RICHMOND—We are approaching the time where the Redskins will have to cut players that they would rather keep. On August 30 they will have to cut the roster down to 53 players. The following day they can put players with no or very limited NFL experience onto the eight-man practice squad. But before they can do that every team in the NFL will have 24 hours to claim the players they cut.
That leaves the Redskins and every other team in the NFL with difficult decisions about some of their promising young players. Do they want to risk getting that promising young player through waivers and give him a year to develop on the practice squad? Or do they leave him on the 53 and let a veteran player go?
“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Jay Gruden. “That’s something that we’ll have to talk about as a staff--the risk/reward situation.”
The thing is, every other team faces the same dilemma.
“A lot of teams, when teams make their final cuts, a lot of teams are in the same boat,” said Gruden. “They’re in the same predicament. You know, when you poach somebody, you’ve got to put them right on your active roster, then you’re playing a regular season game and sometimes it’s not always easy to do.”
So snagging another team’s young prospect is easier said than done. After a team has already sorted out its 53 it has to immediately cut one of those players in order to add a player cut from another team. That can upset the balance of the roster going into the opener. The player you claim needs to be worth the trouble.
Gruden would rather not have to expose good, young players who need some seasoning to waivers but the system is what it is. He and the rest of his staff will pick the 53 players and go from there.
“We’ve just got to hope the fact that our 53 guys that we have active are the ones that we want and we’re able to keep the practice squad guys and develop them for this year, later in the year,” he said. “A lot of times they get activated or next year, like you’re saying, so, you know, that’s a calculated risk, but it’s one we have to take. We don’t have a choice.”
Even if they are able to get a player onto the practice squad, the possibility of losing him remains. If another team is willing to keep another team’s practice squad player on its roster for three games it can sign that player away from his current team. But that’s another bridge to cross once the season starts. For now, the risk and reward of the shaping your final 53 are enough to consider.