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2017 NFL roster cuts: Practice squad rules, Detroit Lions eligibility

What options do the Lions have for retaining young talent after Saturday?

NFL: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There were no significant changes to practice squad eligibility rules since last year, so most of the reference material from last offseason is still current on this subject. As a refresher, I like to categorize eligibility into three groups:

  • Method 1: Rookies or other very young players who have no accrued seasons (have not been on a 53-man roster for 6+ weeks in a single season).
  • Method 2: Young players with up to two accrued seasons, neither of which included 9+ weeks where they were on the 46-man active gameday roster.
  • Method 3: The exception where four designated players can have up to two accrued seasons with the number of 46-man active gameday roster weeks in Method 2 ignored.

The first day where teams may begin adding players to their practice squads is Sunday, September 3. That is the day after the final cut down to a 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon.

Reference links:

As always, there is a HUGE disclaimer that we need to include on any kind of article like this involving NFLPA credited status rules. There are no good sources of information on who exactly has what credited to them: there is often conflicting information from even the best sources like Spotrac or Overthecap. Thus, we advise everyone to view this with at least two shakers full of salt and approach this forewarned that it is subject to change if we learn something new.

That said, on with the show:

Method 3: Exceptions

Name Position Age Experience Eligibility Notes
Name Position Age Experience Eligibility Notes
Diggs, Quandre CB 24 3 EXCEPTION Played 12+ in 2015 and 2016
Zettel, Anthony DE 25 2 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Ferguson, Ego DT 25 3 EXCEPTION Played 16 CHI in 2014
Robinson, A'Shawn DT 22 2 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Thornton, Khyri DT 27 4 EXCEPTION Played 13 in 2016
Glasgow, Graham G 25 2 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Armbrister, Thurston LB 24 3 EXCEPTION Played 14+ in 2015 and 2016
Williams, Antwione LB 24 2 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Abdullah, Ameer RB 24 3 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Washington, Dwayne RB 23 2 EXCEPTION Played 12 in 2016
Zenner, Zach RB 25 3 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Killebrew, Miles S 24 2 EXCEPTION Roster Lock
Lee, Khari TE 25 3 EXCEPTION Played 16 for CHI in 2015

Most of the players that would require use of the Method 3 exception are valuable pieces who are not going to be cut. Almost all of those players listed like A’Swat, Killebrew, Antwione Williams, and Anthony Zettel are considered stone cold locks to make the 53-man roster. The list really reduces down to Ego Ferguson, Khari Lee, Quandre Diggs, Khyri Thornton, and Thurston Armbrister.

With the loadup of linebackers during the draft, Armbrister might be pushed off the 53-man roster. Khari Lee is in a battle with Cole Wick after the release of Tim Wright, but who knows if the Lions even keep four tight ends? Quandre Diggs is in a similar fight to stay on the main roster in a crowded field at cornerback. Any of these players are at least worth keeping on the practice squad if they can make it past waivers, simply because they are proven commodities that be promoted to step in immediately if anyone ahead of them on the depth chart is injured.

Khyri Thornton is an interesting case along with Ego Ferguson. Defensive tackle is not a particularly deep position for the Lions, but Thornton’s pending suspension dramatically affects his value to the team. Ego Ferguson has not really made much noise during camp or preseason, so it is difficult to tell how much the team likes him. Still, if the Lions have an available exceptions and nobody else to use it on, it doesn’t hurt to keep around an experienced pro like Ferguson at a shallow spot on the depth chart that requires lots of athletes to rotate.

