When following your favorite NFL team, you likely pay attention to the salaries of the starters, backups, and whoever else rounds out the 53-man roster. While those salaries are the most important in terms of salary cap, you can’t forget about the practice squad and their salaries.
So, what is the salary for an NFL practice squad player?
The salary for an NFL practice squad player is broken down into two different groups– the veterans and everyone else. For those with no more than two accrued seasons in the league, the weekly salary is $9,200. For those with more than two accrued seasons in the league, the weekly salary is $14,000.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association. It’s an agreement designed to ensure all players are given a fair opportunity when playing the game they love — both from a player and a business perspective.
Before the 2020 season, a new CBA was signed and it completely changed the landscape for NFL practice squad players for years to come, including their salary. If you’re interested in learning more about the many changes made in the new CBA, continue reading below!
How Much Do Practice Squad Players Get Paid?
As we mentioned above, NFL practice squad players get paid a set weekly amount for as long as they’re a member of the team’s practice squad. This weekly salary is mandated in the new CBA and is largely dependent on the amount of seasons that player has played in the league.
There are two different groups of players when determining a practice squad player’s salary. The first group consists of any player with no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL, including any player entering their first year in the league (rookie) and those with less than nine appearances in their first year in the league.
This first group, which makes up a majority of the team’s practice squad, is set to earn a minimum weekly salary of $9,200 throughout the 2021-22 season. Under the new CBA, this number is set to increase each year because the league continues to see more and more profits each year. There’s also no maximum weekly salary when it comes to this first group.
Here’s what this first group is scheduled to make on a weekly basis in the coming years:
Now that we see how much the first group is scheduled to make this upcoming season and beyond, let’s take a look at the second group of players. This group consists of the veterans, which is any player with more than two accrued seasons in the league. These players are given both a minimum and maximum salary in the new CBA.
For the 2021-22 season, veterans are scheduled to make a minimum and maximum of $14,000 per week. There won’t be any difference between the minimum and maximum until the start of the 2022-23 season. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how the future pans out under the new CBA:
|Season||Minimum Weekly Salary||Maximum Weekly Salary|
As you can see, the new CBA is designed to not only give the younger players a chance to earn a nice living on the NFL practice squad as they make a name for themselves, but also gives veteran players an opportunity earn higher salaries as they gain experience in the league.
Why Do NFL Teams Have Practice Squads?
NFL teams are given a practice squad for several different reasons. While it’s an excellent opportunity for the player to gain some experience at a higher level, it’s also an excellent opportunity for the team to get a closer look at some of the more promising young players.
Since the practice squad does, in fact, practice with the actual team, they get to develop among some of the best football players in the entire world. They also get an inside look at how the team operates and how they play the game, that way they’re ready when/if they get called up.
In addition to that, NFL teams have a practice squad because injuries are far more common than you think. With football being one of the most physically-demanding sports in the entire world, having a group of players that can fill in at any time bodes well for the coaching staff.
While a practice squad is mostly made up of young players that aren’t good enough to make the 53-man roster, NFL teams are allowed to have a certain number of veterans on the practice squad. This helps the entire team because veterans are often great locker room guys with a ton of NFL experience.
How Many Players Are On the Practice Squad?
Having a practice squad full of hungry players is excellent for both the player and the team, but there are a wide range of restrictions when signing players to the practice squad. Of course, one of the most important restrictions is the actual number of players allowed on the practice squad.
Most NFL fans are used to NFL teams being allowed a maximum of 10 players on the practice squad, but this restriction has become old news in recent years. With the recent CBA that was signed leading up to the 2020 season, teams were originally allowed a maximum of 12 players.
That 12-player restriction was to remain until the 2022-23 season, which it would then increase once more to 14 players. While that’s still the plan to this day, the NFL saw a bit of a hiccup prior to the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused them to change a few things.
For the 2020-21 season, NFL teams were allowed a maximum of 16 players on their practice squad, four of which were protected from other teams. The main reason for this temporary change was due to the large number of injuries and players that were going through COVID-19 health and safety protocols each week.
