SALT LAKE CITY — Many times, for a player hoping to establish himself on an NFL roster, major determining factors in his ability to stick around include his fit on that specific team and whether timing is in his favor.
For some, opportunities to gain a greater workload with their respective team and earn their coaches' trust will pay off.
For others, those chances just don't pan out.
Of the 77 players with Utah ties currently on NFL rosters — with teams still able to have 90 players on their offseason roster — some 30 or so likely won't find themselves on a 53-man roster come opening day.
That means those offseason opportunities — whether it's fighting to keep a roster spot or seeking a greater role on the team — are vital, for veterans and young players alike.
Here's a look at 10 local NFL players with something to prove this offseason, and what they will be seeking in those vital summertime reps:
Maurice Alexander, strong safety, Seattle Seahawks (Utah State)
Once a fourth-round draft pick, Alexander fell out of favor in Los Angeles last year and was released midseason by the Rams. That came after starting 23 games for the Rams over two and a half seasons beginning in 2015.
Alexander then spent the rest of 2017 without a team before signing with the Seahawks in March. Now, Alexander finds himself on a veteran Seattle defense where he’ll need to show he can contribute behind longtime strong safety starter Kam Chancellor, whose season was cut short last year by a neck injury.
Devontae Booker, running back, Denver Broncos (Utah)
Entering his third season, Booker is poised to take on a bigger role after the Broncos released C.J. Anderson in April. Anderson had been with the organization since 2013.
Booker will be given every opportunity to earn the lead back job, though he’ll have some competition for reps from a group of rookies. That group includes third-round draft pick Royce Freeman from Oregon, seventh-rounder David Williams of Arkansas and undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay of Colorado.
One area of emphasis for Booker — who is a strong contributor in the passing game — will be improving on his 3.6-yards-per-carry average.
“Obviously with C.J. gone, it’s a wide-open race. He’s excited about that and he should take a step forward,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said of Booker, according to Broncos Wire. “He’s a good football player, but we want more from him, obviously.”
Taysom Hill, quarterback, New Orleans Saints (BYU)
Hill is going through his first offseason with New Orleans after spending last summer with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent, then being released prior to the regular season and claimed off waivers by the Saints.
Hill, who saw some action on special teams last year, is competing with fifth-year veteran Tom Savage and undrafted rookie J.T. Barrett to be the backup behind Saints veteran stalwart Drew Brees. A year ago, Hill served as the team’s third quarterback after joining the team during the first week of the year.
Getting opportunities during offseason workouts will be key for the dual-threat Hill to show the Saints what he can do behind center.
“We like where he’s at. He’s grinding, working hard,” Saints coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Advocate. “You guys saw maybe a play where when he does get outside the pocket, he can run — I mean real fast. So that presents a new challenge for the defense.”
Bronson Kaufusi, defensive end, Baltimore Ravens (BYU and Timpview High)
Kaufusi finds himself in a tough situation in Baltimore heading into his third season as a pro. Year 1 was cut short with a broken left ankle suffered in the preseason, then, in 2017, he was largely out of the rotation as he landed on the inactive list a team-high 13 times. Kaufusi finished the year with just four tackles and no sacks.
It’s a rough turn of events for the former second-round pick. Making a positive impression during the offseason could be the difference between Kaufusi staying in Baltimore for a third straight year or getting cut.
Harvey Langi, linebacker, New England Patriots (BYU and Bingham High)
Langi missed the back half of his rookie season after he and his wife Cassidy were seriously hurt in a car accident last October. Now he has the chance to show the Patriots why they invested so much in him as an undrafted free agent last offseason — he signed with New England for a reported $115,000 in guaranteed money.
Langi is back on the field and excited to be playing again. “This is great. People ask me what I’m doing today and (I tell them) I’m going to put a helmet on and come out here and work with the rest of the guys and give everything I’ve got. Man, that’s the best,” he told the Worcester Telegram.
Dalton Schultz, tight end, Dallas Cowboys (Bingham High)
Schultz enters his first season in the league with the opportunity to play early in his career, with All-Pro tight end Jason Witten abruptly retiring not long after this year’s NFL draft. Witten played 15 seasons for the Cowboys and was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times.
Schultz, drafted in the fourth round, will compete with other Dallas tight ends Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim, as well as fellow rookie David Wells, for playing time. The five players have a combined eight years of NFL experience, including four from Swaim, and it should be a position battle worth watching.
Hunter Sharp, wide receiver, New York Giants (Utah State)
Sharp’s third NFL team in two seasons finally afforded him a chance to get on the field during a regular-season game and he took advantage of it. After spending most of 2017 on the Broncos’ practice squad, the Giants signed him to their 53-man roster in mid-December. He made his first career start and caught his first touchdown in Week 17, finishing that game — an 18-10 win over Washington — with three catches for 29 yards.
Now, he appears to be acclimating well in New York. The New York Daily News reported he took first-team reps in a minicamp in late April and the publication predicted Sharp will make the team’s 53-man opening-day roster.
Andrew Vollert, tight end, Arizona Cardinals (Weber State)
Vollert made a name for himself as a two-time FCS All-America tight end at Weber State. He finished his Wildcats career with 123 receptions for 1,613 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In Arizona, starter Jermaine Gresham is still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered late last season and it’s unclear if he will be ready for the start of the year. Backup Ricky Seals-Jones is back, but there could be a spot open for a third tight end on the 53-man roster and Vollert has as good a chance as any to grab that if the Cardinals choose to keep three tight ends.
Joe Williams, running back, San Francisco 49ers (Utah)
Williams was placed on injured reserve in September of his rookie season with an ankle injury. Now, the question is where he fits into a running back group that includes fifth-year pro Jerick McKinnon, an offseason addition, and Matt Breida, a fellow second-year back who finished 2017 with 465 rushing yards (second on the team) and two touchdowns.
For now, McKinnon and Breida sit atop the 49ers’ depth chart, leaving Williams to battle Raheem Mostert for a role in the backfield and perhaps a 53-man roster spot.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was impressed with Williams early in OTAs, when the team wasn’t in pads. “I noticed a couple runs today that flashed,” Shanahan told 247Sports. “There’s two runs in particular that I told him he did a real good job on out there.”
Kerwynn Williams, running back, Kansas City Chiefs (Utah State)
Coming off his best statistical season as a pro, Williams made the move to Kansas City as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. That comes after he played four years in Arizona and had a career-high 120 rushing attempts for 426 yards and a touchdown last season to go along with 10 receptions for 93 yards.
That, however, came in a year where the Cardinals’ lead back, David Johnson, was lost for the season in Week 1 and now returns to the starting role. For Williams, the move signified a fresh start. In Kansas City, second-year back Kareem Hunt is the starter and the team also has veterans Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Williams could find himself a spot in situational work and also has return skills, things he will have a chance to show during the offseason.