Prior to the 2017 spring meetings, there were two waves of NFL roster cutdowns. The first sent teams from 90 to 75 players ahead of preseason finales, and the second sent teams from 75 to 53 players on Labor Day weekend.
It’s one fell swoop now.
And that makes the coming days all the more eventful for head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Those playing in Thursday night’s exhibition against the New York Giants have a chance to make it even more so.
“All 31 other teams are scouting our game, just like we’re scouting the other 31 teams,” Belichick said earlier this week on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria. “We have had a number of players – probably more players than any other team in the league – on other rosters. Last year, we had several players that were claimed by other teams and played for other teams that didn’t make our roster.”
Though the Patriots claimed two players off waivers on the initial Sunday of the 2018 regular season in wideouts Chad Hansen and Amara Darboh, another three departed in the same fashion.
The Buffalo Bills were awarded punter Corey Bojorquez – who never checked in to punt for New England that preseason – and cornerback Ryan Lewis. And the Houston Texans were awarded safety A.J. Moore after an August that included 61 snaps on special teams and 51 on defense.
“Corey went to Buffalo [after] he barely played,” Belichick added. “A.J. Moore didn’t play much – he played at Houston last year. A couple years ago, Conor McDermott went to Buffalo. So whatever it is, it is.”
The prior Labor Day weekend, New England saw a league-high four players claimed through the waiver system.
Wide receiver Austin Carr become a New Orleans Saint and tight end James O’Shaughnessy became a Jacksonville Jaguar. Valdosta State corner Kenny Moore II made his way to the Indianapolis Colts on the way to a four-year contract extension. As for the aforementioned McDermott, the sixth-round tackle out of UCLA went elsewhere in the AFC East.
“I think everybody understands if they want to play in the National Football League, getting out and playing in preseason games is an opportunity,” Belichick said of the finale’s importance. “It’s either for the team you’re playing for, or maybe somebody else will recognize and identify a strong performance. I think everybody is motivated to play well. I like the 90-man roster now because it does give some players an extra opportunity that they wouldn’t have had back when the cuts were to 75 and I think they might have been even 60-something.”
When the 75-man deadline was still in effect in 2016, cornerbacks Cre’von LeBlanc and Darryl Roberts as well as linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill all outlasted it.
Until the 53-man deadline hit four days later.
Then LeBlanc found himself a Chicago Bear, Roberts a New York Jet and Grugier-Hill a Philadelphia Eagle. They’ve combined to appear in 126 games during the regular season since then, starting 40.
“I think we’ve seen a number of players the last few years – certainly here – that have come on stronger at the end of the preseason and that’s helped them make the roster,” Belichick said.
Or someone else’s.