So last week we had some fun projecting the 49ers 53-man roster for the upcoming season. A vast majority of the spots were easy to fill, but as we got to the last few guys in and out, things got a little dicier. There are definitely a few guys on the bubble when it comes to filling out the roster. So, I thought it'd be fun (or at least useful information) to try and project out potential cuts and practice squad players. In order to do that, I did some research in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement on who is eligible for the practice squad. After the jump I've included the specific rules, word-for word, but in the meantime here's the quick and dirty version.
A player is NOT eligible for the practice squad if he one accrued season of NFL experience. An accrued season occurs when a player is on full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games. After two seasons on the practice squad, a player can be on it for a third year, only if his team has at least 53 players on the Active/Inactive List the entire time. That's a little more confusing too me, so I've made some notes on some of the guys below to whom that might apply.
After listing every player I went through and sorted guys into four groups: 1) Pretty much a lock to make the 53-man roster; 2) Ineligible for the practice squad, so on the bubble of making the 53-man roster or being cut; 3) Eligible for the practice squad but somewhat of a chance of making the 53-man roster, so on the bubble of making the 53-man or practice squad; and 4) eligible for the practice squad, but slim to no chance of making the 53-man roster, so on the bubble between the practice squad and being cut. I determined practice squad eligibility by going through player bios at the 49ers website. Also, there were a couple guys on my projected 53-man roster that are definitely bubble guys, so I've moved them off and added them to one of the groups. All the players listed are in no particular order.
FB Zak Keasey, OT Alan Reuber, DE Melvin Oliver, LB Roderick Green, LB Dennis Haley, G Jeb Terry, DE Atiyyah Ellison, DB Marcus Hudson, DB Markus Curry, G Qasim Mitchell, QB Drew Olson, TE Cooper Wallace, DT Walter Curry. The last three might be eligible for a 3rd year on the practice squad, but I'm not 100% sure.
2. 53-man/Practice Squad
LB Larry Grant, LB Jay Moore, WR Josh Morgan, RB Thomas Clayton, DT Joe Cohen, WR Dominique Zeigler
3. Practice Squad/Cut
WR Cam Colvin, LB Shaun Richardson, S D.J. Parker, S Lewis Baker, WR Robert Jordan, WR Jerard Rabb, G Brian De La Puente, DE Louis Holmes, G John Booker, TE J.J. Finley, P Ricky Schmitt
If my information is correct, we have at least 17 and possible 20 guys eligible for the practice squad (depending on how Olson, Wallace and Curry fall). As the groupings are currently set, there are 51 guys on the 53-man roster. I removed Larry Grant and Josh Morgan to reflect their bubble status. Damane Duckett would be in trouble if the team signs Barry Sims and he made the 53-man roster as Duckett is not eligible for the practice squad. Other than that, I think that leaves roughly 51 guys pretty locked in to the 53-man roster (obviously not factoring in any potential injuries).
So, the question becomes, who makes up the practice squad? If he stays healthy, I wouldn't be surprised to see Robert Jordan stick around, as well as Shaun Richardson and/or Louis Holmes. I'm going to say that Jay Moore bounces to the 53-man side of the bubble as my 53-man only has 3 natural outside linebackers (Lawson, TBC and Haralson). It looks like Justin Smith will get plenty of time there but he'll be moving all over the place. So for this exercise I see last year as like a practice squad year for Moore and will bump him into the 53-man. I think Josh Morgan is a good bet to end up on the PS. Thomas Clayton spent last season on the practice squad, but the signing of DeShaun Foster leaves him in a bad position, unless he can beat out Michael Robinson. While he may be a more talented running back than Robinson, the team seems committed to turning Robinson into something of use.
In the end, the practice squad is much harder to project because you're inherently dealing with guys who are on the bubble as a whole. Does the team want to keep some guys with a little NFL time around just in case, or do they go with young, fresh bodies? For argument's sake I'll throw out 8 guys and wouldn't be surprised to get at least half of them wrong:
1. Josh Morgan, WR
2. Robert Jordan, WR
3. Shaun Richardson, LB
4. Louis Holmes, DE
5. Joe Cohen, DT
6. J.J. Finley, TE
7. Brian De La Puente, G
8. Thomas Clayton, RB
Practice Squad and Accrued seasons rules, courtesy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement available at the NFL Players Association website:
Section 1. Practice Squads:
(a) The League may elect in any League Year in accordance with this Article to establish practice squads not to exceed eight (8) players per Club. The League’s election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season.Section 4. Eligibility:
(a) The practice squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s). An otherwise eligible player may be a practice squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.
(b) A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club’s physical and been a member of the club’s Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)
VETERANS WITH LESS THAN THREE ACCRUED SEASONS
Section 1. Accrued Seasons Calculation:
(a) For the purposes of calculating Accrued Seasons under this Agreement, a player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games, but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (iii) a Club’s Practice or Development Squad.