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NFL practice squad: Salary, rules and eligibility

Teams have trimmed the rosters to 53 players. But the action continues as they fill out an 8-man practice squad. And which players might the Rams be bringing back?

David Welker

The St. Louis Rams trimmed their way down to 53 players on Saturday, along with every other NFL team. Now the work moves to adjusting the roster with any free agent additions and filling out an eight-man practice squad.

My thoughts about some players who might make the practice squad are below.

Across the league some 250 players will get a second chance on the practice rosters. But the rules are a little different for those players, as is their salary. Let's take a look at the criteria, etc. team have to follow for making up their practice squads.

All non-vested players who get cut, those with less than four years of service, have to pass through waivers. Teams have until Midnight on Sunday, Sep. 1 to make a claim for players. Any players unclaimed at that point will be free agents. The waiver claim order is based on the draft. The Rams have the 16th spot (even though they traded up to eighth in the draft).

Here are the eligibility requirements for practice squad players:

  • Have no prior Accrued Seasons in the NFL (An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster);
  • Have one prior Accrued Season in which the player was on the 45-man active roster for no more than 8 games;
  • If served two seasons on a practice squad, are eligible for a third season only if the team has at least 53 players on its active/inactive list for the duration of that player's employment.

A player is considered to have served on a practice squad if he spent three games in the regular season or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons, or for one regular season or postseason games in his third season.

Players on the practice squad make a minimum of $6,000 per week. There is no limit to what teams can pay a player on the practice squad, so some will up the weekly number to entice a guy to stick around.

Practice squad players can be signed away by another NFL team at any point in the season. However, those teams have to add that player to the 53-man roster. If a practice squad player is released, then another team can sign him directly to the practice squad. Teams cannot sign a player from their upcoming opponent's team six days prior to that game or 10 days if the team is on a bye.

Teams can promote players from the practice squad. When that happens, a team has to keep a player on the active roster for three weeks, and they earn the minimum salary for their position. Players can be released before their three weeks are up, but they get paid for three weeks no matter what.

There is one exception to this called the Contagious Disease Addendum, which was first added in June 2010 in a side letter agreement to the last CBA. This states that if a player is promoted from the practice squad for a game because a club was given a roster exemption due to confirmed or suspected cases of contagious disease among its players, the player remains on his practice squad contract, but will be paid 1/17 of the league minimum salary. After the game he will be returned to the practice squad without having to clear waivers.

Returning faces

You'll probably see a few names that weren't on the roster before when the Rams fill out their practice squad. Coaches and general managers will usually grab a few players they had targeted in the draft, or sign a player they saw in the preseason or heard about from a scout or connection somewhere else.

As for the players just released:

Cody Davis, S - This one's obvious given his strong play through the preseason, and the Rams need for depth at the position.

Justin Veltung, WR - Remember, he was one of the players the Rams came close to keeping. He's got special teams value and enough intriguing talent to get some more looks from the team.

Darren Woodard, CB - Corners are important to keep around for both practice and the constant need for depth at the position. I felt like we saw enough from Woodard to stash him on the practice squad.

Phillip Lutzenkirchen TE - The Rams only kept four TEs on the active roster. With injuries, etc., they'll be keeping at least one more on the practice squad. (Zach Potter is not PS eligible).

You can bet that a running back will make the eight-man practice squad too, especially since the end of Isaiah Pead's suspension will probably result in a move at the position. An offensive and defensive lineman or two usually make the cut too, given the need for depth at those spots.