EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The NFL is likely to have a roster madhouse next week, thanks to the league's new cutdown rules.
All 32 teams start training camp with 90 players. In 2022, they had to reduce their rosters to 85 players after preseason Week 1, to 80 following Week 2 and to the regular season limit of 53 after the preseason finale.
This year, the NFL trimmed the number of cutdowns from three to one. That will take place next Tuesday, Aug. 29, when each team must lop 37 players off its roster. That means 1,184 players will hit the open market on one day. That's a lot of players to evaluate and decisions to make in a short time for teams looking to upgrade and/or fill specific needs.
"Our process doesn't change," Brandon Brown, the Giants' assistant general manager said. "The nice part is that we're really meticulous, especially with our pro department and (director of pro scouting) Chris Rossetti leading the pro department on how we go about evaluating. Whether it's the pro scouts being split up with different team assignments, (director of player personnel) Tim McDonnell and myself overseeing whether it's NFC, AFC, funneling players of interest up to (general manager) Joe (Schoen), having (assistant director of player personnel) Dennis Hickey and (executive advisor to the general manager) Ryan Cowden all filling in just in terms of canvassing the landscape.
"If there's guys that are playing well out there, there's nothing that's going to be a surprise to us, whether it's a guy that's at the cutdown, whether it's a guy who's traded in the next two weeks, we will be doing our due diligence throughout the process. So, whether teams decide to cut prematurely to a benchmark of 80 before they get down to 53, we'll be prepared. There's no curveballs or surprises on our end."
Last year, the Giants claimed five players between the final cut day and Week 1 of the regular season (tackle Tyre Phillips, guard Jack Anderson and defensive backs Nick McCloud, Jason Pinnock and Justin Layne). Will the Giants be as active next week?
"Obviously, we've elevated the talent overall of the team, but we're going to canvass everything," Brown said. "At the end of the day, when you look at it, it's going to be acquire, develop, retain. That's what we want to do. It's acquiring the best talent, developing the best talent and retaining the best talent.
"So, we're always going to look for upgrades, and sometimes where we are in the claim order, it's different than last year, right? So that preference in the claim order where we land up, it's going to be something that we monitor it, but we're going to do our due diligence. There's going to be guys that are claimed that we will have maybe four, five, six reports in on, but it might not get to us in the claim order. So, we're going to look at what the sweet spots are, where there's surplus in the market, and see if there's opportunity to help us."
Regarding player acquisitions, the aftermath of cutdown day doesn't get nearly the same attention as the draft. But all teams consider it a significant opportunity to upgrade their rosters.
"It's a point where you look at times of, where can you acquire players?" Brown said. "Whether it's the draft, whether it's the trade deadline (4 p.m. on Halloween this year), whether it's the cutdown period. I kind of say for the pro guys, it's their Super Bowl. Besides free agency, it is an acquisition point where we have the ability to improve the roster and we do our due diligence on everyone.
"I know you guys (reporters) may see stories on guys that we don't entertain, guys that we do entertain, just know we're doing our due diligence on everyone. That's the unseen work from the pro department. We set up our free agency board, our draft boards. It's no different than the preseason board. There's a board that goes across by priority and positions and we look at, 'Hey, what would be an upgrade from what we currently have and what wouldn't and why?' And then find out, especially if you look at what positions over historical data have been claimed the most. You look at defensive guys having a higher hit rate of being claimed and playing on a 53 after the cutdown than maybe some offensive guys. So, we take all that into account and try to make the most sound and informed decisions."
Brown, 35, is beginning his second season as Schoen's top aide. He joined the Giants last year after spending five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he was the director of player personnel in 2021. Brown is intimately involved with all aspects of the Giants football decision-making process.
Assistant general managers are required by the NFL to speak to the media at least twice a year. Brown held his first 2022 news conference in June. Since then, the Giants concluded their mandatory minicamp and offseason program and have been in camp for almost a month.
During that entire time, Brown has remained bullish on the Giants' seven-man 2023 draft class, headed by cornerback Deonte Banks.
"When you go back to June when we talked last, we talked about adding more guys that are smart, tough, dependable," Brown said. "It doesn't guarantee them success, but it gives them an opportunity and a platform for success. So, I think when you look at the draft class, we added explosiveness, we talked about making a conscious effort of adding generators on the offensive side, getting more explosive on the defensive side, guys that fit our brand.
"I think when you look from the top down from Joe and Dabs (coach Brian Daboll) preaching collaboration, when there's synergy between the scouting department and the coaching staff, it allows us, like I kind of label it, 'finding players within the margin,' right? There are guys that may be imperfect later on as you go in terms of on day three (of the draft), but we're asking them to do things that fit the system. That accentuates their positive traits. So, I'm excited. I'm excited. Obviously, there's been early success, but the book isn't written yet. But it's a good start right now."
Brown was asked if he's been surprised by any of the Giants' selections.
"I wouldn't label anybody as a surprise," he said. "I think we all knew that we were excited from whether you're going from Tae (Banks) in the first round to (cornerback) Tre (Hawkins III) in the sixth round. We've all been excited for all these guys when we acquired them, even (defensive tackle) Jordon (Riley) in the seventh round, G.O. (safety Gervarrius Owens)…these guys all have traits to play on Sunday. It was just a matter of marrying the development from the coaching staff to having game day traits.
"That's where the synergy comes from. Dabs preaches to the coaching staff, 'Develop these guys, our rookies, our year two guys.' There's been a high emphasis on developing their skillset. For us on the scouting side, it's making sure that they have the skillset that fits our scheme. So, it's been a good marriage so far."
So has the relationship between Brown and the Giants.
Catch up on all the action from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.