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NFL Practice Squad: Eligibility, Salary, Rules, Size and more

A closer look at how the practice squad process actually works.In addition, the criteria for Practice Squad eligibility has been expanded in two respects.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Life on an NFL practice squad isn't exactly living the NFL dream, but it does keep that dream alive. Players who've been cut are anxiously waiting to see if they'll get a shot on someone practice team to make sure they're with an NFL team this year in some capacity.

So, what exactly is a practice squad, and how does it work?

Practice squad basics

  • Each NFL team can have up to eight players on their practice squad.
  • Practice squad players ... practice with the team. They do not play in games.
  • Not all players are eligible to be signed to NFL practice squads (more on that below).
  • 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 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 the active roster, they will receiver a minimum of three paychecks, even if they are released before spending three weeks with the team.
  • In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear through waivers.

Eligibility

Practice squads are considered to be for developmental purposes. Therefore, veterans are not eligible to be signed to the practice squad. Here is a closer look at the eligibility requirements.

  • A player is eligible if he does not have an accrued season of NFL experience. Players gain an accrued season by being on the active roster for at least six games.
  • If a player has one accrued season, they can still be practice squad eligible if they were on the 45-man active gameday roster for less than nine regular season games.
  • A player is deemed to have served a season on the practice squad if he remains on the practice squad for at least three weeks. Players are eligible to be on the practice squad for two seasons.
  • Players can be eligible for a third practice squad season if their team maintains no less than 53 players on the active/inactive list at all times
However, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to expand NFL Practice Squads for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Absent an extension of the agreement, the current rules will be reinstated beginning with the 2016 season.

Under the agreement, 2014 and 2015 Practice Squads will increase from the current maximum of eight players to 10 players.

In addition, the criteria for Practice Squad eligibility has been expanded in two respects.

First, a player must have a minimum of six games - up from the current three games - on a Practice Squad in order for that season to count as one of the player's three permissible seasons of Practice Squad service.

Second, each club will be permitted to sign a maximum of two Practice Squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Absent this exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a Practice Squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club's 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.

Salary

Practice squad players earn significantly less than players on the active roster, but they still take home a solid weekly paycheck. NFL practice squad players make a minimum of $6,300 per week they are on the practice squad. There is no limit to how much a team can pay a player on the practice squad. Some will offer a higher weekly salary in order to entice better players to sign, although the practice squad contracts do count against the salary cap.

If a player remains on the practice squad for an entire regular season, he would earn $102,000. A player with less than one accrued season on the active roster would earn a minimum salary of $405,000.