It is that time of year again! With the Cleveland Browns scheduled to hold their first full-squad session of training camp today, I am ready for my first 53-man roster projection of the season. This pre-training camp edition is my current "feel" for how things will go, but it could change drastically over the next couple of weeks based on reports from training camp and performances in the exhibition games.
The above list contains 53 players that I kept, and 36 players that I cut. Linebacker Scott Fujita will begin the season with a three-game suspension, but he will not count toward the roster limit during that stretch.
Every year, I fill in each player's name either on the "roster" side or the "cut" side, without tallying whether or not I have surpassed the 53-player limit. Then, I count up the left side, and if I am over 53 players, I weigh my options and decide who the "tough" cuts are. In 2009 and 2010, my initial count came to 55 players, meaning I had to cut two players I initially wanted. Last year, due to the lockout, my initial tally only came to 47 players, so I had the joy of adding a couple of guys. This year, I initially came to 54 players, meaning I had to move one guy over to the "cut" side.
General Roster Projection Notes
- In trying to get down to 53 players (from 54 players), The two positions I looked at were cornerback and running back. I originally had Chris Ogbonnaya on board as the team's fourth running back, but I decided to move him to the other side over Montario Hardesty. It was a tough decision, because I think I actually prefer Ogbonnaya at this point. I'm trying to look at it from an optimistic viewpoint that Hardesty will be a good, short-yardage/pounding back. I should have a more definitive decision on these two after the first two weeks of camp.
- My alternative was to cut James Dockery or Trevin Wade. I kept both because I think Dockery can drop down to safety, making it an even five safeties and five cornerbacks. Both guys can contribute on special teams too.
- In my initial run-through, I put defensive tackle Phil Taylor on the 53-man roster, rather than the physically unable to perform list. If he misses the first four weeks, it can be a benefit to let him start practicing in Week 5 or Week 6. With the PUP, you'd have to wait a couple of weeks longer.
Because of that decision, I knew I was going to have to cut one guy between Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering. I think both guys are pretty equivalent in their abilities, but with two rookies needing to see action (John Hughes and Billy Winn), one of the veterans were expendable. It could go either way, but Paxson has the benefit of having been healthy in minicamps/OTA's, while Schaefering sat out as he recovered form surgery. If Taylor is PUP'ed to begin the year, though, Schaefering is right back on.
Brad Smelley over Alex Smith is a popular pick right now, so I am rolling with that early on.
- Deciding on the team's sixth linebacker was kind of a crapshoot, but you have to pick someone while Fujita is suspended for the first three games. I picked Quinton Spears, and here is why: there is a good chance that the sixth guy will be waived in Week 4. Spears has special teams experience, but if you promote a guy like L.J. Fort or Benjamin Jacobs instead, you may lose some practice squad eligibility down the road. With Spears, he is no longer practice squad eligible already, and you can use him if necessary on special teams for those first couple of games.
- I decided to list Colt McCoy in the "cut" column, simply because I don't envision him remaining with the team. I think somebody will offer a low-round draft pick for him, perhaps just a conditional one, to take him off Cleveland's hands at some point.
- The asterisks represent my projected practice squad. It consists of RB Adonis Thomas, WR Josh Cooper, WR Bert Reed, OL Dominic Alford, DE Auston English, LB Benjamin Jacobs, LB L.J. Fort, and S David Sims.
Feel free to share your roster projections here, or some changes you would make to mine. Cleveland Browns training camp officially opens to the public Saturday morning!