The NFL transaction wire is just days away from being overloaded with moves. For the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, ending their preseason on Saturday could lead to moves being spread out over an extra day.
Roster cuts are always interesting to predict. When projecting the Browns 53-man roster, talent is not always the deciding factor. Positional depth and value, age, injury and contracts all play a big role.
While there seems to be a large number of “locks” to make the Cleveland roster, a technical requirement could lead to one or more of those being cut at the initial 53-man time.
Players who are currently injured and likely to miss a number of games will need to be on the initial Browns roster before going onto injured reserve. To make this happen, GM Andrew Berry could cut a veteran with a plan to bring them back a day later on a similar or slightly upgraded contract.
Not being subject to waivers, veterans with more than four years of service would be used for this and not a younger player Cleveland wants to hold on to. The Browns did this a few years back when they released OL Greg Robinson despite being the team’s starting left tackle at the time:
This is strictly a procedural move by Cleveland. Robinson is not subject to waivers, he's going to re-sign and he'll be with them Week 1. https://t.co/vHCvrznYrG— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 1, 2019
That move allowed Cleveland to carry OL Drew Forbes on their initial roster before placing him on injured reserve and re-signing Robinson.
This year, a number of players could play the role of Robinson and Forbes from 2019.
DEs Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas had surgery during the preseason and are expected to miss the start of the regular season. RB Jerome Ford has been dealing with a hamstring issue that could limit him early in 2023. Among a number of other players, there is uncertainty around WR Marquise Goodwin and TE Harrison Bryant going into the season.
Playing the role of Robinson as a surprising veteran release could be a wide variety of players like LBs Anthony Walker, Sione Takitaki and Jordan Kunaszyk, DL Shelby Harris, WR Jakeem Grant and OL Michael Dunn, among many others. The key, for cap purposes, is cutting a veteran with just one year left on their contract.
Given the Browns playoff goals, talented roster and current injury concerns, it is likely that the team’s initial 53-man roster and Week 1 53-man roster are different.