NFL Training Camp Cuts: From 90 to 75 to 53


Training Camp has only been going on for a few days and the Broncos just signed two players to their roster, but the harsh reality is that in about a month a lot of these players are going to be unemployed. Teams can have up to 90 players on their roster during training camp and the first few preseason games, but by the first regular season game that number has to go down to 53. When and how does this happen? Let’s take a look.

The deadlines for the roster cuts down to 75 and 53 players has not been announced for the 2014 season yet, but looking back over the last few years you can get a feel for when these cuts will occur. Ironically these cuts always happen right around Labor Day.

In general the deadline for teams to cut their roster to 75 players on the Active list comes a few days before the 4th preseason game. The deadline to cut the roster to 53 players on the Active/Inactive List happens a few days after the 4th preseason game. This is one of the reasons the first three preseason games are spread out schedule wise over the week, but the 4th preseason game is on one day for all 32 teams (sometimes a few teams play the day before or after).

Jul 24, 2014; Dove Valley, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Lerentee McCray (55) prepares to catch during training camp activities at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The 4th preseason game sees little to any action from the first stringers, which is frustrating to season ticket holders who are forced to pay the same price for this game as regular season games, but for those on the roster bubble the 4th game can be the difference between having a job or getting cut.

In 2013 the 4th preseason game for all 32 teams was on August 29th. The cut to 75 happened on August 27th, the cut to 53 was on August 31st.

In 2012 the 4th preseason game was on August 30th (a few teams played on the 29th). The cut to 75 happened on August 27th, the cut to 53 was on August 31st.

In 2014 all 32 teams are playing their 4th preseason game on Thursday August 28th. I would guess that the cut to 75 players will be on August  26th and the cut to 53 players will be on August 30th. After the roster is at 53 players teams also have to say if they have players on the PUP list (Players Unable to Perform) – these players do not count against the 53 roster spots and can not return for the first 6 games.

The day after the cut to 53 players teams can add 8 players to their practice squad. Check here for my review of how NFL practice squads work and who ended last season on the Broncos 2013 practice squad.

Anyone who has seen HBO’s Hard Knocks, which follows one NFL team during training camp, knows how emotional this process can be. One day you’re on the field, the next day you’re asked to bring your iPad in to work for a quick chat and you’re off the team. It can be especially brutal for players that are talented enough to play in the NFL but ended up on a team that had too much depth in their position. You hope they are able to find a place on another team but there are no guarantees in the NFL.

Will Broncos training camp standouts Isaiah Burse, Marvin Austin, Brennan Clay, Kenny Anunike or lower draft picks Matt Paradis and Corey Nelson make the 53 man roster? We’ll have to wait and see.