With training camp sort of sneaking up on me this year, given all the season-related drama and COVID-19 and nationwide protests against racial injustice and (less consequentially) trying to keep my house from falling apart, I had not spent a lot of time thinking about the major changes to roster construction that are coming this year. Given that the official start date of training camp in July 28, also known as this Tuesday, this is probably a logical time to fix that.
Here’s the skinny: The Falcons currently have a full 90 man roster. That’s an issue because the NFL reduced the training camp roster size to 80, which would seem to indicate that the Falcons need to cut ten players by the veteran camp reporting date, which is this Tuesday. Presumably Atlanta’s been busily working at that, but they have barely gotten to see these players, which would make that more of a challenge. The reason for the split squads is simply that NFL regulations will not allow teams to bring more than 80 players in the building at once in the age of COVID-19.
There is a second option. Teams can elect to split their squad into two 45 man groups, one comprising veterans and the other rookies, rehabilitating players, and other first-year players. They can maintain that arrangement until August 16, which would allow them to get a real look at all 90 players before they have to trim down to 80 players. I recognize there are attendant difficulties in scheduling practices and not getting to see rookies work with veterans in that latter arrangement, but if the Falcons really like their current group and want the opportunity to take an up-close look at all of them, that’s the way to go.
Teams have two options for training camp rosters:— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) July 24, 2020
1) Cut to 80 before veterans report
2) Cut to 80 by Aug. 16
Practice squads will increase to 16 players; 6 of those players can have unlimited number of accrued seasons.
We’ll know no later than Tuesday morning what course of action the Falcons are taking, because if they don’t cut players they’ll obviously be keeping the full group. With a 16 man practice squad and 55 man roster expected this year, having the largest possible pool of players to work with initially seems to me like the smartest play. You don’t want a quality player to slip through the cracks, not when players who get COVID-19 are going to have to sit out multiple weeks and practice squad players almost inevitably will get more opportunities to join the active roster in 2020 than in years past.
If the Falcons do have to cut down, I’d unfortunately expect the axe to fall heavily on the undrafted free agent class, who haven’t been able to hit the practice field and thus have no draft-related attachments to the team or previous NFL experience to fall back on. This year will force teams to make decisions that are even tougher than usual, and I’m afraid young guys who normally would be fighting hard to make the roster will face an even greater challenge to get there than usual.
We’ll see what course the Falcons choose. Either way, they’ll hopefully have a strong roster for a full NFL season, he said optimistically.