having a good preseason and is valued as a veteran who can play on the strong side and inside. Loewen has flashed special teams ability, as well as the ability to rush the passer from the inside -- both of which he continued to do Thursday. And Payton recently singled out Gwacham as one of the guys playing best on special teams.
Another brutal decision here, where I cut veteran special teams specialist Bryan Braman at the last minute to make room for undrafted rookie cornerback Arthur Maulet. It might come down to a choice between Braman and former Saints special teams captain Mauti (who had a strong finish on Thursday). Former Canadian Football League standout Adam Bighill also had a good night Thursday, but the other guys are more established. ... Most notable on this list is the absence of Anthony -- the 31st pick in the 2015 draft, who started 16 games as a rookie. He was on the bubble already after struggling over the past year and a half, but the choice has become easy since he has been sidelined for weeks with an unspecified issue. He could end up on IR.
The one change I made based on Thursday's night's preseason finale: adding undrafted rookie Maulet after he forced a fumble as the gunner on a punt return. Maulet (a New Orleans native) has impressed this summer as a physical corner, but I didn't think there was enough room for him on the roster unless he stood out on special teams. ... Meanwhile, the reason I gave Breaux an asterisk is because Payton suggested he will likely start out on injured reserve (which means he can't return to practice for six weeks and can't play in a game for eight weeks). Technically, Breaux will have to begin the season on the official 53-man roster for a day, which means someone else will be cut for at least one day (probably a veteran like Tapp, who isn't exposed to the waiver wire).
Another easy choice since Bush and Banjo are two of the Saints' most valued special teamers. It's hard to cut Erik Harris, who made the roster as a special teamer last year. But he's behind Bush and Banjo in the same roles.
Another very easy choice -- unless, of course, the Saints make another switch at long snapper between now and Saturday. Their trade for Dorenbos this week made him their fifth long snapper of the summer.