How the New Cutdown Rules May Affect the Packers

NFL owners have passed a resolution to eliminate the roster cutdown from 90 to 75, which happens after the third preseason game.

Under the new structure, it appears teams will go from their 90-man roster to a 53-man roster after the end of the preseason.

Here’s how this change may affect Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and the Packers organization.

Pro: Lesser chance of key players getting hurt in the fourth preseason game

Aaron Rodgers has not played in the fourth preseason game since 2012, when he started against the Kansas City Chiefs and exited after one series. In the years that followed, the final preseason game has seen the likes of Joe Callahan, Scott Tolzien and Brett Hundley spend extended time working with the second- and third-string offense.

A full 90-man roster for the fourth preseason game means we will likely see more of the essential members of the Packers sit for the final exhibition contest.

One area that certainly will benefit from the rule change is special teams. Because the additional 15 players will be eligible to play in the final preseason game, the Packers will have the flexibility to keep starters and key backups on the bench who normally play on kick coverage or blocking.

Con: The Packers may move on from underperforming players sooner

Each year, there are players brought into training camp who don’t have what it takes to make it in the NFL. It’s not a knock on them, their athleticism, or football background, it’s the byproduct of a harsh reality. If you want to play professional football, you need to be an elite athlete and an elite student of the game.

For the players who come into camp and can’t quite cut it, the Packers have sparingly released players prior to the 75-man cut down under the idea that they would have an opportunity to “catch on” with another team.

The new guidelines mean that Green Bay and other teams may be more apt to release underperforming players or those who aren’t a good fit with the team sooner. Unfortunately, those players may not get a chance to overcome a poor start or an early injury.

Pro: Gaining an advantage through undrafted free agency and the practice squad

The Packers historically have been one of the best teams in the league at identifying undrafted free agents and developing them into consistent pros. Kicking the final (and now only) cutdown date until after the final preseason game should give the Packers more time to evaluate their undrafted free agent crop.

As a result, the Packers could have a better idea who they’d like to stash on the practice squad. This could mean a minor breakout of players who the Packers want to hide suddenly disappearing for the last game of the preseason in hopes of not putting anything on tape for other teams, but that’s a small tradeoff for a more fully evaluated roster.

Pro: More depth in response to late pre-season injury

In 2014, the Packers lost starting center JC Tretter late in the preseason due to an injury. At the time, there was only one possible replacement on the roster: Corey Linsley.

If there had been more players available from which to choose, it’s possible things could have played out differently. Not necessarily likely, but possible. The point is, having more players on the roster late in the preseason could give every team (the Packers included) more options with which to respond to unplanned shortages.

Pro: Flexibility to bring in more veterans

It’s hard being an NFL veteran on the free agent market. We recently looked at a long list of former Packers who find themselves on the open market, and many are certainly capable of making a training camp roster or even a 53-man roster in the right circumstances.

By eliminating the 75-man roster cut, teams have greater flexibility to balance their roster with a few low-risk veterans. With the entire preseason at their disposal, teams no longer have to make a tough choice after the third preseason game to see if a veteran’s known performance will be a better asset to the team over a younger player’s potential upside.