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Breaking down the 2023 roster cutdown deadline for the Falcons

Atlanta has a big, looming series of decisions to make, as do 31 other teams.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

After Thursday night’s preseason game, the Falcons will likely have a pretty good idea of how they intend to pare down their roster to reach the 53 man limit. This year, instead of cutdowns taking place in waves over the course of multiples weeks of preseason, every NFL team is now making their cuts in one go following the final game.

That means we’re on a new timeline, and the week following those cuts will likely be even more chaotic than usual. Here’s a quick primer for what’s ahead.

When is the roster cutdown deadline?

This year, it’s Tuesday, August 29, at 4 p.m. EST. Every team has to be at a 53 man roster (or below, and we’ll touch on that in a moment) by that time. For most teams, that will mean cutting 37 players from the current 90 man limit, though a handful of teams are already flying slightly under that number.

Those are significant, sweeping cuts to make all at once, which is going to absolutely flood the waiver wire and subsequently free agency with hundreds of players. That’s not so different from previous years, except that again, it’s all happening over the course of a couple of days rather than in chunks over the course of weeks.

Can teams trade before the deadline?

Yes, and we shouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons are among those teams. As Falcons reporter Ashton Edmunds chronicled earlier this year, Atlanta will (like every other squad) have already done a lot of work to determine who they might want to add from other teams’ cuts. If there’s a team interested in one of the Falcons’ own players, or a team that can be persuaded to give up a bottom-of-roster player for draft capital, a deal might be struck before the deadline.

You may want to watch the offensive line and inside linebacker most closely for additions given the uncertain depth picture at both of those spots, though the Falcons could certainly target upgrades elsewhere.

What happens after the deadline?

For any injured Falcons the team may want to stash on injured reserve for the moment, a short stint on the active roster will be required. If, say, Cordarrelle Patterson is going to miss a handful of weeks at the beginning of the season, the Falcons may hold on to him until after the deadline, place him on IR with the intention of bringing him back in a few weeks, and then sign a player to fill his roster spot. The hope is that Patterson doesn’t have to hit IR, but that’s the point at which the Falcons could place him (or anyone, it’s a hypothetical!) on the list without losing them for the full year.

The team can also make waiver claims with an eye on adding any players they’ve identified as interesting fits for the team, and then sign anyone who clears waivers or isn’t eligible for waivers in the first place. Again, don’t be surprised if they do so, making the initial 53 man roster a lot more fluid than final.

The last item to be aware of is that practice squads can be assembled after cutdowns. The Falcons and other NFL teams can carry up to 16 players on that squad, and Atlanta’s likely to have anywhere from half to three quarters of that group built from players who spent the summer with the team. Tonight’s preseason game will be crucial for players who are roster longshots but have a good shot at the practice squad if they play well.

The Falcons don’t have to make all these cuts in one go—they could release some players on Friday and the rest on Tuesday—so there’s no telling exactly when we’ll learn about what the initial 53 man roster will look like. All we really know is that we have one more preseason game to help the coaching staff shape that roster, and that it all has to be done by Tuesday at 4 p.m.