Five days ago, all teams were required to trim their rosters to 53. There’s a more practical reason to potentially cut certain other players in the coming days.
Any player with four or more years of service whose salary is otherwise not guaranteed will have, as a practical matter, a guaranteed salary if still on the roster the last business day before the team’s first game of the season.
At that point, the so-called vested veteran has the ability, if he’s cut at any point after Week One, to collect the full balance of his salary as termination pay under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And if he later signs with a new team, he can keep the termination pay plus the salary he earns with a new team.
This tool for protecting certain veterans (it’s available one time in a given player’s career) can hurt them, because it makes them vulnerable to being cut by teams that don’t want to risk owing the player the full amount of his salary, if things don’t work out.
Some have suggested that perhaps the Cowboys would like to wait until after their Week One game against the Buccaneers to sign tackle Jason Peters, for that very reason. Whatever he gets, he gets every penny of it if he’s on the roster when the Cowboys play next Sunday night.
Regardless, plenty of other veteran players may be a little nervous in the next day or so, as they potentially find out that their team has opted to cut them now in lieu of owing their full salary. Or possibly to squeeze them to take a pay cut, knowing that if they’re released at this point on the calendar they won’t have many, or any, other viable options.