Who’s eligible and how many players can be signed?
The Washington Football Team has officially trimmed their roster down to 53 players, but the work isn’t over for coaches and personnel executives. Washington is 19th on the waiver priority list thanks to their division win and home playoff loss. They will behind a lot of teams, but Ron Rivera has his scouts looking for potential cuts from around the league. The team also has a 16-man practice to fill. The team released ~27 players today, and a lot of them will be signed to the PS if they aren’t claimed. The rules changed last year due to COVID-19, and we’ve got the breakdown on all the changes here.
16 player squads
Practice squads were limited to 10 players 2019, but that was set to change with the new CBA. The number was going 12 players for 2 years, and then was going to increased to 14 players in 2022. That all changed when the uncertainty of COVID-19 hit, and the league increased practice squads to 16 players last season.
Practice squad players moving up to the main roster
Teams now have more flexibility with using practice squad players on game day. PS players can be activated on game day before the team announces their inactives (90 minutes before game time). The player doesn’t have to be elevated from the PS to the main roster for the move. This can happen with up to two practice squad players per week. A player is only able to be elevated twice per season. To be activated a third time requires the player to be signed to the regular roster.
This is a big change from past rules, and makes it easier for teams to have players they know and trust on game day, and also not have to subject them to waivers when they are signed to the main roster and cut to get back to the practice squad.
If players test positive for COVID-19 during the season they will miss time, and this is an easy way to have other players available to replace them. If they test positive the morning of the game, teams will also have the option of promoting an additional player from the practice squad.
The NFL also added a new wrinkle to the practice squad that provides teams with some limited protections for keeping practice squad players. Teams can designate four players every week that are protected from being signed by other teams. This protection starts on Tuesday each week, so every practice squad player is still available to be signed to the regular roster of another team after their team’s game that week until the deadline on Tuesday.
Another change last year is the eligibility requirements for veteran players. Previously teams could have up to 4 players who had two years of NFL experience. Now teams can have 6 veterans with no limit on the amount of accrued seasons they have in the league.
Practice squad players make $9,200 per week or $165,600 for 18 weeks. Veteran players with over two years of experience will make $14,000 per week or $252,000 for 18 weeks.
Signing with the practice squad
Teams complete their roster cuts Tuesday August 31st at 4pm, meaning that over 800 players just became available. Teams have until Wednesday at 4pm to claim players that have been released.
Starting at 4:00 pm ET on September 1st, teams can begin signing players to their practice squads.
Practice squad basics
- Practice squad players practice with the team. They do not play in games, unless they are promoted (see above)
- Practice squad players are paid per week and can be released at any point during the season.
- Practice squad players are free to sign with other NFL teams (with the exception of the four protected players described above), but they have to be signed to the 53-man active roster of the acquiring team. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released.
- A practice squad player can not sign with his team’s upcoming opponent, unless he does so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if his team is currently on a bye week.
- If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, he will receive a minimum of three weekly paychecks, even if he is released before spending three weeks with the new team.
- In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear waivers, and is subject to waiver claims by other teams