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How it works: NFL Practice Squad rules, eligibility, salary, and more

Who’s eligible and how many players can be signed?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders have officially trimmed their roster down to 53 players, but the work isn’t over for coaches and personnel executives. Washington is 11th on the waiver priority list until the list resets after Week 3. The team also has a 16-man practice squad to fill. The team released ~28 players today, and a lot of them will be signed to the PS if they aren’t claimed. The rules changed last year due to COVID-19, and we’ve got the breakdown on all the changes here.

16 player squads

Practice squads were limited to 10 players in 2019, but that was set to change with the new CBA. The number was going to 12 players for 2 years, and then was going to be increased to 14 players in 2022. That all changed when the uncertainty of COVID-19 hit, and the league increased practice squads to 16 players which will once again be the limit in 2022.

Practice squad players moving up to the main roster

Teams now have more flexibility with using practice squad players on game day. PS players can be activated on game day before the team announces their inactives (90 minutes before game time). The player doesn’t have to be elevated from the PS to the main roster for the move. This can happen with up to two practice squad players per week. A player is now able to be elevated three times per season. To be activated a fourth time requires the player to be signed to the regular roster.

This is a big change from past rules, and makes it easier for teams to have players they know and trust on game day, and also not have to subject them to waivers when they are signed to the main roster and cut to get back to the practice squad.

More protection

The NFL also added a new wrinkle to the practice squad that provides teams with some limited protections for keeping practice squad players. Teams can designate four players every week that are protected from being signed by other teams. This protection starts on Tuesday each week, so every practice squad player is still available to be signed to the regular roster of another team after their team’s game that week until the deadline on Tuesday.

Veteran players

Another change over the last two years is the eligibility requirements for veteran players. Previously teams could have up to 4 players who had two years of NFL experience. Now teams can have 6 veterans with no limit on the amount of accrued seasons they have in the league.

Weekly payment

Practice squad players make $11,500 per week or $207,000 for 18 weeks. Veteran players with over two years of experience will make a minimum of $15,400 per week or $277,200 for 18 weeks, and a maximum of $19,900 per week or $358,200.

Signing with the practice squad

Teams completed their roster cuts by Tuesday August 30th at 4pm, meaning that over 800 players just became available. Teams have until Wednesday at 12:00 noon to claim unvested players that have been waived. Vested veterans (players with a minimum of 4 accrued seasons) will be free agents immediately and are able to sign with any team.

Starting at 12:00 pm ET on August 31st, teams can begin signing players to their practice squads.

Practice squad basics

  • Practice squad players practice with the team. They do not play in games, unless they are elevated (see above)
  • 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 (with the exception of the four protected players described above, or the upcoming opponent as described below), but they have to be signed to the 53-man active roster of the acquiring team. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released or waived.
  • A practice squad player can not sign with his team’s upcoming opponent, unless he does so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if his team is currently on a bye week.
  • If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, he will receive a minimum of three weekly paychecks, even if he is released before spending three weeks with the new team.
  • In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player who is not a vested veteran must first clear waivers, and is subject to waiver claims by other teams.