Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Effect of a Practice Squad Expansion

The NFL expanded the practice squad, but what does it mean for players and teams in the league? Daniel House lays out the new eligibility sanctions and explains the impact it will have during roster cuts. 

Updated: August 19th, 2014 5:20pm

By: Daniel House

The NFL announced late Tuesday afternoon that the league would officially expand the practice squad limit to ten players. The purpose to increase the practice squad from eight to ten players was done to provide fringe NFL players with a heightened opportunity to latch on with a team. Under the agreement reached by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the new sanctions will remain in effect for the next two seasons. The groups will evaluate the agreement following the 2016 season and will decide whether to extend the current practice of 10 players, or revert back to the old philosophy. This rule will certainly help players who are currently free agents, or those who will be released during roster cuts this year.

NFL Practice Squad New Eligibility Rules 

NFL teams will have the the option of placing 10 players on a practice only team. These players do not count towards the 53-man roster and are usually made up of college free agents and other fringe NFL players. This squad usually helps the team prepare for the next game, by playing the scout team. On many occasions this group is shuffled and different player mixes are brought in based upon the personnel the opponent will have the next week.

To further explain the details in a more concise manner, players who are eligible for the practice squad will need to have the following qualifications:

- Can have up to two accrued seasons (32 games of regular-season experience), but a team is only allowed to keep two players on their practice squad with these qualifications. So, essentially any 2012 or 2013 rookie is now eligible to fill those two additional practice squad positions.

- The other eight players on the practice squad will still be under the old eligibility rule which allows for no more than eight games on an active NFL roster.

- Players must have a minimum of six games, up from three games, on a practice squad for the season to count toward a player's three seasons of practice squad eligibility.

- If the team cuts the player during preseason roster cuts, he must clear waivers and go unclaimed in order to have the opportunity to be placed on the practice squad.

NFL Practice Squad Salary 

- Practice squad players are paid a minimum of $6,300 per week in the regular season. In all, that's $100,700 over a 17-week span. The players will also get small signing bonuses, usually in the neighborhood of a couple thousand dollars.

NFL Practice Squad Rules

- Practice squad players are always free agents, which means any NFL team can sign them away from another team. Although, a team can't sign a player one week before they play that team and the team that signs a practice squad player must count that player against their 53-man active roster for at least three weeks, this includes bye weeks. If the team decides to release the player before the three weeks, he will count against the 53-man roster until the time passes.

- Players that are promoted on their team's practice squad to the active roster must remain there for three weeks and get paid the minimum salary for their promotion. If they are waived or released for some reason before the three weeks are up, they are still paid for those three full weeks.

What does this all mean?

Not all of these sanctions are new, but several of the new restrictions under the eligibility umbrella will certainly have an impact on fringe players. Teams are constantly picking up players for the active roster from the practice squads, especially when injuries strike. This new rule will certainly help provide 64 additional players in the league with an opportunity to develop and prosper in the league.

As a whole, it will effectively provide teams and players with more flexibility and opportunities for developmental prospects they want to latch onto.

The rosters need to be trimmed down from 90 to 75 players by Aug 26th, and the final cuts will conclude by August 30th. Following the final trim, the NFL teams can begin designating players for the practice squad, once they clear waivers.

These new changes will make projecting the Vikings practice squad even more difficult, but I'll try to do my best Harry Houdini impersonation.

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