In offseason and training camp, NFL rosters are expanded to 90-players, allowing more guys to get a chance, providing for more competition, and more depth. The week after the third preseason games, however, teams will cut their roster down from the 90-players to the 53-player roster that they carry throughout the season.
That means that during that week, 1,184 players will be cut. There are two dates by which teams must reach a certain roster number: they were required to reach 75-players by today at 4:00 p.m. and then they are required to reach 53-players by Saturday. Since the first round of cuts is over for the teams, let's take a look at the moves that the Colts made to reach the 75-player limit.
Yesterday, the Colts released 11 players: CB Johnny Adams, CB Qua Cox, G Andre Cureton, G Marcus Hall, CB Kameron Jackson, WR Nu'Keese Richardson, LB Jonathon Sharpe, S David Sims, WR Eric Thomas, WR Tony Washington, FB Cameron White.
None of those moves were really surprising. The Colts cut three corners and three wide receivers, which makes sense considering how many players are at those positions, and then also considering other guys ahead of them who have impressed. Especially at wide receiver, the team is very, very deep and none of the undrafted free agents will make a team. At corner, Adams, Cox, and Jackson all got chances in camp, but none of them can claim they were cut unfairly, as they really didn't take advantage of the chance, while guys like Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Burley did.
Today, the Colts made the final four moves required to get to the required roster number, and they did so without having to cut a single player. They placed RB Vick Ballard, OT Ulrick John, and RB Deji Karim on injured reserve and placed FB Stanley Havili on the reserve/physically unable to play list.
Both Ballard and John have been injured for a couple of weeks - so why did the Colts wait so long to place them on IR? The answer lies in the fact that before now, to put them on IR required waiving them first, and then if they cleared waivers they would revert to the team's IR. Here's what I wrote near the end of July about why the Colts were waiting to IR Ballard:
The New England Patriots signed running back Tyler Gaffney, the Carolina Panthers' sixth round pick this year out of Stanford. Gaffney was injured during a training camp practice on Friday (the same day as Vick Ballard) and the knee injury will require season-ending surgery. The Panthers liked Gaffney, but there was no need for them to keep him on the active roster for this season, thus they made the move to place him on injured reserve. But there's a catch, however: if a player is placed on injured reserve during this time of year, before cuts are made, they have to first clear waivers before reverting to the team's IR. Normally, this isn't a problem, and in fact many teams consider it an unwritten rule not to claim someone in this manner. But not the Patriots, and let's be clear that they're perfectly within their rights to claim a guy. So the Patriots did claim Gaffney, even though he'll miss this season. It's not the first time the Patriots have done this, as back in 2012 they claimed injured tight end Jake Ballard from theGiants.
Thus is the reason why the Colts have yet to place Vick Ballard on IR - they simply value him too much, even though he'll miss this entire season. The Colts could place him on IR and he very well could clear waivers, but the Colts (rightly) know that with a player like Ballard, there's also a good chance that someone might claim him, and the Colts don't want to take that chance. Furthermore, it's not like the team is hard pressed for a roster spot - in fact, they've got a few still open right now that they don't appear in a huge rush to fill.
So what the delay in placing Vick Ballard and Ulrick John on injured reserve really tells us is that the Colts really value both of them and thought there was a chance they would be claimed. If they didn't, they would have already placed them on IR to free up a roster spot. I totally get it with Vick Ballard, and I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been claimed had he been waived-injured. With Ballard, it makes perfect sense to wait. I didn't think they would do the same with John - both because I didn't think someone would claim him and because I didn't think the Colts valued him enough to. Obviously, they really like John, their seventh round pick this year.
As for Deji Karim, I'm not sure what the injury was nor when it occurred, but the simple fact is that just over a week after being signed, not yet participating in any games for the Colts, Karim's season is done. We'll probably find out more information tomorrow about what exactly the injury was.
And then Stanley Havili will start the regular season on the PUP list, which means he'll be eligible to start practicing with the team starting in week seven, and then after that the Colts will have three weeks to decide whether to activate him or place him on IR. With the release of Cameron White yesterday, the Colts now have just one fullback on the roster: Mario Harvey. I think we'll see the use of a fullback really decrease this year, especially with Havili out. That said, while I think they should go without a fullback until Havili comes back, I doubt they will, and I think that Harvey will probably make the roster. Still, he hasn't been impressive and I expect the use of a fullback to decrease - which I'm not opposed to.
Overall, the most significant moves the Colts made were the ones we knew were coming, or at least had a good idea on - the decisions the Colts made with several of the injured guys. The final roster cuts are due by Saturday, and shortly after Thursday night's game against the Bengals they will probably start coming in.