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NFL practice squads, explained

Not a game. We talkin’ ‘bout practice (squads).

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

The Philadelphia Eagles officially announced their 2020 NFL roster cuts on Saturday to get down to the regular season 53-player limit. Transactions aren’t necessarily done yet, however. The Eagles can also still build a 16-player practice squad starting around 1:00 PM ET today on Sunday, September 6.

In simple terms, the practice squad consists of 16 extra spots for players to practice with an NFL team but not participate in games. The practice squad is useful for a number of reasons. First, it helps teams hold onto developmental players with upside who aren’t quite yet deserving of a spot on the 53-player roster. Second, it provides the team with extra bodies in practice. That can come in handy when injuries become a problem.

Read on for complete details about the NFL practice squad.

NFL waiver wire

When a team releases a player with less than four years of service time, they are subject to the waiver process. Normally when a player is released, waivers runs the next day. For roster cuts down to 53, all players run through waivers on Sunday, whether they were released on Friday or Saturday.

The process involves a priority list ranking teams for claiming players. From the first day of the league year until the conclusion of Week 3 of the 2020 regular season, the priority is based on the previous NFL Draft order. This means that the Cincinnati Bengals are the No. 1 team on the waiver priority list, while the Eagles are No. 21. If the Eagles want to take a shot on a young player, they have to put a claim in on him, and then cross their fingers and hope that the more than half of the league does not also put in a claim.

You might be used to the waiver process in your fantasy football league. The NFL waiver process is different in that the No. 1 team can claim as many players from waivers as they want, and they retain priority. The Bengals essentially get first dibs on every player.

Once passing through waivers unclaimed, players are free to sign with any roster or practice squad.

Any player with at least four years of service that is released is NOT subject to the waiver process. They immediately become free agents and can sign with any team. This applies to two players the Eagles cut: Trevor Williams and T.Y. McGill.

Eligibility

10 of the 16 players on the practice squad can have no more than two accrued seasons.

New this year, teams can now keep up to six players with no limits on experience. This change was designed to help teams be prepared if players on the 53 have to miss game(s) due to COVID.

Practice squad salary

Practice squad players earn a minimum of $8,400 per week, which totals $142,800 for all 17 weeks of the regular season.

There is no maximum practice squad salary for players with fewer than two accrued seasons. A team can pay one of these players however much they want to entice them to stay on their practice squad.

Veteran players with over two years of experience, meanwhile, will make $12,000 per week, or $204,000 across the entire season.

Note that practice squad salaries do count against a team’s cap space.

Who will be on the Eagles practice squad?

The Eagles’ practice squad will mostly consist of young players they recently released. A few spots might be used on players from other rosters.

Guessing the Eagles’ 16-player practice squad: RB Elijah Holyfield, RB Adrian Killins, RB Michael Warren, WR Deontay Burnett, WR Travis Fulgham, TE Noah Togiai, OG Sua Opeta, C Luke Juriga, DE Joe Ostman, DE Shareef Miller, DT Anthony Rush, DT Raequan Williams, CB Sidney Jones, CB Trevor Williams, S Grayland Arnold, S Elijah Riley. (Plus DE Matt Leo, who doesn’t count towards the limit due to an exemption.)

Some of these players might be claimed on waivers before the Eagles can sign them back to their practice squad. Something to keep an eye on.

Practice squad rules

  • Each NFL team can have up to 16 players on their practice squad.
  • Practice squad players only practice with the team. They do not play in games or count against the active 53-man roster.
  • 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, assuming they are signed to the 53-man active roster. A practice squad player cannot be signed directly to another practice squad unless he is first released.
  • A practice squad player can not sign with their team’s upcoming opponent, unless they do so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if their team is currently on a bye week.
  • If a practice squad player is signed to another team’s active roster, they will receive a minimum of three paychecks, even if they are released before spending three weeks with the team. Their roster spot will also count against the 53 for three weeks even if they’re released before then.
  • In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear through waivers.
  • NEW: Teams can now protect up to four practice squad players from being poached from Tuesday through Sunday.
  • NEW: Up to two practice squad players can be elevated to the roster — expanding it from 53 to 55 players — each week. These promoted players can then be sent back down to the practice squad without having to go through the waiver process ... but only twice per player. They’ll have to go through the waiver process if they’re sent back down a third time.