The practice squad is vital to NFL teams, as it gives them more players to use should injuries or whatever else occur to those players on the 53-man roster. How the practice squad works is that players who don’t make the final roster can be kept on the practice squad but other teams are free to pluck them off one team’s squad and bring them to their own roster if needed.
This is why sometimes you’ll see players keep someone on the 53-man roster that typically wouldn’t be there otherwise. Maybe they have a young quarterback who they don’t want to risk getting stolen away from them. We’ll dive more into this below.
Now that we know a little bit more about the practice squad, let’s dive into other aspects.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, teams were allowed to keep 16 players on their practice squad to help with positive tests and exposures. The number was supposed to go down to 14 in 2022 but it ended up being kept at 16.
“Players with two or fewer accrued NFL seasons earn at least $11,500 per week, which equals $207,000 for 18 weeks spent on the practice squad. (A player accrues a season when they are on full-time pay status for at least six regular-season games). Players with two or more accrued seasons make a minimum of $15,400 per week and $277,200 for the whole season. For comparison, the minimum salary for a rookie on an active roster this season is $705,000.”
– Eric Mullins
According to Eric Mullins of NBC Sports, once players have been in the league for two or more seasons, they make nearly $4,000 more than those in their first or second year.
“If a practice squad player is promoted to the active roster, he earns the prorated minimum salary for a player with his years of experience. So a rookie called up to the active roster ahead of a game would see his pay increased from $11,500 to over $39,000. A player with seven-plus years of experience would earn over $62K.”
– Eric Mullins
I went over the basics earlier on but there’s more to the practice squad than that. While other teams can poach players from the practice squad, each team is allowed to protect four players from getting signed by another team. If another team steals a practice squad player, they have to be signed on the active roster. They can’t simply transfer them from one practice squad to another practice squad. They can also elevate a player to the 53-man roster three times before signing them.
One more key rule is that the day before a game, teams can promote two members from their practice squad without having to create room for them on the roster. When the game is over, these players don’t have to go through waivers and simply go back to the practice squad. This can only be done with the same player two times before the team must sign him to their active roster, though.