*Updated January 18th, 2017 for Salary Increase*
I often see questions concerning the NFL practice squad. How is the salary for a practice squad player? Who can be on the practice squad? How does it affect the salary cap? Many of these questions can be answered in the NFL CBA that was agreed upon in 2011. But we will try to answer most of the questions in this blog entry.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season an increase in the amount of practice squad players was approved, moving the number of players up to 10 players. Prior to this change the number of players was limited to 8. The minimum salary for a practice squad player for the upcoming 2016 season will be $7,200 per week. Assuming each player is paid only the minimum, then the salary cap charge for the season for each player will be $122,400 ($7,200 x 17 weeks). There are instances where a team will pay a player more than the minimum to entice him to remain with the team. I’ve even heard of teams paying a player one dollar under the minimum salary for the 53 man active roster pay. If a player is released from the practice squad during the season, then the salary paid through the week will count towards the salary cap as dead money. The salary cap charge for the replacement player will be pro-rated based on the number of weeks remaining in the season.
At any time a player on the practice squad is free to negotiate a contract with another team. But a team cannot sign a player from another team’s practice squad to their own. A player signed off another team’s practice squad must be signed to the 53 man roster. Additionally a team cannot sign an upcoming team’s practice squad player later than 4:00 pm on the sixth day preceding the game. This means, if you are playing the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, you cannot go sign the QB off their practice squad on Thursday 4 days before the game.
If your team signs a practice squad player to the 53 man roster, that player is guaranteed three weeks of pay. If the player is released after one week of service, his salary cap charge will be for 3 weeks of pay. Generally the new contract is setup to align with the player becoming a free agent with less than 4 accrued seasons so that they player will be a Restricted Free Agent at the completion of the contract.
What makes a player eligible for the practice squad? A player must not have served more than two seasons on a team’s practice squad to be eligible. A “season” in this instance is being on a team’s practice squad for a minimum of 6 weeks. If the player meets this requirement, then the player shall not have an accrued season of experience. To accrue a season of experience, the player must have been on a 53 man roster for 6 weeks. Or the player cannot have been on the 46 man game day roster more than 9 games during the accrued season.
4 players on the practice squad may have no more than 2 accrued seasons of experience to be eligible. This is an update agreed to between the NFL & NFLPA; agreed to on June 16th, 2016. With these 4 “exception” players their limit of active games in prior season is unlimited.
One item that is forgotten is to be placed on a team’s practice squad, the player must be released from his contract off the Active Roster. Since this player will have less than 2 accrued seasons of experience, the player will have to pass through the waiver wire system. To place a player on the practice squad, the team is taking a chance and hoping that the player is not picked up off the waiver wire.
Teams may also find out another team is attempting to sign a player off their practice squad, and may choose to intervene and offer a contract for promotion to the active roster to keep the player in your system.