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New NFL rule change will make for a crazy and chaotic cutdown day

A new NFL rule change will make things very interesting in the offseason.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
There’s going to be one big decision day for them.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While NFL free agency is still ongoing and teams and fans alike are starting to put more focus on the upcoming draft, there are some other things happening that will affect the entire league, including of course the Dallas Cowboys. Something happened a bit under the radar earlier this week that will have an impact on how all teams conduct their business at the end of training camp. After years of having a three-stage cutdown process, there will now just be one big cut from 90 players to the 53-man roster.

In recent years, since the expansion of the offseason roster to 90 players, teams would have two small cutdowns, to 85 and 80, prior to the big cut to their initial 53-man roster. Now, each team will be making 37 players available at one time to waiver claims and signings, depending on the status of the released players. This will also trigger the practice squad signings the next day. While it has not been formally decided, the league may agree to continue the 16-man PS, which seems to be favored by most franchises.

This may not have a huge impact on how teams make their roster decisions, since the two early cutdowns were mostly very marginal players. However, some teams would release a veteran early to give them a better chance of catching on with another team. What this does is add just a bit more churn to things. The first 53-man roster established is almost never the one teams take into the first game of the regular season, as they use waiver claims and veteran signings to improve their squads.

It is an interesting year for the Cowboys, because the roster they have headed into the draft has fewer holes than any offseason in recent memory. That could make their released players of great interest to other teams, with some NFL-caliber talent just getting squeezed off their roster. However, the team will always comb the names hitting the market for any possible upgrades. Depending on the way the draft goes, there could be a player or two they want to add. It, of course, means that they will have to release someone to make room. Churn may be just a little more pronounced.

The biggest winners in all this are those marginal players that would have been released during the first two cutdowns. They now will get a chance to at least have another audition for a future job by playing in all three preseason games. The shortened preseason schedule probably played into this rule change. This will give all the guys on the fringe every possible chance to make an impression that could win them a spot on Dallas’ 53-man roster, one with another team, or land them on a practice squad somewhere. And for those who don’t go any further, it is more chances to wear an NFL uniform and be on the field.

It also is a small benefit to us writers. We have a bit longer to make our roster projections, with more options to consider.

In the grand scheme, it is a small thing. But it could make for some interesting developments.

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