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2017 NFL practice squad overview: Size, rules, eligibility, salary

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Here’s a basic overview of how the NFL’s practice squad works this season.

NFL: New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over time, the NFL’s practice squad rules has experienced some pretty big changes. For starters, the Saints, along with the rest of the NFC South, were granted a special roster exemption in 2017 to carry an eleventh practice squad player as part of the league’s new International Player Pathway program. Defensive end Alex Jenkins, who is ineligible to be activated during the season, will have a permanent home with the club.

Size, Rules, and Eligibility

The 10-man practice squad, which was agreed upon by both the NFL and NFLPA back in the 2016 offseason, can be formed starting on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 12:00 p.m. CT. Rest assured, there will be plenty of movement, as some 320 players look to keep things going after being cut.

Not every player is able to be placed on a practice squad. However, up to four players on the squad can have an accrued two seasons of experience, which was a change made last year to increase from two players. So, this bodes well for players from the past two draft classes. An accrued NFL season essentially means that a player was on full pay status for six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured, or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

Aside those four players, players on an active roster for less than six games (was previously three games) or were a part of a 46-man active gameday roster for fewer than nine games qualify for a spot. A player can remain on a team’s practice squad for up to two years, with one year counting as six weeks in a season. In some circumstances, a third year on the practice squad is only allowed if the team keeps 53 players on their active roster at all times (which every team does).

Practice squad players will practice with their particular team, but cannot participate in a game. At any point of the season, they can be released. Any practice squad player can be signed by another NFL team to an active roster during the season. However, he cannot sign with a team’s upcoming opponent unless it’s six days before the upcoming game, or 10 days if there’s a bye week involved. A player can return to a practice squad upon release, but will be subject to waivers.

Salary

Each practice squad player has an opportunity to make up to a minimum of $122,400 for the entire year, assuming that’s where he stays. It boils down to $7,200 weekly. Should the team make the playoffs, they’ll still get compensated. These salaries do not count against the team’s salary cap, and there’s also flexibility in how they pay a player while on the practice squad. So, if the Saints like a particular player more than another, they have the freedom to compensate them higher.

Signing with an active roster gives the player a minimum of three weekly paychecks, even if said player is released before that three-week period with his new team. If you really want to know the intricacies of how the practice squad works, then be sure to check out the CBA.

New Orleans Saints projections

While the Saints are still trying to piece together their 53-man roster, there’s a few players that have a strong chance of being brought on to the practice squad, assuming they don’t crack the final squad. Some of the favorites include:

  • Darius Victor, RB
  • Trey Edmunds, RB
  • Travin Dural, WR
  • Jonathan Walton, LB
  • Justin Zimmer, DT
  • Arthur Maulet, CB
  • Malik Foreman, CB
  • Adam Bighill, LB