Saturday we celebrate one of the great fallacies in the NFL. Final roster cuts. The final 53-man roster.
There's actually nothing final about it at all.
Roster churn is a constant in this league and, if anything, teams having to trim down to 53 players Saturday actually spurs another flurry of activity that will carry through the weekend. With hundreds of players hitting the waiver wire, the cycle isn't ending, it's just beginning.
In reality, Monday is more of a realistic soft "deadline" as generally teams will be using the 53 players they have assembled at that time to begin the process of practicing and preparing for Week 1. Even then, injuries will complicate things. But trust me, veteran bubble players won't be popping any champagne tonight, because they know their team might very well claim a younger player off waivers Sunday, who plays the same position, and then said veteran is calling his agent hoping he can catch on somewhere else.
For veterans, next weekend is more of a holy grail. Vested veterans who are on a roster through Week 1 get their salaries guaranteed (and even then, a guarantee isn't always truly a guarantee, but in the world of pro football, little is). Just because teams send out press releases with those 53 names on it Saturday doesn't mean this process has halted at all, for executives, coaches and players alike.
Each time a player is claimed off waivers, we get another round of activity. Then, after Week 1, when teams can sign veteran free agents not currently with teams, we get another mini rush of activity, with teams more willing to gamble on older players with questionable health knowing that their base salaries are not guaranteed.
And, finally, as one GM pointed out to me, don't forget about Week 4. That's when roughly 20 players will be coming off suspensions, and as those players are added back to active rosters, it generally means someone else if hitting the waiver wire or becoming an unrestricted free agent. For teams like the Jaguars and Raiders -- so slim on talent and starting the season very high on the waiver pecking order -– these remain valuable times to continue to try to assemble assets.
Getting down to 53 players is just one step in the ongoing dance to secure personnel. It's necessary. It signals the transition from preseason to the regular season and, unfortunately, leads to dreams dying for proud men across this country.
But it's anything but final.
Can Dolphins protect Tannehill?
Very interested to see the pass protection afforded to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill early this season. Left tackle Johnathan Martin remains a question mark, and without a doubt, the development of this second-year passer will be vital to any strides this franchise makes.
Martin struggled -– mightily at times -– having to go head-to-head with Miami's top pass rusher Cam Wake throughout camp and the preseason. Several team sources said it wasn't pretty to watch. However, in games, against, generally, defensive ends without Wake's prowess, Martin graded out pretty well.
It's not a ringing endorsement, but perhaps the situation isn't as dire as it looked a few weeks ago. Regardless, it will be one of the critical things to watch in the AFC East, should any club there actually be able to muster anything close to a challenge to New England.
With the Jets as chaotic as ever and the Bills in a quarterback crunch, the Dolphins are the only other option, and while the Dolphins might be the second-best team in that division I'm not sure it will be close.
The Dolphins worked out veteran tackle Winston Justice a while back and will continue to monitor that shallow free-agent market (Wayne Hunter, anyone?), with every hope that Martin doesn't force them to make a move. Expect teams to challenge him right away.
Miami is hoping first-round pick Dion Jordan can strengthen his shoulder and add muscle in general to his frame, but I'm not sure they get much of an impact from him in the first half of the season. That will hurt, too, with teams able to continue focusing energy on stopping Wake.
This will be a big weekend for veteran corners. Some believe the 49ers will be parting ways with Nnamdi Asamugha, given the depth, the limitations of how he can be utilized, and the fact he doesn't offer much in terms of special teams. ...
Titans reserve tackle Byron Stingily is someone to watch ahead of the roster deadline. Several teams have interest in him, believing he has starting potential, and offensive line is the rare position in which the Titans actually have depth. Stingily has been playing on the right but some scouts believe he projects better on the left side.
I would anticipate a trade developing, given other roster holes Tennessee needs to fill. There is an acute need for capable offensive linemen league-wide, and San Diego is one club that immediately pops to mind.
Stingily is in his third year out of Louisville and his size alone (6-foot-5, 318 pounds) makes him intriguing. He started the final two games of 2012 at right tackle and he was a sixth-round pick in 2011. ...
Several scouts watching the Bills in the preseason believed the offense they were going to run with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel would look very little like what the team was displaying in the exhibition games. Divisional opponents were bracing for plenty of pistol formations and Manuel out in space, but given all the time he missed in the preseason after what the team called minor surgery -– I heard it was a meniscus repair -– it's still iffy as to when exactly he will be back and even then, if the Bills will curtail some of the read option stuff as he works back into full game shape and health.