The Cincinnati Bengals are working to create the best possible 53-man roster and practice squad to head into the regular season. Here's a look at everything you'll need to know to keep up with the roster cuts and events leading up to the regular season opener against the Jets.
When is the cut deadline?
All 32 NFL teams are required to be at the 53-man limit by today, Saturday, September 3, 2015 at 4:00 PM EST.
Will the Bengals roster created on Saturday be the one we see in Week 1 against the Jets on September 11?
The Bengals will tweak their roster throughout the days leading up to the Week 1 opener and then throughout the season with injuries, players coming off PUP, free agent additions and other changes to the open market.
To start things off, William Jackson III and Cedric Peerman need to make the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the Designation to Return later in the year. So, once they’re moved to I.R., two players will join or rejoin the team on the 53-man roster. Additionally, when Vontaze Burfict’s suspension ends in Week 3, the Bengals will need to cut a player to make room for his removal from the Reserve/Suspension list.
Depending on cuts around the league, the Bengals could make further tweaks to improve their roster if players of interest become available. Former Bengals running backs James Wilder Jr. and Dan “Boom” Herron were both early roster cuts by the Bills and could be of interest to the Bengals, at least for a workout.
The Bengals may look to claim a player on waivers (more on that below!) or sign a free agent they're fond of, and subsequently release one of the players who originally makes the team in order to make room for that other player. There's also the possibility of a trade being made before or after the final roster is set.
What about the practice squad?
Here are details on how the practice squad works and who’s eligible. The Bengals can sign up to 10 players to their practice squad, which doesn't count against the 53-man roster. Not all players are eligible for the practice squad. Eligibility is limited to players who have been on an active roster for fewer than six games, or were on a 45-man active gameday roster for fewer than nine games. Players can only be on the practice squad for two years, with the exception of four players on each team’s practice squad (a new rule for this year, up from two players) who can have up to three years of NFL experience.
In order to get to the practice squad, a player must clear waivers. After 24 hours when he clears waivers, he becomes a free agent, and then can sign with any team for their practice squad, or 53-man roster. Players on the practice squad can be signed to a team’s 53-man roster at any time, with one exception. Teams cannot poach practice squad players from their weekly opponent in the five days leading up to a game, or nine days during a bye week. A team that does sign a practice squad player from another team must keep him on their active roster for at least three weeks, or pay him for at least three weeks of service.
Teams can start to form their practice squad after 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, September 4 and by Monday most teams will have a 10-player practice squad set. Though, these can be changed at any time.
These Bengals technically have practice squad eligibility, though, of course, many of them would never be on or make it to the practice squad. (Note: Only four of the 10 practice squad players can have three years of experience. A year of NFL experience is determined by a player playing in six or more games during an NFL season, so for that reason, players like Bronson Hill and Jake Kumerow who have never played in an NFL regular-season game are not considered second year players nor rookies, but first year players. This is also why AJ McCarron is considered a second year player though this is his third year in the NFL; he didn’t play in any games during his rookie season of 2014.)
What is the NFL waiver wire and how does it work?
You'll find a full breakdown of the NFL waiver wire here. When a player is cut and has less than four years of service time, he is placed on waivers. All 31 other teams can then place a claim on the player in an attempt to add him to their 53-man roster. Teams have 24 hours to place a claim on a player.
If a player goes unclaimed through waivers, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team. The waiver wire order is the same as the 2016 NFL Draft order, so the Bengals will have the 24th-best priority, while the Titans have the top priority and the Browns the second best priority. The Broncos have the worst priority among the order due to winning the Super Bowl. The waiver wire order remains the same until the day after Week 3 of the regular season, (the same day that Burfict’s suspension will end) at which point the team with the worst record has the best priority and the full order is based on the inverse of teams’ win-loss record.
A vested veteran — a player who has acquired four years of NFL experience — is not subject to the waiver system upon release. Vested veterans become immediate free agents, free to negotiate and sign with any other NFL club. This is the case from the trading deadline through the end of the regular season.