Method 2: Low active roster usage

Name Position Age Experience Eligibility Notes
Name Position Age Experience Eligibility Notes
Rudock, Jake QB 24 2 M2 6 Active Roster games in 2016
Barnes, Adairius CB 23 2 M2 7 Active Roster games in 2016
Jacobs, Tramain CB 25 3 M2 5 Active Roster games for NYG in 2015
Dahl, Joe G 24 2 M2 6 Active Roster games in 2016
Thomas, Brandon G 26 3 M2 No Active Roster games for SFO
Carter, Alex S 22 2 M2 1 Active Roster game in 2016
Becton, Nick T 27 3 M2 5 Active Roster games for CHI in 2015
Wick, Cole TE 23 2 M2 6 Active Roster games in 2016

The Method 2 players are fewer in number, and only one is an extremely unlikely cut. Now that Laken Tomlinson is a San Francisco 49er via yesterday’s trade, Joe Dahl is almost certainly making the 53-man roster. Brandon Thomas, also an interior offensive lineman, did not make the main roster in 2016 but again shows up on the Method 2 list. It is not really known what the team thinks of Thomas, Tramain Jacobs, or Nick Becton since there has been little said about them during the offseason.

As for the more familiar names, we have the aforementioned Cole Wick, last year’s cut day shocker Adairius Barnes, and converted safety Alex Carter. We know the Lions like these players, but the roster limits get in the way of keeping them. All three have spent a lot of time with the team; if any of them do not make the 53-man roster, it is very likely they would be asked to join the practice squad.

Edit: As noted in the comments, Jake Rudock is eligible for the practice squad as well. He actually has one accrued season because the Lions activated him on the Wednesday before the 2016 Thanksgiving Day win against the Vikings. That means he was in full pay status for at least six games. Since he is going to be the backup quarterback, this is not that important, but for completeness we are going to put him in the table.

Method 1: Zero accrued seasons

Name Position Age Experience Eligibility
Name Position Age Experience Eligibility
Koloamatangi, Leo C 23 R M1
Agnew, Jamal CB 22 R M1
Tabor, Teez CB 21 R M1
Thornton, Josh CB 24 R M1
Barrett, Alex DE 23 R M1
Newberry, Giorgio DE 25 1 M1
O'Connor, Pat DE 22 R M1
Valoaga, Jeremiah DE 22 R M1
Ledbetter, Jeremiah DT 23 R M1
Lott, Derrick DT 27 2 M1
Bozick, Connor G 23 R M1
Davis, Jarrad LB 21 R M1
Longa, Steve LB 22 1 M1
Reeves-Maybin, Jalen LB 22 R M1
Redfern, Kasey P 25 1 M1
Kaaya, Brad QB 21 R M1
Green, Tion RB 23 R M1
Milligan, Rolan S 23 1 M1
Washington, Charles S 24 1 M1
Norton, Storm T 23 R M1
Orndoff, Scott TE 23 R M1
Roberts, Michael TE 23 R M1
Tonyan, Robert TE 23 R M1
Billingsley, Jace WR 24 1 M1
Ford, Dontez WR 23 R M1
Golladay, Kenny WR 23 R M1
Rector, Michael WR 23 R M1
Stewart, Dez WR 24 1 M1
Thomas, Noel WR 22 R M1

Finally, there are all of the players without accrued seasons. Although it is unlikely the Lions would cut any rookies that were just drafted in April, it has happened before. Current backup quarterback Jake Rudock spent most of 2016 on the practice squad before being promoted in late November to the main roster.

One strange case on the table is Derrick Lott, who is an older guy at age 27, and officially shows up with 2 years of “experience.” It turns out the undrafted defensive tackle was on the Tampa Bay practice squad in 2015, then missed roster cuts with the Raiders and Eagles in the 2016 preseason. Lott has not been on a 53-man roster for at least 6 weeks, so he has no accrued seasons, but at least some of that credited professional “experience” probably has something to do with time he spent in the CFL with Saskatchewan.

A couple of notable names on this list are Steve Longa and Charles Washington, who were both part of the practice squad in 2016 and have seen significant playing time in the 2017 preseason. Ultimately, positional needs will play a major role in which players from the Method 1 list are retained. Given the need for interior offensive linemen, of course i’m going to be pulling for Leo Koloamatangi.

By all means, if you spot an error I have made, let us know in the comments.