We’ve gone over how the NFL’s waiver wire works. Now let’s talk about how Practice Squad eligibility works. With Saturday being the official cutdown day, 1,184 players around the league will be released. Many teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, have already started the process.
The rules for NFL practice squads have changed over the past few years, expanding the number from 8 to 10, allowing two players with two years experience to be signed, and then expanding that number to 4 players.
A player must also now have a minimum of six games—it used to be three—on a practice squad in order for that season to count as one of the player’s three permissible seasons of practice squad service.
- Each NFL team can have up to ten players on its practice squad.
- Practice squad players will practice with the team but are not allowed to play in the games. They’re the “scout team” players. For example, if DT Kevin Givens is kept, he’ll be “Aaron Donald’ in practice for the weeks the 49ers play the Rams.
- Practice squad players are paid per week and can be released at any point during the season.
- They are paid a minimum of $8,000 a week. So if he’s on the roster for the entire regular season, a practice squad player makes $136,000. If the 49ers make the playoffs, those payments will continue so long as the team keeps playing.
- Practice squad players are free to sign with other NFL teams, but they have to be signed to the 53-man active roster of the acquiring team. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released. So if the team keeps Malik Henry, and Henry sees that the Seahawks have a bigger need at receiver, Henry can’t just go sign with Seattle. He would first need to be released from the 49ers.
- A practice squad player can not sign with his team’s upcoming opponent unless he does so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if his team is currently on a bye week. The NFL is a shady business, and you know that some front offices would pay more to try and get intel from a player. This prevents that from happening.
- If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, he will receive a minimum of three weekly paychecks, even if he is released before spending three weeks with the new team. That is a nice benefit for the players.
- In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear waivers, and is subject to waiver claims by other teams
Hopefully, this clears up any practice squad questions as approach what is likely to be a busy weekend.