When the Eagles announced the acquisition of quarterback Gardner Minshew on Saturday morning, it represented a kickoff of sorts for a volatile, extremely important, and wide-ranging season of roster building that peaks through Wednesday afternoon.
Let the games begin.
What you're going to see in the next couple of days will help define teams' rosters, mostly toward the bottom of the 53-man roster, but in some cases, a potential impact move for 2021 and beyond can be made. It's a wild and crazy time and not limited to what appears obvious. And there are a handful of ways to address the roster, which is important to understand.
• The most obvious series of moves you're going to see is the Eagles reducing their roster to the NFL's maximum limit of 53 players by 4 PM on Tuesday. The process began over the weekend and will continue through Tuesday, and even beyond that day. The Eagles are going to consider a lot of factors here, including depth at position groups, a player's experience and how he fits in moving forward, and the potential fit on the practice squad – the Eagles can keep up to 17 players, including international exemption defensive end Matt Leo.
• Trades. The Eagles made one on Saturday when they acquired Minshew, sending to Jacksonville a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2022. The Eagles have accumulated a lot of draft capital for 2022 – four picks in the first two rounds, including potentially three first-round draft picks (their own, Miami's, and Indianapolis' should quarterback Carson Wentz play 75 percent of the Colts' snaps in 2022 or 70 percent of the snaps and the Colts reach the postseason). The Eagles also have an extra fifth-round draft pick from the Washington Football Team and at this moment have nine draft picks for 2022. The NFL's trade deadline is November 2 at 4 PM.
• Waiver wire. As a result of their 4-11-1 season in 2020, the Eagles initially had the sixth overall draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and they maneuvered back to No. 12 overall, picking up a 2022 first-round draft pick from Miami in the deal. Ultimately, Philadelphia moved up to No. 10 and selected wide receiver DeVonta Smith in April. What this means is that the Eagles have the sixth priority of any player exposed to the waiver wire through Week 3 of the 2021 regular season. After that, the waiver wire priority reverts to the NFL's current team records. The Eagles haven't had a top-10 waiver wire priority since 2013, when they had the fourth priority after a 4-12 2012 campaign.
• Practice squad moves. With an expanded practice squad of 17 players, the Eagles will make sure to have a group of players there who are continuing to develop and who have the ability to step right in and contribute with very little notice. The true scope of the roster, then, is 70-plus players. All of them are, as the NFL saying goes, one play away from being on the field on gameday. Another responsibility here is monitoring other teams' practice squads along with being mindful of any of the other 31 teams poaching the Eagles' practice squad. To add a player from another team's practice squad, the acquiring team must add the player to its 53-man active roster.
• The Injured Reserve list comes into play as well. During the summer the NFL notified all teams that they are permitted to have unlimited players return from the Injured Reserve list for the 2021 season after missing three games. Only players on the 53-man roster after Sept. 1 are eligible to be designated for return from IR or the non-football injury list. This provision was part of the 2020 season and remains in effect for 2021 as well.
As the Eagles and the rest of the NFL prepare their game plans and look ahead to Week 1 on the football field, plenty of work is being done behind the scenes to build rosters. It's a frenzied period of time, and it's a critical period of hours for teams to add to their talent base. Great decisions are what it's all about. Creativity counts. Roster vision is important. Working within the confines of the salary cap and the roster limits, of course, is paramount.
And by the time Wednesday and Thursday roll around, the Eagles for 2021 will have a 53-man roster and a practice squad in place to prepare for the September 12 opener in Atlanta. The roster is subject to change, and it always does, but by then the Eagles will have largely addressed their needs and built their team for the season ahead.