Starting with the 2021-22 season, the NFL is scheduled to return to the 12-man practice squads with most players likely receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Of course, the 12-player restriction will likely only last one season before increasing to the mandated 14-player practice squad in 2022-23.
While we saw 16 player practice squads during the 2020 season, don’t expect the league to continue that in the 2021 season (12 players) and beyond (14 players).
Practice Squad Rules
In addition to limiting the number of players allowed on each NFL team’s practice squad, there are plenty more rules that must be followed when putting together and managing your practice squad. This ensures fairness, integrity, and equality across the NFL throughout the season.
For example, practice squad players can be promoted to the team’s 53-man roster at any time, but that team must have an open spot on that roster — meaning they must have a maximum of 52 players at the time of the promotion. If the roster is full, they must release a player, send them to the practice squad, or send them to the injured reserve.
Here are some of the other most prominent rules to keep in mind when it comes to the practice squad:
- Practice squad players aren’t available to play in games, don’t count towards the 53-man roster, and don’t count towards the team’s salary cap.
- Practice squad players do, however, practice with the team (including the 53-man roster).
- A team can release someone from the practice squad whenever they want. Since their salary isn’t guaranteed, they won’t owe them a salary for the remainder of the season.
- The only way an NFL team can steal a practice squad player from another NFL team is if that player is being signed to the other team’s 53-man roster.
- If an NFL team wants to sign a practice squad player from another team onto their own practice squad, that player must first be released by the original team.
- If a practice squad player wants to sign with their current team’s upcoming opponent, it must happen no less than six days before the game (or 10 days on a bye week).
- If an NFL team signs a practice squad player from another team onto their 53-man roster, that player is paid a minimum of three weeks salary and counts towards the team’s 53-man roster for a minimum of three weeks, even if the player is released before that.
- If a practice squad player is released and has been in the league for less than four years, that player must first clear the waiver wire before signing with another team.
The waiver wire is a unique system in place that gives struggling teams an opportunity to add young players to their roster or practice squad before other teams get a chance. The team with the worst record is given priority, while the team with the best record is last in line.
Once a player enters the wire, teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for that player. By the end of the day, the manager with the highest priority is given the rights to that player. If no team claims that player, they’re free to sign with whatever team they wish to sign with.
Practice Squad Eligibility
Now that we understand how many players are on a practice squad and some of the rules that NFL teams must follow when managing their practice squad, you’re probably wondering what the eligibility requirements are as far as who’s able to sign with an NFL team’s practice squad.
With the 16-player practice squad no longer is in effect (starting in the 2021-22 season), teams will be allowed 12 players on their practice squad. Of those 12 players, only two of them are allowed to be veterans with an unlimited number of accrued seasons in the league.
Starting with the 2022-23 season, NFL teams will be allowed 14 players on the practice squad. Of those 14 players, only four of them are allowed to be veterans with an unlimited number of accrued seasons. For those wondering, an accrued season is earned when a player spends a minimum of six regular season games on the team’s active roster with full pay status.
For the remaining 10 players on the practice squad, here are the eligibility requirements for each NFL team:
- Rookies that have zero accrued seasons in the league (normally players that were just drafted).
- Players with one accrued season that spent less than nine regular season games on their team’s active roster.
- Players with no more than two accrued seasons in the league with no limitations on the number of games they’ve played (teams are only allowed four of these players).
If a player falls into one of those three categories, they’re eligible to be signed to a team’s practice squad. Keep in mind, teams are only allowed two veterans and four players with no more than two accrued seasons in the league. With that said, a majority of the practice squad will consist of players that fall in the first two bullet points.
Do Practice Squad Players Get Superbowl Rings?
Since the NFL assumes the cost of the Super Bowl rings, teams are only allowed to hand out a limited number of rings after winning the Super Bowl. While practice squad players are generally given one, it’s usually not as expensive as the ones given to active and non-active roster players. It only has to be similar in appearance.
Does the Practice Squad Travel with the Team?
When a player is signed to the practice squad, they’re fully-expected to practice with the team at the practice facility. Since they aren’t on the active roster and won’t be playing in games, they aren’t allowed to travel with the team or stand on the sideline unless they’re first promoted to the 53-man roster. Then, and only then, will they travel with the team.