The NFL’s owners held one of their annual spring meetings last week and one topic on the agenda was finalizing the structure of this year’s roster cutdowns. Such a structure was needed after the Coronavirus pandemic impacted how the procedures looked like last year.
While Covid-19 is still impacting life around the league and the nation as a whole, there is plenty of optimism due to the daily decline in infection rates and steady vaccination progress. As a result of those, the ownership meeting agreed to keep offseason rosters at a maximum of 90 players heading into this year’s training camp — a change of last summer, when teams had to trim their rosters to 80 ahead of camp.
The roster sizes were not the only issue discussed, though, as cutdown deadlines also were agreed upon. While there were only two rounds of cuts in 2020, there will be three of them this summer (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero):
- August 17: Cutdowns from 90 to 85 players
- August 24: Cutdowns from 85 to 80 players
- August 31: Cutdowns from 80 to 53 players
These progressive cutdowns are similar to the ones the league had installed until 2017: back then, rosters were first trimmed from 90 to 75 and later down to 53.
While this structure was not copied for the 2021 season, the one agreed upon last week still represents a change of course compared to last year. In 2020, after all, the league asked its teams to cut from 90 to 80 ahead of training camp due to Covid-19 concerns, and later from 80 to 53 ahead of the regular season opener.
This summer, meanwhile, clubs will have to make cutdowns on the Tuesday following each of their three preseason games. In the New England Patriots’ case, these are scheduled as follows (with roster sizes in parentheses):
- August 12, 7:30 pm: vs. Washington Football Team (90)
- August 19, 7:30 pm: at Philadelphia Eagles (85)
- August 29, 7:30 pm: at New York Giants (80)
While the league’s offseason and training camp roster limit has been set at 90, the Patriots actually have a roster limit of 91: fullback Jakob Johnson will spend the summer under an exemption due to his status as an International Player.