How the 55 player roster limit affects Browns cutdowns

Browns, Johnny Stanton IV. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Johnny Stanton IV. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Browns, like other NFL teams, can temporarily add two players from the practice squad to their 53-player roster, giving them 55 players, but there are some risks. 

The Cleveland Browns can use the temporary promotion rule regarding the practice squad to their advantage, giving them up to 55 players on opening day instead of 53 if they want. Likewise, the game day active roster size increases to 48 instead of the usual 46.

The two extra players come from the practice squad, a group of 16 players. If you want the full dope, it’s contained in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, Article 33, supplemented by amendments in 2021 and 2022. Unlike baseball, the practice squad players don’t exclusively belong to the Browns, but can be signed by any of the other 31 NFL teams.

There are also rules that favor first year players, but teams can have up to 10 players with two accrued seasons, and up to six players with unlimited accrued seasons. Unless you are a true numbers geek, you can just remember that there are 16 players, and not all of them can be veterans, but most of them can be.

There’s a limited protection rule, which allows teams to protect up to four players starting at 4:00 Tuesday of game week. That’s not much protection. What it means is that the other team is going to have to sign your guy on Monday or Tuesday, rather than wait until later in the week to decide if their guy’s hamstring is feeling better or not.

The main thing to remember is that the team does not have 100 percent protection, and they have to put their player on the 53-player roster if they want to be sure that the player is under their control.

So here’s how it benefits the Browns – if there are one or two players who can clear waivers but can help the team in Week 1 versus Carolina, go ahead and cut them and sign them to the practice squad and “elevate” them to the team as players 54 and 55 on the active roster. It’s not a foolproof plan, because another team might claim them on waivers or they might sign with someone else’s practice squad. Call it a calculated risk.

If it works, there are two additional rosters spots that can be used for other players.

Candidates could be, for example, a situational run-stopper on defense who is not as good as the other players overall, but who might be first string on the goal-line, short-yardage unit, say. On offense, he could be a short yardage back or a fullback. Or it could be a player who is really good on special teams and Mike Priefer wants to play him in Week 1.

On defense, if Willie Harvey makes the team on the grounds that he is the best in pass coverage, fine. But maybe in short yardage, the Browns might want to add an additional run-stopping linebacker like Jordan Kunaszyk or Dakota Allen. So perhaps one or there could be a temporary promotion candidate in week one.

Or perhaps there is a 330 pound run-stopping defensive tackle from another team who could be added to the practice squad when cuts are made around the league. But we should be thinking of a specialty player who will actually see game action rather than a general backup who will ride the bench and just clap his hands and cheer for the Browns. Otherwise, there is not much point in applying the rule.

On offense, one player who stands out is Johnny Stanton. With fullbacks going the way of the dinosaurs around the NFL, this fan believes Stanton will probably clear waivers. He’s not going to make the team as TE3 over rookie Nakia Griffin-Stewart. However, with Deshaun Watson on an 11-game suspension, the T-Rex may be given a reprieve.

Stanton could easily be used in Week 1 to block for Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Co. Thus look for Stanton to be cut, waived, signed to the practice squad and given a temporary promotion, so that he actually plays versus Carolina.

However, after three games as an active player (this is a change from last year, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, when the previous limit was two games per player), the Browns must decide to give him a true roster spot on the 53-player roster or return him to the practice squad pool.

Next. 3 receivers the Browns can still sign before the 2022 regular season. dark