Bucs, NFL Teams to Assemble Practice Squads Today

Demar Dotson's NFL career began as a member of the Bucs' practice squad
Demar Dotson’s NFL career began as a member of the Bucs’ practice squad

Now that the final 53-man rosters for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (you can see that final roster here) and every other NFL team around the league have been submitted, teams may begin assembling their practice squads beginning at noon today.

Each NFL team is allowed to have an eight-member practice squad that acts as a reserve unit for the team. Players from the practice squad can be activated to the 53-man roster for any reason, as long as a corresponding move has been made to still meet compliance.

On Saturday, NFL teams had until 6:00 p.m. to whittle their rosters from 75 to a league-mandated 53 players, meaning that just in the second wave of cuts alone, roughly 700 players around the league are now looking for work. That figure doesn’t even include the nearly 500 players who were part of initial cuts from 90 to 75.

All non-vested players who were cut and have less than four years in the league have to clear waivers. Players clearing waivers become free agents.

The waiver claim order is based on the same order as the NFL draft. In the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even though they traded away their first-round pick to the New York Jets, they are still listed at 13th in the pecking order.

Players who are ‘vested’ and have more than four years’ experience have their contracts terminated and are not subject to the waiver wire.

In order to be eligible for the practice squad, a player must meet one of the following requirements:

  • No accrued seasons in the NFL, meaning he has not participated in six or more games as a member of the active roster
  • Have one prior accrued season in which he was on the 45-man active roster for no more than eight games
  • If the player has served two seasons on a practice squad, he is eligible for a third season only if the team has at least 53 players on its active/inactive list for the duration of that player’s employment.

When a player is promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, he must remain there for three weeks and receive the league minimum salary at his position. Players can be released before this time period but will still continue to be paid accordingly.

Players on the practice squad now receive a minimum of $6,000 weekly salary. That includes the postseason if his team reaches the playoffs. The last two years, this figure was $5,700, and it will increase again in 2014 to $6,300.

If a player signs to a practice squad, he is eligible, at any time, to be signed to another NFL team’s active 53-man roster. Exceptions to this rule include teams signing players from a future opponent’s practice squad. Teams wishing to sign a player from an upcoming opponent’s practice squad must do so no later than six days prior to the game. If a team has a bye, it becomes 10 days.

Contagious Disease Addendum

This rule has been around since 2010, but it’s worth noting, given the Bucs’ recent health scare with MRSA. A club can receive exemptions with its practice squad players if there is confirmed or even suspected case of contagious disease among its players.

If a player is elevated from the Practice Squad to the Active/Inactive List for a game due to such circumstances, a player can return to the practice squad without having to clear waivers first.