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It’s Roster Cutdown Week

NFL: New York Jets-Training Camp Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s roster cutdown week. Wait, what? I thought that happened at the end of August. Well, sure, if you want to get all technical about it, the end of August is the REAL roster cutdown week. But this week is kind of a mini version. Allow me to explain.

The New York Jets selected 10 players in the 2021 NFL Draft. Draft picks are added to the roster immediately upon being selected, though their cap hits don’t register until they actually sign their contracts. Adding the 10 drafted players to the 75 already on the roster, after the draft the Jets have 85 players on the roster.

As soon as the draft is over, reports begin to trickle in about the undrafted free agents signed by the team. Various reports to date have the Jets signing at least 12 undrafted free agents. Adding those players to the roster would give the Jets at least 97 players on the roster. But the offseason roster is capped at 90 players. No team can have more than 90 players on the roster at any time. So what gives?

The answer lies in the fluid nature of the undrafted free agent contracts. Reports are often couched in language like “so and so is expected to sign with the Jets.” Most often those reports turn out to be true, but every once in a while an undrafted free agent changes his mind before signing, or the original report is inaccurate, and said undrafted free agent never makes it onto the roster. As of today it’s likely few, if any, of the reported Jets undrafted free agent signings actually have signed contracts in hand, so they are not yet on the roster. Even after they sign, until the Jets submit the paperwork to league headquarters, the signings aren’t official and the players are not yet on the roster. But if things go as they usually do this time of year, in a few days the Jets will officially announce the signing of most, if not all, of the undrafted free agents reported to be headed this way. Before that happens, room will need to be made on the Jets roster so that they don’t go over the 90 player cap. That means that in the next few days several players currently on the Jets roster are likely to be cut, traded or placed on one of the various reserved lists. So you should expect to see a flurry of back end of the roster moves over the next week or so.

For those of you wondering how such and such player is still on the Jets roster since the team shouldn’t waste the cap space, those cap cuts probably won’t happen at this time. The Jets do not currently need the cap space to sign the draft class. If the need arises to fit in some additional free agents, we might see additional cuts then. But for now, players like Jamison Crowder and Alex Lewis and Ryan Griffin, or whomever is your favorite potential cap casualty, are likely to remain on the roster for a while. Why? Because they represent insurance. Injuries happen. Suspensions happen. Guys inexplicably suffering precipitous declines in the level of their play happen. Stuff happens. And when stuff happens, those players who currently look like goners might suddenly look like emergency starters or valued backups. So the team will likely bring the veterans who may have less than ideal contracts to camp and wait. Wait until there is clarity on who will be healthy and available and good fits for the new schemes. Or wait until a trade market materializes and they can get something back for one or two of the players who might otherwise be cut. So yes, eventually we will likely see some of our favorite whipping boys cut or traded. But probably not quite yet. For now, look for a handful of guys you may not have even been aware were on the roster to be cut or placed on a reserve list. The numbers make this inevitable. It’s roster cutdown week, the mini-version, and the heads of the Jets back of the roster players should not rest easy.