Over the past week and into this week, the Detroit Lions have had to do a lot of roster maneuvering. In order to add the likes of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Alim McNeill, Jason Cabinda, Michael Badgley, and Hendon Hooker to the 53-man roster, several players have been cut, re-signed, and/or added to the practice squad. Just in the past week, we’ve seen prominent members of the team—Chase Lucas, Isaiah Buggs, Trevor Nowaske—all waived to do these roster gymnastics.
However, there is one league rule for the NFL playoffs that should help the Lions manage their roster in a big way.
Throughout the season, we’ve seen the Lions elevate players from the practice squad on Saturdays, making them eligible to play on Sunday. It’s a way of expanding their roster, so that practice squad players can play without the need to sign them to the 53-man roster (and subsequently cut someone else).
There is a limit on this, however. So that teams don’t underpay players with practice squad contracts (Note: When elevated, practice squad players do receive game checks), the league limits these weekly elevations to just three per individual player for a season. If you want to play a practice squad player a fourth time, you have to sign them to a big boy, 53-man contract. The league also limits teams to just two practice squad elevations per game.
But in the playoffs, those practice squad elevations reset back to zero, and any individual player can be elevated from the practice squad as many times as the team desires during the postseason. That said, the team is still limited to just two elevations per week.
Also, two practice squad notes:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 2, 2024
Practice squad contracts expire seven days after a team's final game, or sooner if the team releases him.
There is no limit to the number of times a team may elevate a practice squad player during the playoffs.
How does this help with the Lions? Consider some of the players currently on the team’s practice squad.
Edge defender Bruce Irvin has already exhausted all three of his regular season practice squad elevations. But because of this rule, the Lions won’t have to sign him to the 53-man roster if they want him to play in the playoffs. His elevations reset after Week 18, so Detroit can continue to call him up—although he’ll have to sit for the season finale vs. the Vikings if Detroit wants to take that path.
This is also relevant for a player like Jason Cabinda, who was cut last week and signed to the practice squad. Detroit doesn’t need to use a 53-man roster spot for him anymore, as they can elevate him both this week, and as many times as they want in the playoffs.
Here’s a list of the current players on the Lions practice squad who have been called up:
- OL Connor Galvin: 2 elevations used
- OL Michael Schofield: 1 elevation used
- OL Michael Niese: 2 elevations used
- EDGE Bruce Irvin: 3 elevations used
- DT Tyson Alualu: 1 elevation used
- S Brandon Joseph: 2 elevations used