This morning, the Buffalo Bills have 76 players on their roster - the 75 maximum allowed by the NFL, plus free safety Jairus Byrd, who is on a roster exemption through the NFL's cutdown deadline of Saturday at 6PM ET. By that deadline, the Bills will need to move 23 players off of their active roster.
The Bills have the day off on Friday, so we could see cuts start rolling in a bit earlier than anticipated. As such, we're posting our final 53-man roster projection today. You can see the final 53 in the depth chart below, but keep reading beyond it for a full list of cuts, a few explanations and, yes, our one and only stab at a practice squad.
Of the 23 names not on that list, 21 of them are cuts. The remaining two are likely candidates for the team's Injured Reserve list: quarterback Kevin Kolb (concussion) and offensive lineman Doug Legursky (knee), who was injured just last night.
The 21 cuts: quarterback Matt Leinart, running backs Kendall Gaskins and Drew Smith, wide receivers Brad Smith and Brandon Kaufman, tight ends Dorin Dickerson and Nick Provo, offensive linemen Zebrie Sanders, Zack Chibane and David Snow, defensive linemen Torell Troup, Jarron Gilbert and Izaan Cross, linebackers Kourtnei Brown, Keith Pough, Jamaal Westerman and Brian Smith, cornerbacks T.J. Heath and Kip Edwards, and safety Jordan Dangerfield.
The explanations: I've been arguing the case for Brad Smith all summer, and only take him off this list because of a rib injury suffered Thursday night. If he checks out over the next couple of days, he has a chance to beat out Marcus Easley or Chris Hogan for a roster spot. Then again, I saw enough from the two younger players on special teams against Detroit - Easley especially, who looked great covering punts - to warrant Smith's exclusion from the roster on merit. Just... please don't feign shock if Smith makes the team, Bills fans. Please?
Matt Leinart was horrible against Detroit and Thaddeus Lewis was bad but made plays with his legs, so advantage: Lewis. Once Manuel is healthy, the team will seriously consider scaling back to two quarterbacks.
Caldwell gets the nod on the interior line in lieu of Legursky, who has a serious knee injury. Caldwell is a better athlete with the same positional versatility anyway, so that may ultimately be a win for the team.
Corbin Bryant has earned a spot on this football team. Whether he actually gets one remains to be seen, but he has been the most consistent of the talented group of line reserves of late, and is a nice schematic fit as the direct understudy to Alex Carrington.
You know how little kids are instructed to take foul-tasting liquid medication: pinch your nose so you can't taste it? Some of these cornerbacks may be wondering why Doug Marrone is pinching his nose as he tells them that they've made his football team. Rogers and Butler, in particular, haven't exactly earned their stripes this summer, but the team needs the bodies at that position.
Jairus Byrd is out of town getting a second opinion on a sore foot, so for now, we'll stick with the prediction that the team will keep five safeties. Even if Byrd is healthy, his missing even a few days of team activities should slow his progress towards being able to play in Week 1.
The practice squad: Here's a list of Bills players with practice squad eligibility, courtesy of BuffaloBills.com. Out of that lineup, we'll pick the following eight for our taxi squad: Kendall Gaskins, Brandon Kaufman, Nick Provo, Izaan Cross, Kourtnei Brown, Keith Pough, Kip Edwards and Jordan Dangerfield. But this is incredibly likely to be wrong, because the team will be scouring the waiver wire looking for worthwhile adds all weekend.