Teams must be down to the 53-man roster limit at 4 p.m. ET on the NFL's Aug. 29 cutdown day. General managers and coaching staffs around the league are well aware of their roster constraints and the decisions they face, which often creates a dialogue with other teams to either get something of value in exchange for a player at a position of strength or to acquire a player who may be the missing piece in filling out a roster.
A total of 15 trades occurred during the month of August last year; down from 21 the prior year. None have occurred this year.
The final week of preseason games is important for fringe roster players to audition for not only their current team, but also the other 31 franchises. Players who do not make the 53-man roster will be susceptible to the waiver system, which means they can be claimed by any other team in order of worst to best record last season. If the player goes through waivers unclaimed, then the initial team has the right to add that player to the practice squad.
Below are some of the units across the league that could be under the watchful eyes of personnel evaluators:
Eagles defensive tackles
The inclusion of the Eagles defensive tackles may come as a surprise because that is a unit with question marks. However, teams are always in the market for interior defensive tackle help and the defending NFC champions have some options who could serve as functional depth elsewhere. Beyond Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, the Eagles have an assortment of body types and skill sets: Milton Williams, Kentavius Street, Marlon Tuipulotu, Moro Ojomo, Marvin Wilson, etc. General manager Howie Roseman may be able to flip one for draft compensation.
Philadelphia's cornerbacks were also a prime candidate for this list prior to the team's decision to release Greedy Williams. Eli Ricks and Mekhi Garner have performed well this preseason and applied some pressure to decision-makers.
The running back group is also fully stocked. Despite allowing Miles Sanders to walk in free agency, Roseman signed Rashaad Penny and traded for D'Andre Swift. Kenneth Gainwell may be the running back who gets the majority of carries because of his efficiency. Boston Scott, Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks round out the depth chart.
Lions edge rushers
It is evident how head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes wanted to build this roster: fortify the offensive and defensive lines, then build out. They brought in Charles Harris and John Cominsky from other programs, then used draft capital on Josh Paschal, Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston. Romeo and Julian Okwara could be trade chips used to upgrade other positions.
Romeo Okwara signed a 3-year deal worth $37 million in March of 2021 but has been limited to just nine games played over the past two seasons. His younger brother has seven sacks over the past two seasons and is just 25 years old.
Houston is expected to keep No. 2 overall selection C.J. Stroud and veteran Case Keenum on the roster. It is a similar model that the Browns and Bills used when Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen were early in their careers. Keenum serves as an extension of the coaching staff and is a valuable sounding board for Stroud.
While Davis Mills offers a higher ceiling at the position than Keenum, the organization may not want the locker room taking sides between the previous starting quarterback and the incumbent. The outcome could lead to the exportation of Mills, who has started 26 games since being drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Carolina could be in a similar situation with No. 1 overall selection Bryce Young and veteran Andy Dalton backing him up. Matt Corral could be the odd man out despite not having a chance to play on Sundays yet.
Browns offensive line
Cleveland's starting offensive line, when healthy, is locked in place: Jedrick Wills Jr., Joel Bitonio, Ethan Pocic, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin. Rookies Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler have played too well for the Browns to expose them to the waiver system. There are seven spots accounted for before considering center Nick Harris, who was expected to start a year ago, 2021 fourth-round pick James Hudson, veteran offensive tackle Derrick Kelly, interior offensive lineman Michael Dunn, who has appeared in 28 games and started four in three years, and second-year offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr., who looks the part and moves well.
The Browns have a wealth of edge rushers as well. Beyond Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith, the team has drafted Isaiah Thomas, Alex Wright and Isaiah McGuire over the past two years, in addition to signing free agent Ogbo Okoronkwo. Thomas and Wright underwent surgeries earlier this month and could miss time early in the season.
Raiders defensive tackles
Las Vegas has used four draft choices on the position over the past two years: Neil Farrell Jr., Matthew Butler, Byron Young and Nesta Jade Silvera. Those four join a trio of veterans: Jerry Tillery, Bilal Nichols and John Jenkins. The Raiders may not have a difference-maker at the position but they do have depth that another team could look to poach as they attempt to fill out their roster.
Giants wide receivers
The Giants have worked hard to address the wide receiver room over the past year. They essentially did that without getting rid of the existing wide receivers minus Kenny Golladay. Isaiah Hodgins did a good job carving out a role for himself while the team dealt with injury at the position. Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Hodgins and Wan'Dale Robinson return while Jalin Hyatt and Parris Campbell were added during the offseason.
New York could keep all of those players, especially if Robinson opens the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The Giants also have veterans like Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley and Collin Johnson. Rookie Bryce Ford-Wheaton has pushed hard to make the roster as well.
Cardinals offensive line
There is concern about Arizona's interior offensive line but the Cardinals do seem to have a rotation with Elijah Wilkinson, Hjalte Froholdt, Will Hernandez, Dennis Daley and Jon Gaines II. D.J. Humphries and Paris Johnson Jr. are locked in on the corners with Kelvin Beachum and Josh Jones serving as depth. Versatility is key for this team as a handful of those players have been cross-trained through their careers. Johnson, who was taken No. 6 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, played left tackle and left guard for Ohio State. The Cardinals are playing him at right tackle early in his career. Jones could be the odd man out and there will be no shortage of teams jockeying for his services.
Colts tight ends
Tight ends Jelani Woods and Kylen Granson finished in the top five among Colts receiving leaders last season. Mo Alie-Cox was not much further down the list. General manager Chris Ballard then used a fifth-round choice on Miami tight end Will Mallory. Pharaoh Brown was signed from Cleveland and Ricky Seals-Jones, Nick Eubanks and Michael Jacobson are well-traveled since entering the league as undrafted free agents. It would not be a surprise if Indianapolis was able to flip one for help at another position.
Bills edge rushers
Buffalo may not be in a position to move one of these pass rushers right now but it will not stop other teams from calling. The Bills may be more inclined to make a move closer to the trade deadline in October because Von Miller is on the PUP list and may not return until later in the season. While the numbers are a little tight right now, the franchise has learned the value of depth in that role.
Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa have been drafted to turn this into a position of strength. Shaq Lawson and Leonard Floyd were signed this offseason to account for Miller's injury. Lawson was drafted No. 19 overall by the organization in 2016 but returns after stints with three others.
Jets edge rushers
New York will desperately hold on to its collection of pass rushers because head coach Robert Saleh likes to bring them in waves. Carl Lawson was a big-ticket free agent two years ago and the team has since used first-round draft choices on Jermaine Johnson II and Will McDonald IV, as well as a fourth-round pick on Micheal Clemons. Bryce Huff is a darling within the analytics world. According to TruMedia, Huff had the second-highest pressure percentage (22.0) last season among players with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. John Franklin-Myers signed a four-year deal worth $55 million in October 2021.
The genius in the roster-building is that Franklin-Myers and Clemons both possess the size profile and power package to condense inside as part of pass-rush packages. Other teams may call but the Jets will likely hold on to their group unless presented a tantalizing trade offer.