When are NFL roster cuts 2021? Deadline date, rules, practice squad salary, and more

NFL roster cuts, deadlines, and practice squad salaries can be a complicated mess to follow. What important dates and rules are there?

NFL roster cuts go down to 53 players, with the August 31 deadline fast approaching. What does the practice squad salary look like, and how many players can be on a practice squad? Also, what players are and are not allowed to be stashed there? We have followed the action from 90 players to 80 in our NFL cuts tracker. Now, 27 players from 32 different teams will be out of a job — that’s 864 young men. Send some positive vibes to them and your favorite NFL media members over the next few days.

When is the deadline for NFL roster cuts?

What date and time does the NFL need to have their roster cuts in by?

Date: August 31
Time: 4 PM ET

Currently, teams are still allowed to carry up to 80 players. Some have already begun the devastating process of telling these young men it’s not going to work out. For some, their NFL dreams are over. Others will be back at it again next season. A good portion will find their way onto practice squads, while others end up on a 53-man roster in a new uniform. Some will even make a difference on their new teams.

We already hit the dates for the 90-to-85 roster size on August 17 and the 85-to-80 roster cut on August 24.

Rules surrounding the deadline for NFL roster cuts

Luckily, the NFL spells these rules out in an easy-to-find fashion, with some lenient language (compared to some of its other rules).

All teams must cut down to a 53-man roster by 4 PM New York time, where the NFL offices are located. However, it’s not that simple for the teams. See, they have players on PUP or the Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness list as well. This gives teams a few options from the NFL rule book:

“Place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; terminate or request waivers with the designation of Failed Physical or Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.”

Additionally, teams will keep players active and then designate them to injured reserve (IR). Then, teams may bring back players they’d just terminated to add to the 53-man active roster.

That’s why some veterans who should be a shoo-in to make it through the NFL roster cuts do not but then quickly return to their team. Younger players can be subject to the waiver process, which takes the ball out of the team’s court.

Players on PUP or the NFI lists can’t practice with the team, but they also don’t count toward the roster total. Players on PUP may not return to action until Week 7 of the NFL season.

The new IR rules are popular

Instead of only allowing two players to return from IR throughout the season, teams may bring back an unlimited number of players. Furthermore, it takes only three weeks for a player to become eligible to return to practice. From there, they have another three weeks to add them back to the active roster.

It’s a bit reminiscent of a rehab stint in baseball, except NFL teams do not have a minor league. Therefore, the player may practice without counting toward the roster total. The previous IR designation forced players to miss at least eight weeks before returning to action. The new rules create more flexibility for NFL rosters.

The NFL implemented this for the 2020 season due to COVID, but it looks like it’s here to stay. And that wasn’t the only good change they made.

Practice squad rules

The global pandemic spawned a new wrinkle to the practice squad format. The NFL originally planned on slowly increasing the squad size, but with so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020 NFL season, they raised the practice squad size from 12 to 16 players. It was a win for everyone that matters.

The practice squad rules aren’t necessarily difficult to follow, but there are more rules than one might expect:

  • Expansion of practice squads to 16 players, including up to six with an unlimited amount of accrued seasons.
  • The ability to protect up to four practice squad players per week from being signed by other teams.
  • Elevation of up to two practice squad players to the active roster, without removing any current players, before 4 PM ET the day before a game.
  • Elevation of an additional practice squad player within 90 minutes before kickoff in the event of a late COVID-19 positive test result.

Practice squad salary

The practice squad salary rules also have a bit of nuance to them, depending on the player’s status. Players with fewer than two accrued seasons will make $9,200/week. For the potential six players with more than two seasons under their belt, it’s even sweeter. They’ll make $14,000/week throughout the season.

Starting next season, there will be a different scale for the veteran players that slides depending on service time.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch


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