From 90 to 75, Down to 53: Behind the Scramble
Its that time of year again. NFL teams have until 4 PM, EST on Tuesday, August 27, to chop their rosters down to 75 players from the previous allowed allotment of 90 players they have been able to carry throughout the summer. From there, August 31 (just 4 days later) is the date in which teams must further trim their rosters down to 53 players on the Active/Inactive list by 6 PM EST. Needless to say such a procedure is quick, and can be painful for all the parties involved. Players will have gone from outstanding collegiate careers seven months before, to fighting for a place in the NFL, to without a job, and perhaps in search of a new career, in moments.
A lot can be said of playing time in preseason games. While there are definitely attempts by teams to “hide” and not play players so that they will not be scouted out and possibly stolen from practice squads later, for the most part, a lack of playing time by the third preseason game is indicative of the axe that is likely to fall upon a player’s roster spot.
The “Turk” cometh
The agent will get a call from the team, letting him know that his player has been cut. Most of the time there will be an explanation, although whether or not such an explanation is completely candid and without ulterior motive is largely debatable. An executive will speak to the player himself from the team and largely the same procedure will be par for the course in terms of content. The head coach and the position coach will likely also be involved in separate discussion with the player as well. The collection of the playbook, and other logistical items will then ensue. As one former personnel assistant put it: “Getting playbooks, taking guys to the airport, lots of crushed dreams.” The emotions and disappointment are rampant.
Many of the cut are undrafted rookies, former practice squad players, and aging veterans that don’t offer the team enough at this stage. There are lots of ways a player can take this, and each handles the situation differently. However, for those undrafted rookies that survive the cut such as 2012’s Mike Harris and Tashaun Gipson, it is a brief moment of happiness and relief.
Finding a NEW home
Agents will begin the process of attempting to find their players new homes. For rookies and other very young players, they have one advantage: they may have the ability to be on practice squad, while more veterans players will more accrued seasons will not have that luxury and will have to make the 53-man roster. Teams cannot talk with those younger players that have to go through the waiver system until after they have cleared waivers. This process is much more taxing and difficult for the player and his agent than it was a few months before, as teams only have 53 (+ 8 practice squad) spots and so their selectivity will be far more acute.
Teams, such as this year, may decide to get to their 75-player allotment a few days before, allowing their cut players to be in the waiver system and/or be free a little earlier. However, many personnel executives will likely wait until all 32 teams have made their cuts to 75 before too much movement, as the desire to see everyone that is possibly available is an advantage for them.
We want you back . . . sort of.
After the cut on August 31 down to 53 players per team, teams will begin to offer players contracts to be on practice squads, paying $6000 per week. This is done knowing full well that a player could be plucked off that roster by an opposing team to their 53-man active roster at any moment. These are developmental prospects; players that teams want to see more closely and think could possibly be developed into making an active roster shortly.
If a player is brought in for a workout after being cut, at this stage, it must be reported to the NFL. A variety of things will be required of a player at a workout, so it is paramount that he shows his speed, quickness, strength and stamina on every single snap or exercise. Simply having a bad day here is not going to help a player get another shot under the circumstances. Remember the player is being looked at at taking another’s job away that is currently already with that team, teams will have little patience or tolerance in someone who is out of shape or is not performing at a truly elite level.
Doing your due dilligence
As with any job, teams may elect to call former teams to see why the player was cut, and other items of interest. Certainly there will be some bias that has to be sorted through if you are the player’s new prospective team calling a former employer who just terminated the player, but it behooves the player to be nothing but the epitome of hardworking and professional during his time with any team for this reason alone.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a meritocracy, and the only opinions of who is good or not that actually matter, are those that work in the 32 NFL offices around the country. Those players, whom these men determine merit a chance to play, will play. In the end, only 1696 men will suit up Opening Weekend. Best of luck.
Tales of an athlete management professional, blogger, sports law junkie, http://NEPatriotsDraft.com contributor, Sports Mgmt M.A. Grad, now JD Candidate.