In less than six months running back Dominic Rhodes went from an important addition to the Buffalo Bills' backfield to someone they deemed was a luxury they couldn't afford.
Rhodes was the biggest name among the 18 players cut by the Bills, who got down to the NFL-mandated 53-man roster Saturday.
Rhodes, who spent seven of his eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, was signed in the spring to provide depth while starter Marshawn Lynch serves a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Fred Jackson will start while Lynch is out.
Rhodes had 64 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, four catches for 21 yards and returned four kickoffs for 87 yards in four preseason games. He also fumbled twice, losing one.
But money may have been a bigger factor in Rhodes' release than his performance. The Bills save more than $2 million in cutting him. He was due to make base salaries of $750,000 this year and $1.25 million in 2010 as part of a two-year contract, which included a $200,000 signing bonus. He also was scheduled to get a $150,000 roster bonus by making the team.
Cutting Rhodes is still a surprise because his departure leaves the Bills dangerously thin at running back. Xavier Omon, who appeared in only two games as a rookie last season, is the lone backup to Jackson for the first three games. Fullback Corey McIntyre, who re-signed in February, also made it even though the Bills don't use the fullback much in their no-huddle.
Other notable cuts were offensive lineman Kirk Chambers, defensive end Copeland Bryan and tight end Jonathan Stupar.
Chambers was a valuable backup the last two seasons, playing in 32 games and starting at tackle five times (four in 2008). Bryan had a solid preseason with two sacks and a couple of fumble recoveries, but he was the victim of a numbers game at end. Stupar has a strong preseason that saw him lead the team with 22 catches, but the Bills opted to go with three tight ends -- Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and rookie Shawn Nelson.
Here is how the Bills' roster breaks down: quarterback (3), running back (2), fullback (1), wide receiver (6), tight end (3), offensive line (8), defensive line (9), linebacker (7), cornerback (6), safety (5) and special teams (3).
Lynch does not count against the 53-man roster during his suspension. He is eligible to return in Week Four. Wide receiver James Hardy, who is still recovering from a knee injury, was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he will be unable to practice until the end of Week Six at the earliest. Justin Jenkins claimed the sixth receiver spot because of his special teams prowess.
Jonathan Scott won a spot as the fourth tackle behind starters Langston Walker and Brad Butler and swing tackle Demetrius Bell. Keeping Scott over Chambers is a little curious because Chambers offers more flexibility because he can play tackle and guard. Seth McKinney is the only interior backup behind center Geoff Hangartner and rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre.
Chris Ellis beat out Bryan as the fifth defensive end. Ellis, a 2008 third-round draft pick, had a much better training camp than before his rookie season. There was speculation that eighth-year veteran Ryan Denney was in danger because of his age (he turned 32 in June) and his contract. He is due to make $2.75 million (including $2.4 base and a $300,000 likely-to-be-earned bonus) in the final year of the deal. But the Bills apparently decided they needed more experience and depth at the position.
The Bills cut second-year outside linebacker Alvin Bowen, who was outplayed by undrafted rookie free agent Ashlee Palmer. Bowen is eligible for the practice squad, though. Marcus Buggs made it as a backup middle linebacker.
The Bills kept seven linebackers, one more than a year ago, because Orchard Park native Jon Corto was too valuable on special teams to let go. The concern at linebacker is that none of the four backups behind starters Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison has taken a defensive snap in the NFL.
There were no surprises at cornerback as Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner, Drayton Florence and Ashton Youboty were pretty much locks. Rookie Ellis Lankster earned the sixth spot because of an excellent spring and summer.
Trading Ko Simpson to Detroit cleared the way for the Bills to keep five safeties for the third straight year. Like Simpson, John Wendling was also on the bubble, but was helped by his play on special teams.
The Bills' roster is subject to change if they decide to go after someone cut from another team. They can put together their eight-man practice squad after noon today.
In other roster moves Saturday, the Bills placed center Brandon Rodd on the waived/injured list. Rodd, who worked with the second team offense through the preseason, suffered a sprained knee in the preseason finale against Detroit. Also, linebacker John DiGiorgio was waived/injured. He was already on the injured reserve list.
Missing the cut
Bills' release several veterans
QB Matt Baker
LB Alvin Bowen
DE Copeland Bryan
OL Kirk Chambers
TE Tyson DeVree
DE Ataefiok Etukeren
OL Christian Gaddis
RB Bruce Hall
DB Cary Harris
WR C.J. Hawthorne
OL Nick Hennessey
WR Felton Huggins
DT Derrick Jones
DT Corey Mace
LB Ryan Manalac
RB Dominic Rhodes
TE Jonathan Stupar
WR James Hardy has been placed on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform.