The Math Of Annual NFL Cuts

Here's something in the following excellent article by Michael Lombardi of that I did not know:

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Though each NFL team has a 53-man roster, they only DRESS 45 players per game. That's important to know because definitely it affects whom they keep in reserve more often and whom they will play more as Lombardi explains in detail.

Also sometimes that fact tells us more often than I had thought which players on the bubble at the end of the roster, and if they are Canadians or defencive role playmakers especially, are greater candidates to end up in the CFL.

Such is especially the case for players who at about age 26 have had yet to break into a solid starting or package role and have been relegated to so much special teams play to go with a bunch of standing around on the sidelines.

Indeed the money is almost always the dominant consideration, but I think the consideration of a player's longevity beyond 3 years on special teams is something they do not take for granted after a few seasons of such beatings as well assuming they have made it that far without even an injury to slow them down enough for the herd of competition to overtake them let alone cripple their effectiveness at the pro level.

Furthermore if you are in your late 20s and have not acutally played much, where does that leave you to play more in ANY league?

In the next post on this thread I'll break down some math for sake of the rosters based on this fine column.

Let's start with the 53-man NFL active roster and take out the following givens or near-given but for the rare occurrence when any given starter can double up on any one of these positions:

3 QBs
1 Kicker
1 Punter
1 Long Snapper
10 Offencive Starters (5 OL, 1TE, 3WR, 1RB)
11 Defencive Starters (Front Seven Plus 2 CB 1SS 1FS)

So far that leaves any given NFL with 27 slots. We exclude suspensions and injuries from this analysis, but obviously they factor in when even a backup is suspended or injured. Most definitely the injuries seem to factor in more after the wear and tear once the weather changes in more places starting in November too, so obviously a few more players get a chance to play than in September.

Then minus the following typical backups at MINIMUM, some of whom also play special teams and almost all of whom play in various packages at scrimmage:

2 RBs
2 TEs
2 WRs
3 OL

1 DE
1 DL
2 LB
2 CB
1 S

Practically speaking, most NFL teams after all of the above are left with 11 slots (53-26 above-16 backups).

However, only 3 of those remaining players can dress and often they must play special teams as well.

And that's where the fun begins for sure. Likely at least 2 of those 11 will be designated special teamers for most games. Most of the rest won't be playing most games but collecting a fine check all the same.

And that's where the action is with so many trades, releases, moves on and off practise squads, and players also promoted by their agents and courted by other leagues including the CFL because ultimately many are not getting enough playing time.

Lest it is a highly specialised player like a kicker or QB or long snapper, or otherwise a star of sorts looking for twilight action (i.e. Andre Rison in the CFL), I would think if a player has not had the chance to actually play much before age 28 that it is highly unlikely that he'll amount to much as a starter anywhere in order to play more given the increasing numbers of younger players competing for those same starting and feature player slots in all leagues.

Here's a current example of the situation involving two receivers, one of whom is a star and the other a reliable receiver who will be cut due IMHO to an overhyped rookie in Dez Bryant.

Whatever happens to Vincent Jackson and Patrick Crayton leaving San Diego and Dallas respectively for another NFL team will have a ripple effect for other receivers, and let's see if any one of those affected subsequently ends up dropped and looking over to the CFL or back to it?

And let's not overlook for the first time since the 1990s there is no more one year and out for new contracts, with effectively a minimum of TWO years now required for contracts:


If any ex-NFLers or benchwarmers or long-time practise squadders/squatters head to the CFL and are really good enough, they will have to stick around for awhile especially if they are at least age 26-27 right now. This is even more highly the case for any potentially affected Canadians mind you for all positions.

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Contrary to the media slant and irrespective of the Vikings landing Jackson, I see whoever gets Jackson for the above consideration as a real steal considering the following. And why a steal you might ask?

Here's a short list of top younger NFL receivers compiled in the offseason who were drafted from 2004 to 2007 compiled by me and a football junkie friend in the offseason after we figured that finding big-play receivers and avoiding many such a draft bust has been quite the feat in the NFL lately (the following copied from this link where you can go to see the NFL stats via the links if you like, as they failed in the copy below:

[url=]viewtopic.php?f=5&t=55051&hilit=+jamarcus+russell#p888073[/url] ):
The older of the owners and scouts like Davis and Jones still believe in throwing heavy money at 1st round picks based on the older history as every team nowadays is trying desperately to find the next dominant prototype in the mould of Michael Irvin or Terrell Owens at more than 6-0 200. As you can tell by the following list, the odds go WAY down when an undersized receiver is chosen any more too irrespective of all skills.

We defined feature receiver as those who have had at least approximately three seasons of 850+ yards receiving. Excluded because he's likely on his way down anyway is pothead Santonio Holmes who even so has had a feature presence and was the star of the Steelers' comeback drive to win their last Super Bowl not only for the legendary catch. He would rank under Wes Welker for those of you curious: ... =HOL657297.

