NFL teams must reduce their rosters, from 90 men to 53 men, by 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, September 2.
In prior seasons, teams were required to lower their number from 90 to 75 before their last preseason game, and then to the final 53 after that. But things are different this season — and the rationale points out the immense worthlessness of the preseason itself.
Teams wanted to be able to rest all of their starters and many of their back ups ahead of the NFL regular season — which starts on Septmber 7th when the Patriots and Chiefs kick off. So the NFL is allowing teams to carry more players through the final preseason game in order to allow them to play less of the players who will make the 53-man roster.
Which completely diminishes the product on the field — a product already among the worst things (maybe aside from the Pro Bowl) that the NFL regularly produces.
Teams will need to have their final 53-men set before the final week of prep work for the season. During that time they will also be able to compile their 10-man practice squad.
In contrast to preseasons past, there is expected to be a flurry of activity on the weekend following the fourth preseason game as teams scour the waiver wire for hidden treasure from other teams' trash. Many teams have already started cutting relatively minor players with roster sizes in the 80s for most NFL teams during midweek.
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The biggest name cut prior to the required cutdown is Browns former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Haden is getting interest from NFL teams already like the Saints, Eagles and Steelers.
Teams, of course, are not able to dress all 53 men on gameday still. The number for active players at gametime remains at 46 men for the 2017 NFL season.