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Math For Steve Keim, Cardinals: 90 To 53

Posted Aug 29, 2017

With only one round of roster cuts this year, NFL front offices will have whirlwind weekend

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has a large task ahead cutting from a 90-man roster -- actually 89, as of Tuesday -- down to 53 by Saturday.

Steve Keim is having the cast removed after undergoing Achilles surgery, but the Cardinals’ general manager will still have to get around with the aid of a scooter for the time being.

For the next few days, it probably doesn’t matter that Keim can’t walk around. He may not even need a bed at some point this weekend, not with as much time as he’ll have to spend in his office, finding a way to shave the full training camp roster – most teams have 90, although the Cardinals sit at 89 – all the way down to 53.

“We’ll have a plan in place,” Keim said. “We’ll be ready for it, just like the draft and free agency. But it definitely has taken some planning to be prepared for it.”

This is the first year the NFL made roster cuts a one-deadline move. Previously, teams would have had to cut from 90 to 75 heading into the final preseason game. Players hit the market. Waiver claims were made. The mass volume of available players was spread out over two weeks.

Now, more than 1,100 players will be hitting the waiver wire/free agency all at once as teams trim. Teams must cut down no later than 1 p.m. Arizona time on Saturday (the Cardinals have not released their cut lists until later Saturday afternoon the past couple of seasons.)

The decision helps teams from a health aspect, Keim said, simply because there are that many more players available for the last preseason game. The Cardinals, for instance, won’t play starters or many key backups in Denver Thursday, and in fact held a separate practices Tuesday for those playing against Denver and those prepping for the opener in Detroit.

“I love the new rule,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Look at Denver’s situation right now with (QB) Paxton Lynch hurt. Having four quarterbacks still, that was the hardest decision at 75, whether to keep that fourth guy for this game, so you don’t have to put someone back in the game.”

But it makes for a hectic cutdown time after that last game.

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“It’s just going to be a lot of information in one weekend to take in,” Keim said. “You have to make some quick decisions like you always do.

“There are so many moving parts to it all.”

Shaving the Cards’ own roster is nearly complete. Keim, the front office and coach Bruce Arians have been discussing that all along. Perhaps four or five spots among eight or nine players is all that remains to be decided.

But Keim noted the team still must compile a 10-man practice squad, and even if their own cuts make it through waivers, those players could be wooed by other teams – maybe for extra money – to go to a different practice squad. Sifting through other teams’ cuts, deciding to make a waiver claim on one or more, is that much harder given the mass exodus – even with the Cards preparing ready lists on players they guesstimate will be cut.

That doesn’t include trade talks – “Expect the phones will be burning up,” Keim said – that the Cardinals inevitably take part in, like the deal last year for cornerback Marcus Cooper.

Any player claimed off waivers must be kept on the 53-man roster for at least three weeks.

“It’s one thing to churn the roster and change out players, but you also have the philosophy that to give up on one of our own guys that we have invested some time and effort into, just to take a chance on another guy based on a whim, it’s a little unfair,” Keim said. “There are so many factors that come into play, whether it’s a player’s health, his ability to learn the system, we just want to make we are making sound decisions.”

Sound decisions despite many more players to evaluate.

“There are definitely going to be some changes and some rough edges as we go through it,” Keim said.

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