Armstrong lone KU product to survive NFL roster cuts; most sign with practice squads

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong (92) is seen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 40-34. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Updated 6:20 p.m.

Tuesday was a challenging cutdown day for former Jayhawks, as only one of the nine current NFL players who entered the league out of Kansas made a 53-man roster following the preseason.

Defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who played in 76 games and started 13 over the first five seasons of his career in Dallas, remains ensconced with the Cowboys after an 8.5-sack campaign in 2022. Armstrong followed a historic KU tenure that included the Jayhawks’ first-ever preseason Big 12 Conference defensive player of the year honor with a fourth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft and has remained secure in the league since.

The same cannot be said for his fellow KU products, with between zero and five years of NFL experience and varying levels of past success, whose pro teams deemed them expendable, or at least not immediately necessary, at Tuesday afternoon’s deadline. Hakeem Adeniji, Earl Bostick Jr., Kyron Johnson, Kwamie Lassiter II, Lonnie Phelps, Caleb Sampson, Steven Sims Jr. and Daniel Wise were cut. However, all but Wise signed to practice squads Wednesday, via various reports and official team announcements.

Adeniji, part of a much-maligned Bengals offensive line over the last few seasons, started 22 games between the regular season and playoffs, including all 13 he appeared in during the 2021 run to the Super Bowl. NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that he will join the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad.

All of the remaining practice squad signees stuck with their original teams.

Bostick, an undrafted rookie free agent who spent training camp with Armstrong and the Cowboys after getting $220,000 guaranteed to join the team, signed to Dallas’ practice squad, the team announced.

The Philadelphia Eagles took Johnson in the sixth round of the 2022 draft, and he played in 16 games with eight total tackles last year. Seven of those came on special teams, which was tied for second-best on the team, and, a linebacker by trade, he only played 18 defensive snaps. Johnson recorded two tackles in the preseason opener against Baltimore but missed time in training camp due to an appendectomy.

Undrafted rookie free agent Phelps, a defensive lineman, declared for the draft after one season at KU rather than using his fifth year of eligibility. He had a strong preseason for the Cleveland Browns with nine total tackles, three passes defensed and a sack, and the team confirmed his re-signing Wednesday afternoon.

Lassiter returned to camp with the Cincinnati Bengals this year after previous time with the team. The son of a 10-year NFL player and the brother of current KU corner Kwinton Lassiter and BYU wideout Darius Lassiter, he caught on with Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent wideout in 2022. He had six catches for 33 yards in the Bengals’ preseason opener this year but just one in the next two games combined.

Sampson, an undrafted free agent defensive tackle who spent four seasons at KU, made one tackle for the Indianapolis Colts in preseason action but showed enough for the team to retain him on the practice squad.

Sims, a Houston native, was back in his hometown hoping to make the Texans’ roster. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and spent four years between Washington, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Sims caught four touchdowns as a rookie and also scored in the 2020 playoffs but saw his opportunities dwindle in recent years, though he served as a returner for the Steelers in 2022. He had three catches for 29 yards and assorted return chances for the Texans in the preseason, and according to Houston news station KPRC has joined their practice squad.

The expansion of NFL practice squads to 16 players and broadening of practice-squad eligibility (six of those players can have any level of experience; they don’t necessarily need to be young) has resulted in increased opportunities for roster-bubble talent.

Players with fewer than four years of service time go on waivers, and NFL teams had until 11 a.m. Central Time Wednesday to make waiver claims. After that, they could begin signing players to practice squads.

Of note, former KU running back Khalil Herbert, a third-year player, still plays for the Chicago Bears after accumulating 731 rushing yards during the 2022 season. However, Herbert’s exceptional 2020 season as a graduate transfer at Virginia Tech was what turned him into a top NFL prospect.

The only other Jayhawk in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Reference, was Chris Harris Jr., who played in 10 games for New Orleans in his 12th professional season overall. Harris, who recently spoke at the unveiling of KU’s new stadium plans, is currently a free agent.

The still-unsigned Wise, who like Sims was on his fourth team in five seasons, got attention this preseason when he filled in at defensive tackle for Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro Chris Jones, who continues to hold out seeking a new contract. He signed with the Chiefs initially in January, then released, then re-signed to a reserve/future contract shortly before the Super Bowl. Wise tallied four tackles, three for loss, this preseason.

Kansas City announced its practice squad Wednesday evening and it did not include Wise. (Lawrence native and Kansas State grad Ekow Boye-Doe, incidentally, did make it onto the practice squad.)

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji (77) lines up for the play during a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

Houston Texans wide receiver Steven Sims (82) runs from New Orleans Saints linebacker D’Marco Jackson (52) during a kickoff return in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II (18) can’t make the catch as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Breon Borders (36) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Atlanta. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons tied 13-13. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

photo by: AP Photo/Peter Aiken

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Daniel Wise (96) gets set before a play during an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Blaine Gabbert (9) scrambles as Cleveland Browns defensive end Lonnie Phelps (63) defends during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Earl Bostick Jr. celebrates a score against the Jacksonville Jaguars during a presesaon NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Kyron Johnson (58) in action during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

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