SALT LAKE CITY — Whether it's fighting for a coveted roster spot or earning a more prominent role on the team, or perhaps even seeking a better financial situation through a long-term contract, there are a variety of motivating factors for NFL players going into each season.
Call it their personal bulletin board material.
That certainly applies to the 75 local ties currently on NFL active rosters, where the reality is — and past data supports — that somewhere around 40 percent of these players will be cut by the start of the regular season or moved to a team's practice squad.
For those who make the active roster, they may be looking for more opportunities to contribute on the field or improve their financial situation as they head into their contract year.
There are chances to make an impression now, as 23 teams will conduct mandatory minicamps next week as part of the NFL's third phase of the offseason program. The other nine teams already held their minicamps earlier this week.
Following those mandatory minicamps will be a break, before teams return to the practice field for training camps in late July and players will again be looking to improve their stock.
Here's a look at 10 local NFL players who have something to prove this year, whether it's during the offseason months or stretching into the 2019 season:
Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, Seattle Seahawks (BYU)
Ansah is on a new team, joining the Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent last month following six years in Detroit. He has 48 career sacks — including two double-digit sack seasons — and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015, superlatives that show what the Ghana-born pass rusher can do when he’s healthy.
The problem, though, is Ansah hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since 2015. Last year, he played in just seven games and finished the year on injured reserve. He’s coming off shoulder surgery with no clear timetable for his return.
“Where he is, he’s in the process,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in late May, according to Seahawks Wire. “He’s got a long process to get back. His attitude is great. He’s working every day, involved in all phases of everything that’s going on in the training room and with strength and conditioning. It’s just going to take a while and we’ll see.”
Once he gets healthy, Ansah will have the chance to prove he’s still a Pro Bowl-caliber talent. In April, the Seahawks traded Frank Clark, who led the team with 13 sacks last season, to Kansas City, and there's an open defensive end starting spot opposite the team’s 2019 first-round draft pick, TCU’s L.J. Collier, where Ansah could slide in.
Michael Davis, cornerback, Los Angeles Chargers (BYU)
Davis earned his way into a consistent role for the Chargers last season, starting the final nine games of the year and finishing with 50 tackles, including a pair of nine-tackle games, and eight pass deflections.
He is headed into the final year of his three-year, undrafted rookie contract and will make $645,00 this season, according to Spotrac, which tracks NFL players’ contracts. Los Angeles didn’t draft a cornerback, and there should be competition between Davis and fourth-year corner Thomas Williams, who Davis replaced in the starting lineup last year, to start opposite Casey Hayward.
Kyler Fackrell, linebacker, Green Bay Packers (Utah State)
Fackrell enjoyed his most productive season as a pro in 2018, setting career highs in tackles (42) and starts (seven) while also leading the Packers in sacks with 10.5. The former Aggie and 2016 third-round draft pick also had a pair of three-sack games during the season.
That kind of production — along with longtime Packer outside linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews not returning — sets him up with a prime chance to be a full-time starter in Green Bay this season. This will be his final year of his rookie contract, where he’ll earn just over $2 million in base salary this season, according to Spotrac. If Fackrell can build off last season's success, he'll be setting himself up not only for a better financial situation but also for a more prominent defensive role.
Matt Gay, kicker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Utah and Orem High)
Gay became the first Utah kicker to ever to be selected in the NFL draft when the Buccaneers took him in the fifth round of April's draft. Now, the former soccer player turned Lou Groza Award winner is in a kicking competition with five-year veteran Cairo Santos in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs are looking for stability at kicker, after using seven different kickers over the past four seasons, according to NBC Sports. Gay already delivered in the clutch once, though, hitting a 50-yard field goal attempt to end an organized team activity session early in late May.
"That's about the only way we can put pressure on a kicker this time of year," Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians told the team website. "So you put it back there at 50 and the OTAs are over if you make it. If not, we've got two more periods."
Miles Killebrew, safety, Detroit Lions (Southern Utah)
Killebrew saw his production take a major dip during his third season as a pro last year in a new defensive scheme under head coach Matt Patricia. After recording 66 tackles, six pass deflections and a pair of interceptions over his first two seasons, he largely played special teams in 2018 and had seven tackles on the year.