First Season 2004-2007 In Order Of Our Ranking

Larry Fitzgerald 1st 2004 Pittsburgh 6-3 217 ... =FIT437493

Marques Colston 7th 2006 Hofstra 6-4 225 ... =COL777594

Greg Jennings 2nd 2006 Western Michigan 5-11 198 ... =JEN480468

Brandon Marshall 4th 2006 Central Florida 6-4 230 ... =MAR370922

Roddy White 1st 2005 UAB 6-0 212 ... =WHI472686

Calvin Johnson 1st 2007 Georgia Tech 6-5 236 ... =JOH088640

Wes Welker Undrafted 2004 Texas Tech 5-9 185 ... =WEL219433

[b]Vincent Jackson 2nd 2005 Northern Colorado 6-5 230

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Now for the matter of the reliable and talented Patrick Crayton, and we'll see if any other solid receivers have to be cut from teams otherwise too stacked with talent:

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Crayton, drafted in the 7th round in 2004 in the year of Fitzgerald, ahead of star yet undrafted Welker yet from a school no one ever heard of, was a long shot from the start to be even a feature player as is in reality about any receiver drafted after the 2nd round assuming they even make it to play mostly special teams in their first few seasons.

Crayton developed into an effective Red Zone threat despite standing only 6-0 205 too, and he is reliable and effective as a punt returner still as well: ... ayPa00.htm

Ah well thanks Billy Soup I screwed up that math below, that means that after selecting the first two waves between essentials and starters and then backups, from the 53 total allowed for the roster, most NFL teams have 10 slots in discretion yet only 2 of those left get to dress any given game and often are both full-time special teamers (i.e. gunners/outside defenders on punt sets, return specialists, et cetera)

Here we go coincidentally with regard to my post on Vincent Jackson and Patrick Crayton from just yesterday:

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Crayton now to the Chargers, and we'll see who wins the sweepstakes for Vincent Jackson!

I think the Chargers got a steal too for only a 7th round pick, for Crayton is better than that for sure overall considering his red zone and punt return skills as explained in the previous post.

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Great link ...looks like Joel Reinders back on the block after being cut yesterday too.


Here's a piece I wrote above in another thread that explains a bit about the strategy in draft picking and the long, long odds of being even second on an NFL depth chart for any given player drafted let alone a free agent whether NCAA, CFL, or CIS.

Also there's a bit on the business of NFL football as well as some evidence for the most part to counter the charges of politics when making cuts. I've seen such homer politics take place more at the high school level than anywhere else mind you not in the NCAA and in the NFL where increasingly such is not as much a luxury when such players can be lost easily to other competing programs with dire financial consequences. Ask Jerry Jones about missing the boat on Randy Moss for example, an oversight despite Moss' trouble that haunts Jones to this day.

Otherwise those playing the most politics with pro football down here are more the NCAA and ESPN than the NFL owners spending millions with the most to lose when they make bad decisions for personal more than business and athletic reasons.

Politics against any given player with bonafide skills is simply not affordable short of a player engaged in criminal or drug activity or anything else to embarrass the NFL Shield in which case the league office weighs in anyway nowadays.

How much do players on NFL practise rosters make? US$5200 minimum not counting all the free stuff and access -- I had thought less, so that's quite the good gig as a professional "hang-around" for sure:

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I don't agree with the picks of top practise prospects at the end of the article at all though.

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Excellent summary by Gil Brandt to include how many undrafted free agents made each 53-man roster.

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Apparently some guys on NFL practise squads make even more than the required minimum of $5200 per week! :o

This practise out be outlawed under new salary cap rules to include the rookie salary cap as well, as this practise does nothing but keep players from being signed by other teams when otherwise those guys would likely be on the field.

Let's not forget that each week on those same teams there are a total of 8 guys ahead of each of these guys who are made inactive out of the 53 men on roster and are slated to play ahead of them all the same.

Also this finding is testimony to perhaps that there have never been in total more talented players competing for roster spots in pro football though there are shortages of feature players at most offencive positions plus at the 4-3 DE and the strong safety position.

Looks like the race is on for this week to sign Vincent Jackson as a follow-up to a post below ...I'd be thrilled to see him on Seattle or Minnesota rather than St. Louis for sure:

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In turn who will be cut and where will that player land? I am surprised that more receivers cut have not made their way to CFL though already the CFL is staffed with many good and excellent receivers all the same as the NFL at its level is full of mediocrity at that position.

I maintain that SJ Green and Jamel Richardson are the only two in the league that are also NFL redzone and possession material so hold on to them as long as you can in Montreal!

Then again perhaps the transition of QBs and WRs mid-season to the CFL does not normally take place? ... ings090110

Contrary to the media slant and irrespective of the Vikings landing Jackson, I see whoever gets Jackson for the above consideration as a real steal considering the following. And why a steal you might ask?

Here's a short list of top younger NFL receivers compiled in the offseason who were drafted from 2004 to 2007 compiled by me and a football junkie friend in the offseason after we figured that finding big-play receivers and avoiding many such a draft bust has been quite the feat in the NFL lately (the following copied from this link where you can go to see the NFL stats via the links if you like, as they failed in the copy below:

In the case of Blair White, a walk-on in college and an undrafted free agent who had been cut and on the practise squad, I don't think he ever got even a fair shake upfront.

Whatever the math of annual NFL cuts, with also guys like the Patriots Danny Woodhead out of nowhere, it does not make sense with too many overpaid duds. Belichek is the only coach it seems who makes consistent performers out of guys tossed aside or ignored elsewhere.

Check out the data on these guys in Peter King of SI's article today on page 5 for sake of Woodhead (number 9):

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Note what White said to Peyton Manning and Woodhead's background. More on what Blair White said here before scoring his first NFL touchdown: ... rush092710

Has there ever been more obvious a need for a rookie salary cap?

Next week I'll do a separate post on impact rookies, a list which White likely won't make, and see what you think.

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I thought it was more of a science than math. More like chemistry and physics, with a smidge of biology :wink: