From the Press Box: Roster Cuts Are Coming

Defensive end Michael Sam is on the roster bubble in St. Louis. Might he get cut?

St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam by Rick Osentoski—USA TODAY Sports.

St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam by Rick Osentoski—USA TODAY Sports.

The long, cold slog through the preseason is finally out of the way and now we get on with the real business of NFL football. Next week will start things off on Thursday with the Seattle Seahawks and a team you might have heard of from Wisconsin.

I hear they’re something of a big deal around these parts.

We’ll take a bit of a look at the rest of the games next week, but there are a few things to cover this week.

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"

In his book Slow Getting Up, former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson called the job “The Grim Reaper." Other guys have other names for him, many of them unprintable in a family-friendly space like this. Whatever you call them, they are the guys nobody wants to see coming down the hallway towards them—the cut-down guys. Their really awesome job is going to grab a player and take them to a coach’s office so that they can be informed that their dreams are over, at least temporarily.

THAT JOB SOUNDS AWESOME.

Over the next two days (ending at 4 p.m. on Saturday), teams will be making their final cuts to the 53-man roster. It’s got to be one of the most tense 48 or so hours for players on the bubble, aging vets fighting for a job and bottom-of-the-depth-chart guys.

If you’d like to keep track of the league-wide bloodletting, CBS Sports is keeping a running tally of cuts.

Having been rejected, released and “not retained,” my heart goes out to players who are cut over the next few days. Sure, some will land elsewhere (one of the most fascinating aspects of this period is who lands where and why) but a lot of these guys have to take stock and decide if this is going to be worth all the time and effort they put in.

I follow a few guys on Facebook who are in the CFL, minor pro leagues and arena leagues and watching them continue to fight for their dreams is both inspiring and hard.

Thursday night was the last night for most of these guys to impress not only the team they were on but the teams they aren’t. Because if they get cut but did well, they’ll have a landing spot.

A few predictions:

New York Jets receiver Stephen Hill will be able to shorten his title to “receiver Stephen Hill” when they cut him. He was as mediocre Thursday night as he has been for his whole career. As shallow as the Jets are at receiver, he’s dead weight.

 

Michael Sam will stick with the Rams even if he doesn’t has done enough to get signed elsewhere. The Rams were already a tough team to make before they added UDFA Ethan Westbrooks, who has had a fantastic preseason. It’s an embarrassment of riches for them at a position they are deep at. I don’t think they keep both Westbrooks and Sam, but they could. I also don’t think either one makes the practice squad, though again, they could. My gut says if Sam is cut, he is picked up in the 24-hour span before he hits the Rams practice squad.

 

Derek Carr won’t start Week 1 for the Raiders, but he should. I might be writing on this for Sports on Earth this coming week but haven’t seen my assignments yet. It’s amazing to me that two years in a row, the Raiders have acquired a veteran quarterback who cost them a bunch of money and then watched as that veteran was outplayed by a rookie or young player. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a sign they have no clue what they’re doing but it’s fascinating to watch.

 

Sean Gilbert has some high aspirations

You might have seen that retired NFL player Sean Gilbert is making a bid to replace DeMaurice Smith as head of the NFLPA. Now you may or may not like what Smith has done in his term—I’m constantly split—but he hasn’t done so well that the players shouldn’t listen to other offers.

Still, Gilbert might have bitten off more than he can chew.

You can read his whole platform here, but here are the most important points (as pointed out by Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com):

1.     Terminate the CBA

Let’s stop right there. So the decade-long labor peace we’re supposed to have will be shot immediately. OK, I can’t say I like that much. Gilbert says he has proof that the owners have violated the CBA—something I wouldn’t be shocked by at all—and had set a secret salary cap during the uncapped 2010 season.

That said, you know how Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was killed for saying the NFL would collapse on itself? Yeah this might be that.

I’m not saying the CBA couldn’t be redone, but I will say that this would likely involve a work stoppage and I feel fans wouldn’t stand for it, especially if it cost too much of the season.

So there’s issue number one.

2.     A $1 million minimum salary

3.     Reducing rookie contracts to three years, with renegotiation allowed after one

4.     Free agency after three years

5.      Removing commissioner Roger Goodell from his role as "judge, jury and executioners on matters of player discipline"

Let’s pause again for No. 5 as this is one that both fans and players will be on board with.

Goodell has been wildly inconsistent with suspensions, a fact highlighted by the whole Ray Rice debacle and this week’s backpedal.

I could see people being on board with this if there was a reasonable alternative solution offered.

6.     Roster size increasing from 53 to 57

7.     100 percent cash spending of the annual salary cap

8.     A contract dissolution benefit that awards players 10 percent of nonguaranteed money lost after early termination of a contract.

That eighth point Seifert listed is an interesting one as the NFL doesn’t have the fully guaranteed contracts of MLB and the NBA—to its benefit most of the time. The problem is that the guaranteed money most players get isn’t significant unless you’re Peyton Manning. So if you’re a middle-of-the-roster type guy, your guaranteed money isn’t going to get you very far if you don’t see the end of your four-year contract.

It’s an interesting problem.

In order to get these things, Gilbert is apparently willing to shorten the preseason to two games and lengthen the regular season to 18.

That might not fly so well with the players.

We’ll see how this works out down the road. It’s ambitious, and maybe a bit too much to achieve but you have to think that there is a segment of players not happy with Smith who are willing to listen.

 

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, enjoy some college football and we’ll get back together next week to talk about the regular season and that game with the mystery team the Seahawks are playing.

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Comments (6)

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zoellner25's picture

August 29, 2014 at 03:41 pm

If Sam gets cut, what the hell is ESPN going to cover?

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Evan's picture

August 29, 2014 at 03:45 pm

If Sam gets cut, he'll get picked up immediately.

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sonomaca's picture

August 29, 2014 at 03:49 pm

Yeah, the do have a fetish, don't they.

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Icebowler's picture

August 29, 2014 at 09:07 pm

Does Sam speak Canadian?

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DraftHobbyist's picture

August 30, 2014 at 03:13 am

Michael Sam clearly deserves a roster spot with his special teams and defensive play. Not only has he been good against the pass with his sacks, he's also been very good against the run. That means he's not cheating to get his sacks.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 30, 2014 at 03:16 pm

Shortening rookie contracts to 3 years and allowing renegotiation after 1 (is that just for 1st rounders?) might well spell the doom of draft and develop. At the very least it would change the emphasis.

What I look for in these kind of reports is anything that imperils the financial viability of small market teams like the packers. The existence of a cap and of revenue sharing are the two of the most important issues.

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