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Jersey number flexibility sweeps far more broadly than single digits

Pittsburgh DE Rashad Weaver joins Mike Florio and Chris Simms to describe his preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft and explain how he’s blocking out the noise by staying focused on his abilities.

Widely discussed as a proposal for making single-digit numbers available to more groups of players, the new measure adopted by the NFL on Wednesday does a lot more than that.

Beyond running backs, fullbacks, receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and defensive backs now being able to change to don single-digit numbers, other noteworthy changes have been made.

First, linebackers can now wear numbers from 10 through 49. Previously, they were limited to 50-59 and 90-99. This means that someone like Pittsburgh pass rusher Rashad Weaver can wear No. 17, if he’s listed as a linebacker. (That’s good for number purposes, not as good for franchise-tag purposes.)

Second, running backs and fullbacks can now wear numbers from 80-89. Veteran running back Ty Montgomery has worn a number in the 80s because he originally was a receiver.

Third, receivers and tight ends can wear numbers from 20-49 in addition to 1-19 and 80-89. (For tight ends, who previously could only wear 80-89, it’s a dramatic change.)

Fourth, the numbers from 10-19 are also available to defensive backs, in addition to 1-9 and (as previously) 20-49.

Finally, the 50s are now available to all offensive and defensive linemen. (Previously, only centers and linebackers could wear those numbers.) Also, centers aren’t limited to 50-59; they can now wear 60-79, too.

As noted yesterday, players who want to change their numbers for 2021 given this new rule must be ready to pay for the unsold inventory of jerseys with their current numbers. That will make it harder for the more popular players to make a change, given that it’s more likely that a stockpile exists of the players who traditionally have sold a lot of jersey.

If, for example, Odell Beckham Jr. wants to change from 13 to his college number of 3, there could be plenty of unsold Beckham jerseys in circulation, given that he was injured for most of 2020 and in light of the nagging sense that perhaps he won’t be with the team over the long haul.