Roster cuts are a depressing but necessary part of the preseason process, as teams begin to whittle their 80-man rosters down to the requisite 53 players. It seems hard to believe that during a time of carefully trimming the fat there might be a second, smaller, signing frenzy throughout the NFL.
Competition for the few roster slots that remain open on a given team after accounting for veterans firmly entrenched in their positions is incredibly fierce. As a result, good players are cut every year from teams who simply don’t have the ability to accommodate all of the talent they’ve picked up at particular positions.
Examples of such players this year include WR Chastin West (Packers), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (Bears) and G Mike McGlynn (Eagles). These players, often referred to as “bubble players,” have what it takes to be successful in the NFL. They’re typically the players who give the most during the preseason, bringing their best performance to each game in an attempt to make coaches think twice before cutting them.
The truth is that no matter how good the bubble players are, they can’t all make the team.
Fortunately, the saying about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure holds true in the NFL. During the preseason, bubble players aren’t just trying out for a spot on their current football team; instead, they’re showing the entire league what they can do.
The cast-offs from many teams will be replete with talent, and they will be hungry to play somewhere—anywhere. All over the league, teams are scouting one another’s bubble players to look for the diamonds in the rough. Many teams will bide their time and wait for the waves of roster cuts that will present a golden opportunity to snap talented players off of the waivers. Those looking to grab some talent at a discount price may even take a gamble and wait for contracted players to clear the waivers.
This year’s bubble players may also have an advantage over those from previous years: The NFL lockout this year has left many teams with weak areas they weren’t able to address properly, with returning starters who are a bit more prone to injury thanks to a more laid-back offseason. As the preseason rolls on, those teams will pay close attention to clubs with an overabundance of talent at their positions of concern.
Take for example the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, who will likely scour the waivers for pieces to plug into their weak secondary. The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts would do well to keep an eye out for hidden gems to buttress their offensive lines. The list of teams with needs they couldn’t fill during the draft and shortened free-agency period goes on.
Expect some positive excitement amidst the roster cuts that will begin to roll in over the next two weeks, as teams around the league seek to fill holes. Although we have an idea of the starters who will take the field for Week One in early September, there’s still a lot of wiggle-room in the depth charts. For many clubs, we’re far from knowing what the final 53-man roster will look like going into the 2011 season.