The Football Educator features the work of guest blogger Evan Brennan, as he looks at the expansion of NFL rosters to 90 players and the resulting growth of even bigger dreams under the NFL’s new CBA .
With the new NFL CBA that came out last year, teams are now allowed to carry 90 players (instead of 80) on their offseason roster. But how does a team go from 53 players the offseason before, to 90 in a few months? After free agent signings, draft picks, and priority undrafted free agent signings, the answer is: tryout players.
What this new 90 man roster means is that there will be roughly 320 extra guys in the NFL for a very short period of time. The players are not even be under contract, and many will only be there at the rookie mini camp on a tryout-only basis. This test ground only lasts for three days and now must be within 2 weeks of the NFL Draft.
Most tryouts are guys that were not priority free agents but have some merit to them nonetheless. Agents scrambling to get their UDFA free agents signed on rosters in the hours and days immediately after the draft will pitch these players to teams in hopes that despite not getting a contract offer initially will get a shot at least continuing their dream on past college, if but for a few days. The trend with teams in the league this year is that of these 10 to 15 players that are invited to tryout on each team, only about one or two on average per team will be given a contract. Examples include the Buffalo Bills’ signing of safety Nick Saenz and the Miami Dolphins’ signing of tackle Andrew McDonald from the dozens of players that were invited as tryoutees to their respective team’s rookie mini camp.
What this tweaked system means is that these players will face an extremely tough task of not only beating out players under contract such as UDFAs, draft picks, and veterans who are not even at the rookie mini camps, but also be such standouts that they merit the one or two spots available that teams may offer to such a player. And in no way does being offered a contract from a tryout guarantee anything, as said players could easily be cut shortly thereafter.
While this does allow players who would have been left out of the previous process to have a chance of at least showcasing what they can do, the chances of many of these players ever even suiting up for an NFL game is very slim. All of this is important to note as the harsh reality and meritocracy of talent to play out one’s dream in the NFL.