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NFL Changes Active Game Day Rosters From 45 to 46 Players

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This could be interesting. The NFL has announced that they have dropped their third quarterback rule, which means teams will be allowed to dress 46 players on game day in 2011 rather than 45. Traditionally, teams have been dressing their starting quarterback and a backup and have prayed to the football gods that they didn't lose both players in one game and have to rely on their "emergency" inactive quarterback.

In other words, a team can insert its third-string quarterback for a short period at any point in the game, then take him out and put the starter back in. Previously, the first and second quarterbacks couldn't re-enter the game if the No. 3 quarterback played before the fourth quarter.

Now teams will be able to dress a third quarterback, if that's what they choose to do, which could make things fairly interesting. Teams won't really need to dress three quarterbacks that are carbon copies of each other mainly because it's so unlikely that the third-string quarterback, let alone the second stringer, will ever step foot on the field. However, if teams purposefully found third-string quarterbacks that played a different style of football, like a scrambling quarterback, teams could use them occasionally in wildcat formations to throw off defenses. 

Of course this could have potentially large ramifications for free agent quarterbacks, undrafted free agents or even former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor who will enter the Supplemental Draft, who could excel in wildcat formations because of their athletic ability and their speed. 

This could also potentially be very important for the Bengals. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will likely lead the offense in 2011 under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast offense. However, the team could mix things up a little, while taking a little pressure off Dalton, by adding a third string quarterback that could run the ball as well as throw. Of course that means that the Bengals would have to drop either Jordan Palmer or Dan LeFevour, or both, and sign a scrambling quarterback. The team is already expected to sign a veteran quarterback to give the team some added experience at the position.

Of course teams don't have to use the extra game-day roster spot on a third-string quarterback. Many teams would see greater value in adding depth at a different position than they could use it more than at quarterback. Teams with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees aren't likely to pull out their starters, especially when their offense wins without a scrambling quarterback. If they feel they could use the extra depth at a different position, they'll take advantage of the new rule.

But the most likely result of the change to 46 active players on Sunday may just be that teams will add another active player to another position and keep two quarterbacks active on Sundays. For most teams, having extra depth at another position will be more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the Bengals decide to use their extra roster spot on a scrambling quarterback or to use it to help add depth to another position on the field. Of course we won't know anything until the players sign off on a new CBA, which will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.