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Overviewing the NFL’s important new roster rules

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Remember the new CBA that passed this year? Here’s how it will impact NFL rosters.

Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

NFL training camp is scheduled to begin later this month; when it normally commences in a regular year. If it does start on time and doesn’t stop due to COVID-19, we can focus on what normally dramatizes the final portion of the offseason: roster cutdown.

The final form of every team’s roster will look the same from a naked eye. Teams will eventually have to end up with 53 active players on their roster by September 5th at 4:00 p.m. EST. When, and if, the season officially begins, there will be some notable differences in terms of roster size and management that go into place. These rule changes were enacted in the collective bargaining agreement the NFL and NFLPA formed earlier this offseason.

The important rule changes are as follows:

  • Teams can designate an additional player to return from the Injured Reserve list each year

This is pretty straightforward. Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals placed cornerback Darius Phillips and wide receiver John Ross III on I.R. with the return designation, allowing them to come back after an eight-week period. The maximum times a team could do this was twice. Under this rule, teams can now do it a third time.

  • Two practice-squad players each week can be elevated to the team’s active roster, and a team doesn’t have to replace the player on the practice squad

Initially, there was confusion as to whether or not active rosters were to be increased from 53 to 55 players. This is not the case, but this rule does allow that to happen temporarily. A team can have 55 active players if they chose to elevate a maximum of two practice squad players.

Practice-squad players must be paid a weekly salary (based on a weekly portion of their NFL minimum salary) for at least three weeks after they’ve been elevated to the active roster. This must be done regardless if they are waived from the roster before then. A team must also carry a player they signed from another team’s practice squad for a minimum of three weeks. This might impact how many times we see teams make this kind of transaction.

  • Active game-day rosters have been increased from 46 to 48 players

Since teams can sometimes carry two additional players on their rosters, the active game-day rosters have been adjusted accordingly. Teams can activate 47 players unconditionally. To activate a 48th, the team must have eight offensive lineman active.

Teams can activate practice squad players as well via applications of the new Standard Elevation Addendum, which essentially makes it easier to call up a practice squad player in the event of an injury on the active roster.

The same practice squad player cannot be elevated in two consecutive games.

  • Practice squads expanded from 10 to 12 players in 2020-2021, then to 14 players starting in 2022 (including between two and four players with unlimited accrued seasons per team)

This will make the hours after the final cutdown more intense. Teams can now sign two additional players to their practice squad and reserve a few spots for veteran players that didn’t have practice squad eligibility in years past. Now, certain players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons with any number of games and with any number of accrued seasons can be added to a practice squad.

Increased roster flexibility has certainly been achieved under this new CBA. How the Bengals take advantage of it could heavily impact head coach Zac Taylor’s second season.