Now, the Lions brought in safety Will Harris of Boston College, a third-round selection in the 2019 NFL draft, further complicating Killebrew's status on the depth chart in Detroit. In the final season of his rookie contract, Killebrew will be facing the challenge of proving he still belongs with the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2016.
Tim Patrick, wide receiver, Denver Broncos (Utah)
After beginning the 2018 season mainly as a special teams contributor, Patrick’s role increased as the year wore on, when the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas and leading receiver Emmanuel Sanders was lost to a torn Achilles tendon.
Over the final month of the 2018 season, Patrick averaged 4.8 catches and 60.5 receiving yards per game. He started four games last year and finished eighth on the team in receptions (23), third in receiving yards (315) and second in yards per reception (13.7) among players with 10-plus catches.
At 6-foot-5, he is the tallest wide receiver on Denver’s roster. Only one of Denver’s four rookie wide receivers was a draft pick — Juwann Winfree in the sixth round — and the Broncos didn’t bring add a big-name WR in free agency, leaving Patrick with the chance to earn more time at wide receiver again in 2019, alongside guys like Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.
Dax Raymond, tight end, Chicago Bears (Utah State and Timpview High)
Raymond ended up in Chicago after going undrafted in April. He left Utah State following his junior season and was expected by most draft experts to be a mid- to late-round selection after earning All-Mountain West honorable mention honors his final two years in Logan.
Raymond is one of four rookie tight ends on the Bears roster and the former Aggie is already generating buzz in Chicago, where last year's starter, Trey Burton, is sidelined following sports hernia surgery.
“He’s starting to really get his feet underneath him, and what I mean by that is, not just understanding the play, but how to execute it and then how to understand who he is facing and how to manipulate the defenders a little bit,” tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr. told The Athletic. “That’s starting to come along.”
Eric Rowe, cornerback, Miami Dolphins (Utah)
Rowe is on his third team heading into his fifth NFL season after joining the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He spent the past three years in New England, earning a pair of Super Bowl rings, though he finished the 2018 season on injured reserve with a groin injury.
Miami represents a chance for Rowe to become a full-time starter, after starting 17 games through his first four seasons. He reunites with first-year Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who took over defensive play-calling duties for the Patriots last year, and the Dolphins have a starting position open at boundary corner. “The Dolphins will be auditioning cornerbacks to play on the opposite side of Xavien Howard all summer — if not all season, which was the case last year,” the Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly and Kenny Rosarion wrote.
Among the Miami corners who Rowe will be competing for playing time with is former Utah State standout Jalen Davis, who went undrafted in 2018 and spent most of last season on the practice squad before logging six tackles over two games late in the year.
Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle Seahawks (Utah State)
Wagner is a proven star in the NFL. He’s a four-time first-team All-Pro (along with a second-team All-Pro honor in 2015), five-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion in Super Bowl XLVIII. He’ll go over 1,000 career tackles this season, barring injury, and has started 102 games in his seven seasons in the league.
Recently, Sports Illustrated ranked him the No. 2 linebacker in the NFL, trailing only Carolina’s Luke Kuechly.
What Wagner will be trying to prove this season comes down to his contract. He is in the final season of a four-year deal with Seattle, and Wagner is acting as his own agent in the negotiating process. He is aiming to be the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, after C.J. Mosley inked a five-year deal with the New York Jets that will pay him a reported $17 million per season.
“That’s the top (of the) linebacker market,” Wagner told The Seattle Times. “That is the standard. And so that is the plan to break that.”
Jamaal Williams, running back, Green Bay Packers (BYU)
Through the first two seasons of his NFL career, the former Cougar back has rushed for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 472 receiving yards and two more scores in Green Bay. He's proven reliable as a pass blocker and a route runner while serving in a platoon with starter Aaron Jones, a fellow third-year back.1 comment on this story
He'll be faced with a new challenge this year, as first-year head coach Matt LaFleur implements an offensive system — a scheme built to help get backs into the outside zone and in free space — geared more toward the skills of Jones, whose speed and burst have helped him average 5.5 yards per carry.
Williams' game is built more on a power-running style meant to grind out yards, evidenced by his 3.7 yards-per-carry average. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Williams is wanting to get leaner this year and is down to 218 pounds, with plans to play at 220 in the fall.
“I’m trying to see my agile side,” Williams told the Press-Gazette. “I can always run somebody over, but I feel like as long as I can show this double-edge sword, I’ll be good.”