Cutdown day is considered one of the worst days in the NFL year for those making the cuts.
It isn’t too kind for the players being clipped, either.
On Tuesday, NFL teams had to reduce their rosters from 80 players to 53. The decisions are difficult — as they should be. Players’ careers, their future, their potential livelihood are on the line.
Over the years, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” has shown the discussions about players on the cut bubble. Coaches are in torment over releasing their players — guys who they’ve coached for years, or at least through training camp. Guys who have sweated and bled for their team.
Players live in chest-tightening fear their name will be on the cut list.
Coaches and general managers know what NFL money could mean to a young man and they balance that with what’s best for the team.
Almost always, what’s best for the team wins out. That’s how businesses work, especially high-stakes, production-orientated ones.
TWO PLAYERS’ STORIES
This is the story of two Eagles — Anthony Harris and Jalen Reagor. On cutdown day, Harris was released and Reagor made the 53-man roster.
Both decisions were surprising. Conventional wisdom believed Harris was safe and Reagor might not be. Often, there is nothing conventional about cutdown day. Lives are forever changed.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman faced an agonizing dilemma when he decided to release starting safety Harris.
- “I think when you talk about Anthony, you talk about one of the tough conversations, it’s with Anthony Harris today,” Roseman said.
- “I think that was one that the two of us [Roseman and coach Nick Sirianni] were not really looking forward to. But what a pro he is, and like everything he does, he handles everything gracefully.
- “We felt like since there was a possibility that his role had changed from when we had signed him, that because we were looking at options, he also deserved to kind of look at options himself.
- “Obviously, you don’t want to close any doors on anyone or anything right now at this time.”
Put yourself in Harris’ shoes. He’s a successful professional football player, going into his eighth season.
Harris started 14 productive games for the Eagles last season. He had a secondary-high 72 tackles and three passes-defended. He also had two tackles for loss and one interception in 836 defensive snaps.
Throughout camp, there were zero whispers that he could be traded or released. He’s also 30 years old, no longer young for an NFL player.
When Harris woke up Tuesday, he was one of the starting safeties on a team destined for the playoffs.
One trade later — for Saints’ defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — and Harris was sitting in a NovaCare Complex office with the door closed behind him.
- This is what Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said about Harris *less than a week before*: “Anthony Harris is another one [leader].
- “He’s been a leader since I met him as an undrafted rookie in Minnesota, so he has leadership traits.”
Harris’ story improved Wednesday when he was one of 15 players signed to the Eagles’ practice squad.
It’s not ideal for Harris, but he’s getting a paycheck and he’s a step away from being back on the active roster and making plays in the secondary.
REAGOR’S ROLLER-COASTER RIDE
Put yourself in Reagor’s shoes. He survived Tuesday’s cuts and probably left the NovaCare Complex with a bounce in his step.
He felt vindicated. He put two years of fruitless, frustrating play behind him. He earned himself a job based on his play at training camp and maybe saved his career.
At some point that evening — presumably after a celebration dinner — he must have heard Roseman speak about him in glowing terms after the initial roster was set.
- “The guy brought it every day,” Roseman said about Reagor. “He worked on his craft. He had a great attitude, great energy.
- “Obviously, he’s a talented guy, he’s 23 years old.”
This is what Sirianni, his head coach, said Tuesday: “I just thought he had a good camp, he made plays and he was more consistent this year throughout training camp.”
For one night, all was good in Reagor’s world. Maybe, finally, he had this NFL thing figured out.
THEN CAME WEDNESDAY …
The news of Reagor being traded to Minnesota was both shocking and not surprising.
Once the news sunk in, it make perfect sense. Reagor was the Eagles’ fifth wide receiver, not destined to get many opportunities. There were talented receivers behind him on the practice squad.
Roseman turned Reagor into draft capital — a 2023 seventh-round pick and a conditional 2024 pick that could be either a fourth-rounder or fifth-rounder.
The return might not sound like much for a former first-round pick, but had the Eagles released Reagor on Tuesday, they would have received nothing.
Such is life on NFL cutdown day. Just when you thought you were safe, you were whisked off to Minnesota.