Cuts are about to come fast and furious in the NFL. There will be a lot of articles and commentary about surprise cuts and wasted draft picks. The important thing to note — at least on the business side — is that these are rarely business decisions and more salary cap or roster decisions. Big names usually get released long before last second cuts.
Teams need time to build marketing plans. That means players who have a long history with a team are either not resigned after their contracts are finished, or released before training camp even starts. Sometimes this is done out of respect for the player, but it also helps the business side of the teams. Vince Wilfork is a perfect example. Big Vince’s performance didn’t match his contract in New England — at least according to Bill Belichick and his front office staff. Wilfork was cut extremely early. The media played it out as a respect thing — which it probably was — but it also helps the business team because Wilfork was probably a part of the marketing plan moving forward. The same can be said for a player like Andre Johnson. Johnson’s contract expired with the Texans. Instead of bringing him back, the Texans let him go early in the offseason. This helps for roster planning, but also helps sponsors and partners. If Johnson was the brand associated player of a local sponsor, they know they can move on to a new star.
Rarely will a star player who has business ties to the team or sponsor be a surprise cut. The last major true surprise cut that affected business — at least to my memory and not due to personal/legal conduct — may be Lawyer Milloy who was cut by the Patriots two years after the team’s first Super Bowl — that was almost 15 years ago. Milloy was still a major part of marketing and had endorsements in New England. He was one of the final cuts of camp. Any other major player or personality cut close to final roster day had other issues that led to their release — i.e. Ray Rice.
So as teams try to get down to the 55-man roster, there will still be some surprise cuts, but those cuts won’t be big marketable personas. They’ve probably been released long ago as a sign of respect, or to help the business of the team.