The preseason games are over. And now, the Miami Dolphins must trim their current 75 man roster to a 53 man roster by tonight (Friday August 31st) at 9:00 pm (EST). Then, the preparation begins for the first game of the 2012-2013 regular season on Sunday September 9th at 1:00 pm in Houston against the Texans.
However, between tonight and next Sunday, the first official 53 man roster of the Miami Dolphins (announced at 9:00 pm) will likely change with the acquisition of newly designated free agents to fill weaknesses on the team. You see, since the cutting began on the 90 man rosters to get them down to 53 man rosters, other NFL Teams will cut more than 1,000 players by 9:00 pm tonight. That is a lot of free agents to choose from to improve the Miami Dolphins. Jeff Ireland and his staff will have a very busy weekend finding those precious “acorns” to fill weaknesses.
This article is one man’s Miami Dolphins Final 53 Man Roster Projection. This is not the 53 man roster that will be announced tonight. This is the roster for game day next Sunday. Since players who are going to be released by other teams cannot be predicted, the roster below will merely identify holes projected to be filled. It should be noted that players in strikeouts are ones who will likely make tonight’s 53 man roster, but will be replaced.
The make-up of the 53 man roster will be a balance between offense, defense, and special teams. It will include the starters plus special alignment players (e.g. nickel and dime DBs), rotational players (e.g. defensive linemen), players for special teams (e.g. WRs, DBs and LBs), and an adequate number of backups to provide for coverage in case of injury (e.g. offensive linemen).
It is important to note that the make-up of the 53 man roster will be chosen by the General Manager Jeff Ireland. Head Coach Joe Philbin will have input — maybe even Stephen Ross. But, Ireland will have the final say. Therefore, two additional considerations will come into play. Ireland will not likely give up so easily on players he has selected in the recent 2012 NFL Draft — he will want to prevent these draft picks from being poached from the practice squad. Also, Ireland has to consider the salary cap. In 2012, Ireland will likely want to extend contracts of some of players, who are currently scheduled to be free agents in 2013 (e.g. Jake Long and Sean Smith). So, some of the more expensive backups will be released to create more cap space to sign 2013 free agents.
Three special team players are a lock to be on the 53 man roster — Dan Carpenter (kicker), Brandon Fields (punter), and John Denny (long snapper). That leaves 50 additional players. I think that will break down into 26 offensive players and 24 defensive players. The greater number on offense is attributed to keeping more wide receivers for the west coast scheme, than backs or backers for the defense.
So, here is the projection for the first regular season game 53 man roster. Note that all salaries quoted in parenthesis are for 2012 (not including any signing bonuses). Also, note that the NFLPA has just approved changes to the NFL Injured/Reserve (IR) List Rule and the Trading Deadline Rule. The Trading Deadline Rule has been pushed back from Week 6 to Week 8. And, the IR Rule has been changed to allow one “marquee” player placed on injured reserve to be able to return to practice after the sixth week of the schedule and to the lineup after the eighth week — that player must be on the 53-man roster after the final preseason cut.