Cut-down day remains one of the most fascinating days of the season.
Often the decisions are surprising, but so much of the day is getting a chance to get inside the heads of the decision-makers on teams. Coaches and general managers have had visions of their final 53-man rosters for weeks. Injuries, suspensions and trade possibilities usually cause adjustments.
As Saturday's cuts file in, let's look at some trends.
• There was no way Robert Griffin III was going to be cut or traded by the Washington Redskins. As much as some people in the Redskins' organization might have voted for such a move, owner Dan Snyder stands by RG III. For that reason, the team is willing to let him go into the season as a backup to Kirk Cousin. His $3.27 million base salary is guaranteed, so trading him would be tough. The risk is if he does play and suffers a bad injury, the team is on the hook for his $16.16 million salary next year. That fifth-year option is injury guaranteed.
• Coaches continue to feel as though they can get through the start of the season with only two quarterbacks on the roster. To a certain degree, that's what cost Tim Tebow a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles. Friday's trade of Matt Barkley to Arizona opened the luxury of Eagles coach Chip Kelly keeping Tebow, but Kelly decided to cut Tebow on Saturday. Although it's possible Kelly could bring Tebow back before the start of the season or after the first game, the coach likely felt there were better options for the team. Expect more than 16 teams to keep only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster by the start of the season. In the meantime, there needs to be a developmental league started to improve the skills of the third quarterbacks who aren't getting a chance.
• Injuries caused several teams problems, particularly those that forced teams to place players on the injured reserve list. The Steelers are the prime example of such a problem. To get down to 53, they had to put 15 players on some form of an injured reserve list. That list ate up more than $11 million of cap room. The team had to go to three players to restructure contracts to come up with about $6 million of cap relief. Normally a team might plan for $4 million to $6 million for injuries and injury settlement. Heading into Saturday's cuts, there were 184 players leaguewide on reserve lists, eating up $167 million of cap room.
• The early cuts were hard on punters. Steve Weatherford (New York Giants), Brandon Fields (Miami Dolphins), Michael Koenen (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dave Zastudil (Arizona Cardinals were cut. Earlier this summer, Andy Lee was traded from San Francisco to Cleveland. All were replaced by younger, less expensive punters.
• It's hard to find trade value late in the preseason. Trading guard Andy Levitre to Atlanta gave the Tennessee Titans only a sixth-round pick next year and a conditional pick in 2017. Tackle Chris Clark went from Denver to Houston for a seventh. The Indianapolis Colts had to send the Oakland Raiders only a sixth-round pick for linebacker Sio Moore. Fans always talk about trading players to accumulate draft choices for the future. The problem with that is the acquiring team is rarely offering anything better than a fourth-round pick. Most of the trades of late have come in for sixth- and seventh-round picks.
• Because of the spike in ACL and Achilles injuries this summer, there's an uptick in starters on the injured reserve list. From 2000 to 2014, nine to 12 starters annually began the season on the reserve list. This year, there will be at least 13. Six starters have ACL tears. Four starters have Achilles' tears. The 25 ACL tears (starts and nonstarters combined) to this point are slightly ahead of the 22 from last year at this point, but less than the 27 in 2013 and 31 in 2014. This spike in ACL and Achilles' injuries has nothing to do with the hitting in practices and the preseason games. Twenty-four of the ACL tears were in noncontact situations.