The 2023 NFL Preseason is officially in the books, and that means a flurry of activity in the coming days as teams go through several steps to prepare their rosters for the regular season. The most notable deadline looming just over the horizon is the 4 pm Tuesday New York time deadline for teams to have reduced their rosters to 53 players, but that is just the start of the activity.
In the days after teams bring their roster into compliance, there will be waiver claims, players moved to injured reserve, practice squads will be built and the way the league accounts for the salary cap will be changed, all in the matter of little over a week. So, to head off the avalanche of questions that will be coming this week, here are some of the key deadlines and what they mean for teams and players.
Upcoming Roster Dates: pic.twitter.com/ulJabgUY54— Brian McFarland (@RavensSalaryCap) August 24, 2023
Now, that screengrab didn’t crop well, so spelled out here are the key deadlines for fans to be aware of in the coming days.
Roster Cuts to 53: Tuesday, August 29 prior to 4:00 pm New York time
All teams must have just 53 players on the active roster at 4:00 Tuesday. This, obviously, means a lot of players will be cut or waived, though there are some exceptions which will be covered momentarily.
First, the difference between a player who is cut and a player who is waived is based on the number of accrued seasons the player has. A player who has four or more accrued seasons gets cut, and is immediately eligible to sign with any team in the league. A player who has three or fewer accrued seasons must pass through waivers, and since there are so many players hitting waivers this week, waivers operate in a special manner specifically for roster cuts.
Waiver Claim Window Ends: Wednesday, August 30 prior to Noon New York time
All players waived from now through Tuesday's cutdown deadline are on waivers until noon ET on Wednesday. So, it's always possible trades could materialize over the next few days. https://t.co/gMPsglKsdz— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 26, 2023
So, as insider Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network notes, all players subject to waivers will remain on waivers through noon New York time Wednesday. Players who are claimed off of waivers will be awarded to their new team prior to 1 pm New York time, Tuesday and teams must make the necessary moves in order to come into compliance with the 53 man roster requirement. Teams can move a player to injured reserve in order to free up a spot on the roster for a player claimed off waivers, however, the spot for the waiver claim must be created prior to 4:00 pm New York time, and any player placed on injured reserve prior to 4:00 pm New York time on Tuesday is ineligible to return from injured reserve during the 2023 season. This was the situation in 2022 with the Seattle Seahawks, when the team moved John Reid to injured reserve prior to 4:00 pm, making him ineligible to return during the season, even though the press release announcing the move stated he would be eligible to be designated to return.
All this in mind, there are a handful of exceptions to the cuts requirement, as previously mentioned. For the Seahawks there are a pair that will likely be relevant. The first of those is that suspended players do not count against the 53-man roster, meaning that the team only needs to cut 36 players since Dee Eskridge will not take up a roster spot for the duration of his six game suspension. In addition, players like Bryan Mone, who appears likely to remain on the physically unable to perform list into the regular season, will not require a roster spot once he is officially moved to the regular season PUP list.
Practice Squad Formation: Wednesday, August 30 at Noon New York time
As of writing, teams do not have practice squads. On Wednesday afternoon, once the league has announced which players have cleared waivers, teams are allowed to build out their 16 man practice squads.
Players Moved to Injured Reserve are Eligible to Return During the Season: Wednesday, August 30 after 4:00 pm New York time
This is pretty self explanatory. Players who are moved to injured reserve prior to 4:00 Wednesday are done for the year, while players who are moved to injured reserve after 4:00 Wednesday may be designated to return after having spent four games on injured reserve.
Just for illustrative purposes, in 2022 the Seahawks moved a pair of players to injured reserve on the day after roster cuts, John Reid and L.J. Collier. The Hawks placed Reid on injured reserve prior to 4:00, so once he recovered and was healthy he was released from injured reserve. Collier, on the other hand, was moved to injured reserve after 4:00, so once he was healthy he was activated to the 53-man roster. (Author’s Note: Readers may feel free to insert their own joke about how in spite of the differences in timing of when they were placed on IR, Reid and Collier both had the same on field impact for Seattle in 2022.)
Rule of 51 Accounting Ends: Wednesday, September 6 at 11:59 pm New York time
During the offseason, only the players with the 51 largest cap hits are counted against the salary cap. During the regular season, every player on the roster, including
- the 53 man roster,
- the practice squad,
- players on injured reserve,
- players on the physically unable to perform list and
- suspended players
count against the salary cap. As such, the league gives teams roughly a week to figure things out in terms of the salary cap and make any necessary restructures for accounting purposes once roster cuts have been made and practice squads formed.
And now it’s on to roster cuts ahead of the 4:00 pm New York time Tuesday deadline.