The 2021 NFL season begins Thursday, September 9th when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m., NBC). The teams have been in training camp since late July, with three preseason games to make decisions about which undrafted free agents are worth keeping, which veterans are on the decline, and which positions need the most reinforcements.
With the regular season fast approaching, teams will have to make roster decisions and be reduced to 53 players by 4pm ET on Tuesday. With that in mind, ESPN’s NFL Nation is projecting what these roster will look like below. We’ll update this page after each of the final preseason games this weekend, and all 32 squad projections will be live on Sunday.
Each roster projection file is ESPN + content.
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Most of the 53-man roster wasn’t difficult to put together, but there will be running back questions (three or four?) But the biggest question is this: will pass-rusher Chandler Jones be on the roster for Week 1? Josh Weinfuss’ last 53-man squad projection
Most intrigues are on the offensive, where the Ravens must figure out whether to keep a third quarterback (if Trace McSorley has recovered from a back injury), determine who will be the third running back, and figure out who will get you take the last place on the offensive. Jamison Hensley’s final 53-man squad projection
There’s not much revenue from last year’s roster, but they will have their deepest reception room and line of defense under GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott. Your defensive front is now loaded with linemen that can play indoors or outdoors. Marcel Louis-Jacques’ last 53-man squad projection
It may seem like kicker is the Panthers’ biggest problem out of all of their midweek activity with Joey Slye in a crisis, but that’s the least of their problems. There is still uncertainty as to whether Sam Darnold can recover from three bad years in New York and whether Cameron Erving can finally open the revolving door on the left tackle. And then there is the general lack of depth in defense. David Newton’s final 53-man squad projection
The biggest squad intrigue can be found in the cornerback, where veteran Desmond Trufant is on the bladder to form the squad. Trufant missed the time for personal reasons and had no opportunity to make a difference in the preseason. The door is wide open to veteran Artie Burns to challenge Kindle Vildor for the starting spot in the cornerback across from Jaylon Johnson. Anthony Miller’s recent deal and Javon Wims’ release cleared most of the speculation among the recipient. Jeff Dickerson’s last 53-man squad projection
There aren’t many familiar names on the list, but the new regime, led by first year coach Dan Campbell, seeks to establish a sober identity with the organization in a complete rebuild. These Lions in the new look have brought players into the game with a chip on their shoulder and seem to have nothing to lose, as nobody expects much from this team. Eric Woodyard’s final 53-man squad projection
The Packers have such a strong squad that there isn’t much drama at the top. The only noticeable decision will be whether to keep a third quarterback. Kurt Benkert sometimes blinded, but do you really have to burn a point on 53? Unless they’re concerned that waivers will hit him, they’ll likely try to get him through to the training team. Rob Demovsky’s last 53-man squad projection
Jordan Love throws a deep ball and is picked up in the end zone by Micah Hyde.
This has been one of the least competitive training camps the Colts have had in terms of squad spots in recent years. The kicking competition didn’t have much flair when Rodrigo Blankenship defeated Eddy Pineiro. Receiver could end up being the lowest position on the team. Mike Wells’ last 53-man squad projection
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The most interesting decisions come on the offensive, where the Chiefs added eight strong candidates who weren’t on the team last year. So you can keep extras there or try to edit one or more of the backups. Adam Teicher’s last 53-man squad projection
The Vikings will keep three quarterbacks, but don’t be surprised to see a new face supporting Kirk Cousins once Minnesota takes a look at other veterans that become available next week. Neither Jake Browning nor Kellen Mond have done enough in preseason games to earn their QB2 role, and one of them will be dropped from the roster on Tuesday. Courtney Cronin’s final 53-man squad projection
The Saints will have at least 10 new starters in Week 1 thanks to Drew Brees’ resignation, an off-season salary cleanup, and a handful of early injuries and bans. They will try to add depth to the cornerback, defensive tackle, tight end and kicker of league players. And there is some intrigue over whether they will keep seasoned skill players like Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Chris Hogan. Mike Triplet’s last 53-man squad projection
Rob Ninkovich believes Jameis Winston can lead the Saints to a successful season if he cuts sales.
With waiver priority # 2 and lots of holes to fill, the jets will be in a roster change mode for the next few days. They will also try to trade against an edge rusher and maybe use one of their recipients as a bargaining chip. Jamison Crowder has the highest commercial value and could attract teams. Don’t rule out a veteran backup at quarterback either. Rich Cimini’s last 53-man squad projection
The Jets put up a breathtaking game at the last minute to seal a 31-31 tie against the Eagles.
The recipient group is a question mark for several reasons. For one, it’s super young and inexperienced and takes an untested player or two to show up. There are tough personnel decisions to be made. Tim McManus’ last 53-man squad projection
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Some of the hottest battles at the Steelers training camp were for backup jobs. While Mason Rudolph appears to have won the # 2 QB job, the Steelers appear poised to keep Dwayne Haskins on the roster for this season’s development. Quiet camps of running backs Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels may have cost them jobs as the Steelers try to give the secondary and linebackers more depth. Brooke Pryor’s final 53-man squad projection
GM Jon Robinson turned receivers and outside linebackers into team strengths by taking over Julio Jones and Bud Dupree. There will be some solid players set free in the event of squad cuts. Turron Davenport’s final 53-man squad projection
Several recipients who would have made it a year ago or in some cases made it onto the list are deleted. Defensive back is another difficult area. It will also be interesting to see what Washington does with Chilean Sammis Reyes in the end; it still seems a long way off, but do the coaches want to risk losing a player they think can develop? John Keim’s last 53-man squad projection
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