Though this is the last weekend without NFL football until after the Super Bowl, that doesn't mean teams just take one final weekend off. On the contrary, this weekend is typically one of the biggest of the entire year in terms of roster cuts and signings. Teams must cut their rosters down to 53-players by 4 p.m. eastern on Saturday, and then shortly after that they're allowed to begin filling out their practice squad - which this year has been expanded from 8 to 10 players.
Let's review the practice squad rules and regulations as a refresher in advance of that. This is a good summary, though now some of this is out of date, which I'll explain below:
Practice squad basics
- Each NFL team can have up to eight players on their practice squad.
- Practice squad players ... practice with the team. They do not play in games.
- Not all players are eligible to be signed to NFL practice squads (more on that below).
- 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, assuming they are signed to the 53-man active roster. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released.
- A practice squad player can not sign with their team's upcoming opponent, unless they do so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if their team is currently on a bye week.
- If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, they will receiver a minimum of three paychecks, even if they are released before spending three weeks with the team.
- In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear through waivers.
Practice squads are considered to be for developmental purposes. Therefore, veterans are not eligible to be signed to the practice squad. In fact, players with more than one year of accrued NFL service are not eligible. Here is a closer look at the eligibility requirements.
- A player is eligible if he does not have an accrued season of NFL experience. Players gain an accrued season by being on the active roster for at least six games.
- If a player has one accrued season, they can still be practice squad eligible if they were on the 45-man active gameday roster for less than nine regular season games.
- A player is deemed to have served a season on the practice squad if he remains on the practice squad for at least three weeks. Players are eligible to be on the practice squad for two seasons.
Players can be eligible for a third practice squad season if their team maintains no less than 53 players on the active/inactive list at all times.
Those are the old rules, however. This year, there are a few, yet pretty major, changes to the rules and eligibility.
- Firstly, the squad has been expanded from 8 players to 10 players, which is a big move and adds 64 more jobs for players around the league.
- Previously, a player had to have a minimum of three games on the practice squad in a season to have it count as one of the three seasons allowed on the practice squad. This year, that minimum has been expanded to six games.
- Teams can now sign a maximum of two players who have accrued no more than two NFL seasons toward free agency. Previously, if a player had one or more years of an NFL season count toward free agency, they weren't eligible (as long as they were on the active 46-man roster for nine games or more in the season they were ineligible for the practice squad). This opens up the practice squad to pretty much everyone who has entered the league in the past few years.