Here are your Illini in the NFL post roster cuts, listed in alphabetical order of NFL teams.
Clayton Fejedelem, Safety/Special Teams: The former Illini linebacker is on the cover of this post for a reason. He was named team captain of Cincy’s special teams unit in 2018 (and again this year), had 23 tackles on defense and even scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery a season ago.
Green Bay Packers:
Geronimo Allison, Receiver: The hero of the glorious 2015 Nebraska game is one of Aaron Rodgers’ weapons in Packer-land. Allison is coming off of a 20-catch, 2-touchdown season in 2018.
*For those wondering about LB James Crawford, he was released Monday. He is not on Green Bay’s roster.
Whitney Mercilus, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End: Mercilus started nine games last year after tearing his pectoral muscle in 2017. He recorded 39 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss in 2018. 2019 will mark his eighth in Houston — the team that drafted him 26th overall in 2012.
Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle: After he was traded from the Oakland Raiders, Jihad Ward appeared in six games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. He had 3.0 sacks and is part of Indy’s defensive tackle rotation.
Dawuane Smoot, Defensive End: The Jacksonville Jaguars have a top-3 defense in the NFL this coming season, and Smoot is one of several extremely talented, young players in the front-7 rotation. He has yet to record an NFL regular season sack, but he’s looked really good in the preseason. At arguably the most important position on the field (edge rusher) aside from quarterback, look for Smoot to make a name for himself this season.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Nick Allegretti, Guard/Center: The seventh-round NFL Draft pick/rookie has made the team and may even start for the Chiefs this season. Andy Reid (a former NFL offensive lineman himself) has sung Allegretti’s praises ever since the former Illini was drafted. Expect big things from the 2-time Illini captain.
Jeff Allen, Guard: Jeff Allen started four games for the Chiefs last season at left guard. He’s started a total of 66 regular season NFL games in his seven-year NFL career, and his ability to play either guard position including some tackle makes him a valuable piece in KC’s O-line room.
New England Patriots:
Ted Karras, Guard/Center: It takes a lot to A. Play for Bill Belichick and B. Play with the goat Tom Brady. Karras was a sixth-round NFL Draft pick and has appeared in 45 games for the Patriots in the last three years. He comes from a NFL family.
Matt LaCosse, Tight End: Since going undrafted, LaCosse has played for the New York Giants, Denver Broncos and just this past offseason he signed a deal to play for the Pats. He’s currently dealing with an injury and his status is unclear for the Week 1 opener — but with Rob Gronkowski now out of the league, there’s plenty of opportunity for LaCosse to shine in 2019.
New Orleans Saints:
Justin Hardee, Defensive Back/Special Teams Wizard: Justin Hardee is entering his third NFL season, all with the Saints. He has two career highlights.
1. This 77-yard interception return against the Washington Redskins in Week 5 last season:
2. In his rookie year he made a blocked-punt-and-score-touchdown look easy against New Orleans’ rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Corey Liuget, Defensive Tackle: The Raiders signed Corey Liuget a couple of weeks ago after the LA Chargers declined to pickup the remaining option on his contract. Liuget remains in the AFC West, where he hopes to continue his career on a high note. The 2018 season was his worst statistically: He was suspended four games for a PED violation and on top of that, tore his quad tendon in Week 11 — requiring surgery. His career appears to be trending downward, but who knows — a change of scenery could put the former Chargers captain back in a consistent NFL rotation.
Malik Turner, Wide Receiver: Turner appeared in six games last year for the Seahawks, catching just two passes. You’d think Turner’s days in Seattle might be numbered. Turns out the former Illini made the Seahawks’ 53-man roster. Seattle drafted three wide receivers including using a second-round pick on Ole Miss freak-athlete D.K. Metcalf.