The 2021 NFL season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 9, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host to the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m., NBC). Teams have been in training camp since late July, with three preseason games to help inform decisions about which undrafted free agents might be worth keeping, which veterans are on the decline and which positions need the most reinforcements.
With the regular season approaching fast, teams have to make roster decisions and cut to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. With that in mind, ESPN’s NFL Nation projects what those rosters will look like below. We’ll update this page after each of the final preseason games this weekend, and all 32 roster projections will be live Sunday.
Each roster projection file is ESPN+ content.
Most of the 53-man roster wasn’t difficult to piece together, but there will be questions at running back (three or four?) and cornerback (does versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons allow Arizona to keep five cornerbacks instead of six?). But the biggest question is this: Will pass-rusher Chandler Jones be on the roster for Week 1? Josh Weinfuss’ final 53-man roster projection
Most of the intrigue is on the offense, where the Ravens have to figure out whether they will keep a third quarterback (if Trace McSorley has recovered from a back injury), determine who is going to be the third running back and figure out who will get the last spot on the offensive line. Jamison Hensley’s final 53-man roster projection
There isn’t a lot of turnover from last year’s roster, but they will feature their deepest receiver room and deepest defensive line under GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott. Their defensive front is now loaded with linemen who can play inside or out. Marcel Louis-Jacques’ final 53-man roster projection
It might seem like kicker is the biggest issue with the Panthers from all the midweek activity with Joey Slye in a slump, but that’s the least of their problems. There is still uncertainty about whether Sam Darnold can rebound from three bad years in New York and Cameron Erving can finally solve the revolving door at left tackle. And then there is the overall lack of depth on defense. David Newton’s final 53-man roster projection
The most roster intrigue is at cornerback, where veteran Desmond Trufant is on the bubble to make the squad. Trufant missed time due to personal reasons and has not had the opportunity to make an impact in the preseason. The door is wide open for veteran Artie Burns to challenge Kindle Vildor for the starting cornerback spot opposite Jaylon Johnson. The recent trade of Anthony Miller and release of Javon Wims has cleared up most of the speculation at receiver. Jeff Dickerson’s final 53-man roster projection
The quarterback competition, won by Teddy Bridgewater, stole the attention, but after a quality offseason this roster is far better than the one that finished the 2020 season. The additions include stars returning from injury like Von Miller and Courtland Sutton, free agents like Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, and a rookie class headed by cornerback Pat Surtain II. Jeff Legwold’s final 53-man roster projection
There are not a ton of household names on the roster, but the new regime, led by first-year coach Dan Campbell, is looking to establish a hard-nosed identity with the organization in a complete rebuild. These new-look Lions have brought in players with a chip on their shoulder, and have seemingly nothing to lose since no one is expecting much out of this team. Eric Woodyard’s final 53-man roster projection
The Packers have such a strong roster that there isn’t a lot of drama at the top. About the only eye-catching decision will be whether to keep a third quarterback. Kurt Benkert dazzled at times, but do they really need to burn a spot on the 53? Unless they are afraid he will get claimed off waivers, they will probably try to get him through to the practice squad. Rob Demovsky’s final 53-man roster projection
As the Texans get closer to the start of the regular season with Deshaun Watson eligible to take part in all team activities, general manager Nick Caserio has a decision to make about what to do with the quarterback when the team must get down to 53 players. Sarah Barshop’s final 53-man roster projection
Jordan Love heaves a deep ball and he’s picked off in the end zone by Micah Hyde.
This was one of the least competitive training camps the Colts have had in recent years when it comes to roster spots. The kicking competition didn’t have much flair, as Rodrigo Blankenship beat out Eddy Pineiro. Receiver could end up being the deepest position on the team. Mike Wells’ final 53-man roster projection
The most interesting decisions are on the offensive line, where the Chiefs added eight strong roster candidates who weren’t with the team last year. So they might keep extras there or look to deal one or more of the backups. Adam Teicher’s final 53-man roster projection
The key always is staying healthy. Coach Brandon Staley has been very careful with his players — activation/stretching/exercises like planks and high-stepping have been key to no serious injuries, unlike other offseasons. There are still starting positions to be decided on, but there are choices at least. Shelley Smith’s final 53-man roster projection
The Rams lacked much roster drama throughout the preseason with most starting positions accounted for entering training camp. The biggest question was whether they would be able to quickly develop depth in the offensive backfield following Cam Akers‘ season-ending Achilles tear. The Rams answered that question Wednesday when they acquired running back Sony Michel from the New England Patriots. Lindsey Thiry’s final 53-man roster projection
The Vikings will keep three quarterbacks, but don’t be surprised to see a new face backing up Kirk Cousins once Minnesota gets a look at other veterans who become available next week. Neither Jake Browning nor Kellen Mond did enough in preseason games to earn the QB2 role, and one of them finds himself off the roster on Tuesday. Courtney Cronin’s final 53-man roster projection
The Saints will have at least 10 new starters in Week 1, thanks to Drew Brees’ retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge and a handful of untimely injuries and suspensions. They will look to add depth at cornerback, defensive tackle, tight end and kicker from players cut around the league. And there is some intrigue about whether they will keep veteran skill-position players like Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Chris Hogan. Mike Triplett’s final 53-man roster projection
Rob Ninkovich believes Jameis Winston can lead the Saints to a successful season if he cuts down on the turnovers.
With the No. 2 waiver priority and many holes to fill, the Jets will be in a roster-churning mode over the next few days. They also will be looking to trade for an edge rusher, perhaps using one of their receivers as a bargaining chip. Jamison Crowder has the most trade value and could attract teams. Also, don’t rule out a veteran backup at quarterback. Rich Cimini’s final 53-man roster projection
The Jets pull off a stunning last-second play to seal a 31-31 tie against the Eagles.
The receiver group is a question mark for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s super young and inexperienced, and needs one or two unproven players to emerge. There are some tough personnel decisions looming. Tim McManus’ final 53-man roster projection
Some of the hottest battles of the Steelers’ training camp were for backup jobs. While Mason Rudolph appears to have won the No. 2 QB job, the Steelers seem poised to keep Dwayne Haskins on the roster to develop this season. Quiet camps from running backs Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels might have cost them jobs as the Steelers look to give the secondary and linebackers more depth. Brooke Pryor’s final 53-man roster projection
The usual questions are there when it comes to the Seahawks’ roster: Will they keep five receivers or six? Who will claim the final spots at cornerback and running back? But the biggest question this year is about whether left tackle Duane Brown will play amid his contract dispute. Brady Henderson’s final 53-man roster projection
With all 22 starters returning from their Super Bowl LV win and nearly every key reserve back, the Bucs only have about eight or nine roster spots up for grabs in 2021. It all comes down to who brings the most value on special teams. Jenna Laine’s final 53-man roster projection
Tom Brady completes a pass on every play of the Buccaneers’ 91-yard touchdown drive vs. the Texans.
GM Jon Robinson turned receiver and outside linebacker into team strengths by acquiring Julio Jones and Bud Dupree. There will be some solid players who get released during roster cutdowns. Turron Davenport’s final 53-man roster projection
Several receivers will be cut who would have made it a year ago, or in a few cases, did make the roster. Defensive back is another tough area to call. It also will be interesting to see what Washington does at tight end with Chilean Sammis Reyes; he still appears a ways off, but will the coaches want to risk losing a player they think can develop? John Keim’s final 53-man roster projection