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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?

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Commanders Photo by Tony Davis/Getty Images

The Washington Commanders have to trim their roster down to 53 players by 4 pm tomorrow. The roster cuts will start before then, and many of those players will be signed to the team’s 16-man practice squad. Every team has to trim down from 90 players,

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 2023.

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 was 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.

Veteran players

Another change over the last three 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 $12,000 per week or $216,000 for 18 weeks. Veteran players with over two years of experience will make a minimum of $16,100 per week or $289,800 for 18 weeks, and a maximum of $20,600 per week or $370,800 for 18 weeks.

Signing with the practice squad

Teams must complete their roster cuts by Tuesday August 29th at 4pm, meaning that almost 1,200 players will be released, or placed on an injury list. 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 30th, 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, 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.