NFL Practice Squad: Salary, Rules, And Player Eligibility

Update: The rules have changed in 2011. Check out the updated NFL practice squad salary and rules

NFL roster cuts are coming soon for the 2010 season. The Kansas City Chiefs, like every other NFL team, will need to reduce their roster from 80 players to 75 players on August 31st and then to 53 players on September 4th. 

After that second round of roster cuts, the Chiefs will be eligible to sign 8 players to the team's NFL practice squad who didn't make the 53-man roster, once those players have cleared the waiver wire (For more info on that, head to my previous post on the NFL waiver wire). Those players do not count towards the 53-man roster and don't get to play in any games - only practice. 

Each year about this time, we get a lot of questions from people wondering what the ins and outs of the NFL practice squad are - minimum salary, eligibility, etc. - so I wanted to clear it up.

I've gone ahead and put this information together for when the roster cuts start happening and the Chiefs' scout team starts to take shape over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, this way we'll avoid the "He's a great NFL practice squad candidate" arguments about players who aren't even eligible to make the developmental scout team. Consider this an NFL Practice Squad Q&A if you will. 

In this post, I'll explain:

  • What NFL players are eligible for the practice squad;
  • NFL practice squad minimum salaries; and,
  • NFL practice squad roster rules.
Get your learning hat on, after the jump....

NFL Practice Squad Eligibility

Once September 4th passes, NFL teams will have the the option of placing 8 players on a practice only team. These players do not count towards the 53-man roster and are generally made up of college free agents and other borderline NFL players.

Since 2004, the NFL has had an international player practice squad spot for rotating teams. It allowed one non-US or non-Canadian born player to take up a ninth practice squad spot. They didn't do it last year and we're unsure if it's happening again this year.

To makes things easier to explain, players who are eligible for the practice squad:

  • 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; and,
  • Have been on the practice squad with a particular team no more than 2 prior seasons unless the team never had their active roster go below 53 players during the two years the player served on the practice squad. If that is the case, the player is eligible for a third practice squad season.
This is where it gets a bit confusing. A player with an accrued NFL season (6 or more games) isn't eligible for the practice squad but a player who played in fewer than 9 games is still eligible? Yeah, it's a bit confusing. 

NFL Practice Squad Salary

This is pretty straightforward. NFL practice squad players are paid $5,200 a week minimum but teams may choose to pay them more if they'd like. This doesn't usually happen. The players will also get small signing bonuses, usually in the area of a couple thousand bucks. 

NFL Practice Squad Rules

There are some important things to know about practice squad players during the NFL regular season so I'm just going to list them:

  • Practice squad players are always free agents, meaning any NFL team can sign them away from another team. The catch with this? A team can't sign a player one week before they play that team and the team that signs a practice squad player must count that player against their 53-man active roster for at least three weeks, bye weeks included. This is even if the player is released after one week - they still count as a spot on the roster. 
  • Players that are promoted internally from the practice squad to the active roster must remain there for three weeks and get paid the minimum salary for their status (rookie or veteran). If they are let go for some reason before the three weeks are up, they are still paid for those three full weeks. 

A bit closer to the cut date, after some guys have been let go, we'll speculate on what players are possible prospects for the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad. 

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