The NFL’s regulation on team rosters seems largely arbitrary, and often antiquated. The inactive list, for example, is a carryover from a time when roster sizes were smaller, and the inability for one team to field a competitive group of players due to injuries was a genuine concern.
In order to combat that, all teams were forced to deactivate a given number of their players for every game. It was recently reduced from eight players to seven, with the caveat that a third quarterback would no longer automatically dress and be able to play in the event of injury if he was excluded from the active list.
Evidently, the league is going to consider further adjustments to the way teams manage their rosters when the Competition Committee convenes to discuss various matters. One of those adjustments is a possible increase in roster size from 53 players to 55.
This would, of course, result in 64 more jobs around the league, though it would also presumably add to the burden, albeit slightly, for teams to remain compliant with the salary cap, unless a slight increase in cap size is reflected in the expansion of the rosters—which seems unlikely.
The addition of two more players can obviously be advantageous, particularly for teams with an excess in talent who hope to stash away talent on the practice squad. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost two defensive ends whom they felt showed promise during the course of the 2014 season. At least one of them, surely, would have been the 54th or 55th man on the roster.
The Competition Committee, evidently, will also entertain the discussion of possibly eliminating the inactive list for Thursday Night games, during which teams obviously have less time to prepare, and players have less time to heal, given the short turnaround from the previous game, assuming no bye week.
The thinking, perhaps, is that players may be more susceptible to injury or suffer in their performance without the usual amount of rest between games, so it would be wise to allow teams to have more players to rotate into the game to reduce the risk of injury due to overwork on short rest.
I am of the hope that the Competition Committee does end up recommending this position, and that the owners approve of it, because I would like to see it ultimately expand and apply to all games. The inactive list is largely an obsolete idea that has little to no functional value in a game that has 53, and perhaps soon 55 players on the roster.
This would likely be most beneficial to young players that coaches are still unsure of that they can trust in-game, and others on the bottom of each positional depth chart.
Martavis Bryant, for example, spent the first six games of his rookie season on the inactive list simply because he wasn’t quite yet trusted, and didn’t play special teams. Had there been no inactive list, he could had still seen a couple of snaps a game or so early on just to get his feet wet.