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2016 NFL roster cuts: Which Detroit Lions are practice squad eligible?

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Heading into the final roster cuts, we list which players may return to the team after being released.

NFL: International Series-Detroit Lions Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who is eligible right now on the roster?

The following information shows which players currently signed by the Detroit Lions are eligible under at least one of the three methods described in our review of the league’s practice squad rules. Accrued season counts taken from Over The Cap and active roster game counts taken from Pro Football Reference.

These tables were initially created the day after the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. All of them have been updated to take into account all transactions up to and including the 75-man roster cut deadline transactions and the swap of Dominique Tovell for Jayson DiManche.

Table 1: Players unlikely to be cut from the 53-man roster

Name Position AS How eligible?
HB Ameer Abdullah 1 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
FB Michael Burton 1 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
WR TJ Jones 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
TE Eric Ebron 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
T Michael Ola 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
T Taylor Decker 0 Method 1: Zero AS
G Laken Tomlinson 1 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
OL Joe Dahl 0 Method 1: Zero AS
C Graham Glasgow 0 Method 1: Zero AS
C Travis Swanson 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
DT Caraun Reid 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
DT A'Shawn Robinson 0 Method 1: Zero AS
LB Kyle Van Noy 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
CB Nevin Lawson 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
CB Quandre Diggs 1 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
S Miles Killebrew 0 Method 1: Zero AS

The next table shows players who are either on the bubble or, for some other reason, are less likely than the players in table 1 to make the final 53-man roster. Note that three players (Greene, Gooden and DiManche — all linebackers) are not practice squad eligible because they have all played at least one accrued season with nine or more active gameday roster weeks (thus not eligible under Method 2) and have more than two accrued seasons (thus not eligible for the Method 3 exception).

Table 2: Other players who might not make the 53-man roster

Name Position AS How eligible?
QB Jake Rudock 0 Method 1: Zero AS
HB George Winn 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
HB Dwayne Washington 0 Method 1: Zero AS
HB Zach Zenner 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
WR Jace Billingsley 0 Method 1: Zero AS
WR Jay Lee 0 Method 1: Zero AS
WR Corey Fuller 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
TE Adam Fuehne 0 Method 1: Zero AS
TE Cole Wick 0 Method 1: Zero AS
C Gabe Ikard 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
C Brandon Thomas 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
T Cornelius Lucas 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
T Luke Marquardt 3 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
T Corey Robinson 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
DT Khyri Thornton 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
DT Gabe Wright 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
DT Kerry Hyder 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
DE Brandon Copeland 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
DE Anthony Zettel 0 Method 1: Zero AS
LB Antwione Williams 0 Method 1: Zero AS
LB Chi Chi Ariguzo 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
LB Zaviar Gooden 3 Not PS Eligible
LB Khaseem Greene 3 Not PS Eligible
LB Jayson DiManche 3 Not PS Eligible
DB Charles Washington 0 Method 1: Zero AS
CB Alex Carter 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
CB Keith Lewis 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
CB Adairius Barnes 0 Method 1: Zero AS
S Isaiah Johnson 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games

*OTC lists Quanterus Smith as having three accrued seasons, but it is not clear why they count 2015 as an accrued season. Smith was drafted in 2013 and spent that year on IR. He then started all but one game in 2014, but re-injured his knee and went back on IR in January 2015. Denver waived Smith in April 2015, after which he bounced around the practice squads of the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars. Since time spent on a practice squad does not qualify for accrued season computations, it is possible the accrued season for Smith on the OTC site is incorrect. We have listed him here as being eligible under the Method 3 exception; Kent had regarded him as practice squad eligible in his article as well.

Interlude: An unusual use for the inactive list

Late in the 2015 regular season, the Detroit Lions decided to put DT Gabe Wright on the inactive list every week after the road game in Green Bay even if he was not injured. At the time, I was very surprised and confused by why Wright was a “healthy scratch” so often; did this mean the team thought his level of play was not up to par? After having looked at the practice squad rules in the CBA, I have another hypothesis that will never be proven or disproven because it requires information the team would never divulge: the Lions were managing Wright’s active gameday appearances to keep him eligible for the practice squad under the normal CBA rules.

