With the final round of NFL roster cuts just days away, the pool of free agents is about to grow quite a bit. Already more than 300 players have hit the free agent market, and by the end of Saturday there will be almost 900 more players without a contract.
Many of the players who get released in the coming days will end up finding an opportunity on a new team's 53-man roster, and many who don't will end up joining a team's practice squad. Among Detroit Lions fans there has especially been a lot of talk recently about guys who could end up on the practice squad, but there seems to be a lot of confusion over the rules.
Last year, I put together a post breaking down the rules and how eligibility for the practice squad is determined. I have updated the guidelines from that post and have included them in this post after the jump.
Eligibility for the practice squad is based on the following guidelines:
- Players can't have already been on a practice squad for two or more years, although a third year on the practice squad is possible if a player's team has had at least 53 players on the roster during his entire period of employment (players are deemed to have spent a season on the practice squad if they are on it for three of more regular season or postseason games during their first two years and at least one during their third year)
- Players can't have an accrued season of NFL experience (six or more games on a team's 53-man roster, injured reserve or PUP list), unless they were on the active list (i.e. were dressed to play) for fewer than nine regular season games during their only accrued season(s)
The general rules for the practice squad are as follows:
- Teams can have a practice squad consisting of a maximum of eight players (a ninth player can be added if he lives outside of the United States and is not a U.S. citizen)
- Practice squad players make $5,700 per week and can only participate in practice (hence the name practice squad)
- Players on the practice squad are free to negotiate with other teams and can be signed to another team's 53-man roster (just like Lydon Murtha was signed by the Dolphins from Detroit's practice squad in 2009) without compensation to the original team
- If a team signs a player from the practice squad of its next opponent, the move must be made at least six days before the game; players signed from a practice squad also must count against the 53-man roster for three weeks (these rules are in place to prevent teams from signing practice squad players for a week just to get information on their next opponent; it's still possible, but these rules discourage the practice)
I will put together a separate post that takes a look at which Lions players are eligible to be on this year's practice squad.