Today, more than 1,000 football players will be cut by their NFL clubs. However, that doesn’t necessarily spell the end of their NFL dream.
For some, failing to make a 53-man roster is merely a setback before the comeback. Every year, the practice squad allows players to keep their NFL hopes alive. While the pay isn’t as good for practice squad guys as it is for players on active rosters and they can’t play in live games, life on the practice squad is certainly better than life without a job in the NFL.
Here is everything you need to know about the NFL practice squad in 2018 including how it’s constructed, who is eligible and what happens once you’re on the squad.
Before teams can build their 10-man practice squad, the final roster cuts to 53 players must be done by Saturday, September 1, 4:00 pm ET. Teams can begin signing players to their practice squads on Sunday, September 2, starting at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Most teams will have their practice squads completed and announced by Monday, September 3, which ironically is Labor Day. As soon as roster cuts are made, teams will begin negotiating with the agents of the guys they want on their practice squad, but nothing is final before Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Not all players are eligible for a practice squad, especially if they’ve been in the NFL for several years and/or played in a number of games. In 2016, the NFL adopted a modification to the practice squad rules that allows up to four players per practice squad to have two accrued seasons, making it easier for teams to have experienced players on their practice squad. In the previous agreement, only two players with two accrued seasons were allowed to be on a practice squad.
Other than those four players, eligibility is limited to players who have been on an active roster for fewer than six games, or were on a 46-man active gameday roster for fewer than nine games.
A player is allowed on the practice squad for up to two years, with one year counting as six weeks in a season. A third year on the practice squad is only allowed if the team keeps 53 players on their active roster at all times (which every team does).
Practice Squad Salary
Practice squad players earn paychecks on a weekly basis. They’re not getting the far bigger paychecks players on the 53-man roster receive. For the 2018 season, practice squad players can make no less than $7,600 per week, which equates to $129,200 for the season.
To protect players from leaving for other teams, or because they really like the potential of a given player, some teams pay their practice squad players more than the minimum. There is no limit to how much a team can pay a player on the practice squad and practice squad contracts do count against the salary cap.
A practice squad player can sign to another team’s active roster at any point, but can’t leave for another practice squad unless released from his current team. The only time practice squad players can’t be signed to an active roster is when a team’s next opponent is simply trying to get information from them by signing them prior to a matchup.
Practice squad players are prohibited from signing with the next opponent of their current team any less than five days before the game, or nine days during a bye week. If a practice squad player is signed to an active roster, they will receive a minimum of three weeks of paychecks, even if they’re released less than three weeks into their stay with that time.
For everything you could possibly want to read about NFL practice squads, read the NFL’s CBA: Article 33.
International Practice Squad Player
The Bengals are getting a special privilege this year to have an international player on their practice squad, as the NFL is allowing all four AFC North teams to carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads in 2018 as part of an expansion of the International Player Pathway program. In 2017, four NFC South teams carried international players on their practice squad, and they’ll do so again in 2018. So, there are now eight teams who can have 11 practice squad players.
- The NFL will assign the player
- The team can note a few players of interest
- If he makes the team after camp, he would count against the 53-man roster
- The player getting cut after camp would still go through waivers as usual
- If the Bengals then choose to re-sign him after clearing waivers he would officially become the 11th practice squad player
For this spot, the Bengals will have tight end Moritz Boehringer in this spot. You can read more about Boehringer here.
Cincinnati Bengals Projection
As it pertains to the Bengals, a wealth of quality players are in line to earn spots on the practice squad. Among the players firmly on the roster bubble with practice squad eligibility are Tony McRae, Brandon Bell, Brandon Wilson, Jordan Evans, Hardy Nickerson, Mason Schreck, Cethan Carter, Brian Hill and Auden Tate
Here’s our 10-man Bengals practice squad projection:
1. QB Logan Woodside
2. RB Brian Hill
3. RB Quinton Flowers
4. OL Kent Perkins
5. WR Kermit Whitfield
6. C Brad Lundblade
7. LB Chris Worley
8. CB C.J. Goodwin
9. LB Brandon Bell
10. DT Andrew Brown
11. TE Moritz Böhringer (*does not count toward 10-man limit)