Gabe Wright finished 2015 with exactly seven active gameday appearances, which looks a lot like a managed count. The rules for what we’ve called Method 2 allow practice squad players to have any number of accrued seasons on 53-man rosters as long as that player has never appeared on 9+ active gameday lists in any of those accrued seasons. Until the exception rules were changed in June 2016, a team could only carry two players with up to two accrued seasons that broke that rule and went over the 9+ active gameday list limit.

Just suppose the Lions looked at their personnel situation and thought they might want to carry George Winn and Isaiah Johnson (or any other two 2015 practice squad guys; take your pick) on the practice squad again in 2016. Limiting Wright to seven active gameday appearances kept one appearance available in case there was an emergency and the team absolutely needed to activate him and still remain under the 9+ exception.

Now, the rules were adjusted in Spring 2016 to permit up to four Method 3 exception players to be on a practice squad, but Wright’s eligibility under Method 2 affords some extra personnel flexibility — particularly welcome at the crowded DT position — that may have been planned by the organization. Who else was on the gameday active list fewer than nine times in 2015? The aforementioned S Isaiah Johnson, but also DT Khyri Thornton. An interesting personnel strategy at DT could be to waive both Thornton and Wright, signing whichever one clears waiver claims (possibly both) to the practice squad.

Table 3: Players already released at the 75-man cut down

Name Position AS How eligible?
WR Quinshad Davis 0 Method 1: Zero AS
OL Chase Farris 0 Method 1: Zero AS
DL Louis Palmer 0 Method 1: Zero AS
DE Quanterus Smith 2* Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
DE Deonte Gibson 0 Method 1: Zero AS
LB Dominique Tovell 0 Method 1: Zero AS
CB Rashaad Reynolds 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
K Devon Bell 0 Method 1: Zero AS
LS Jimmy Landes 0 Method 1: Zero AS

Of the first round of waived players, seven-year veteran Matthew Mulligan and journeyman Crezdon Butler (who has three accrued seasons of 9+ active roster games) are both ineligible for practice squad contracts. Furthermore, sixth-round draft pick Jimmy Landes will be on the injured reserve list and thus does not need to be considered for the practice squad. Dominique Tovell is included here even though he was technically released after the Lions made enough moves to get down to 75.

Hypothetical 10-man practice squad

What kind of practice squad could the Lions end up with if they only used players already on the roster? Taking into account relative depth at each position, the use of practice squad players as injury fill-ins on the main roster, and knowledge of Detroit’s schemes, it is possible to flesh out a plausible list.

Table 4: Practice squad

Name Position AS How eligible?
QB Jake Rudock 0 Method 1: Zero AS
HB George Winn 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
WR Jace Billingsley 0 Method 1: Zero AS
WR Jay Lee 0 Method 1: Zero AS
C Gabe Ikard 2 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
T Cornelius Lucas 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
DT Gabe Wright 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
DE Brandon Copeland 2 Method 3: 4 players with 2 AS
LB Chi Chi Ariguzo 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games
S Isaiah Johnson 1 Method 2: No AS with 9+ active games

This list takes advantage of all of the practice squad personnel rules. The Lions’ Method 3 exception players who have no more than two accrued seasons would be George Winn, Cornelius Lucas, and Brandon Copeland. One exception could be left available in case someone interesting from another team who would be signed under the exception became available. This is a nice benefit of having a number of “veteran” players who qualify under Method 2: they can be somewhat more experienced than rookies while being unrestricted practice squad signings.

A number of players who could be kept as Method 2 players provide additional experience on the practice squad: Gabe Ikard as interior OL depth, Chi Chi Ariguzo to add another linebacker, and Isaiah Johnson as a depth safety behind Don Carey. Most of this list emphasizes continuity, retaining players who know the system and are able to step in immediately if anyone sustains a major injury. But on top of the insurance/depth players, we have some promising developmental players like Jace Billingsley, Jay Lee, and Gabe Wright.

Oh yeah, I guess QB Jake Rudock is on there as well.