A Minor Jets Roster Mystery

Marc Serota

Strange goings on with the NY Jets roster and practice squad.

On November 13, 2012 the New York Jets placed Isaiah Trufant on the Injured Reserve List. That brought the number of players on the active roster down to 52. He was not replaced prior to the Rams game, and it does not look like he will be replaced prior to the Pats game, considering that game is now less than 72 hours away.

Why is this noteworthy? Only this. It impacts practice squad eligibility for next year. Players are eligible to be placed on the practice squad for 2 years, and in certain limited circumstances, for 3 years. A 3rd year of practice squad eligibility is possible only if a player's team has had at least 53 players on the roster during his entire period of employment. So the Jets failure to fill Trufant's roster spot means any player currently on the practice squad will not be eligible for a 3rd year on the Jets practice squad. Any 2nd year practice squad player is now in his last year of eligibility, and any 1st year practice squad player will only be eligible for the Jets practice squad through the end of the 2013 season.

It is a minor point, a bit of roster management arcana. But still, it is curious. Given the Jets constant churning of the back end of the roster and the practice squad, it's probably safe to say they are not unaware of the consequences of this seemingly minor oversight. It's probably also safe to say that Mike Tannenbaum would prefer to keep every bit of roster flexibility at his disposal. So, then, the natural question is, why? Why not promote somebody, anybody, to the 53 man roster, if only to preserve future roster flexibility?

One possible answer: the accrued season rules. In short, a player is eligible for the practice squad if 1. he has not during any season spent 6 or more games on the 53 man roster, injured reserve, or the PUP list of any NFL team (an accrued season); or 2. if during his only accrued season the player spent less than 9 games on the game day active list of any NFL team.

The Jets have played 10 games so far. After Thursday, it will be 11, and there will only be 5 games left in the season. Thus any player currently on the Jets practice squad who has not previously been on the Jets active roster in 2012 can thereafter be promoted to the 53 man roster and still retain practice squad eligibility, as he can not accumulate an accrued season of 6 games with the varsity at that point. Antonio Allen has already spent 3 games on the game day active list, but after Thanksgiving it would not be possible for him to accrue 9 games on the game day active list in this, his only accrued season, so he would also be safe to call up while still retaining future practice squad eligibility.

If the Jets intend to fill the open slot from the practice squad, expect that to happen immediately after Thanksgiving. If that does not occur, and the Jets make no signings off of other teams' practice squads, or free agents, the natural question would be, why not?

In that circumstance, there seem to me to be only three logical possibilities.

1. The Jets are in some sort of financial difficulty, and Woody has purposely chosen to save the approximately $30,000 per game it would cost him to fill the open spot at NFL minimum salary levels.

2. The Jets are saving every possible penny to maneuver under the cap in 2013, since unused funds carry over to the following years' cap number.

3. The Jets are more clueless than I give them credit for, and Mr. T really doesn't understand the roster flexibility consequences of being a man short.

Regardless of the reason, it is a curious decision not to fill an open roster spot. The coming week may provide the answer to this minor mystery, or the plot may thicken further. We'll all soon find out.

A player may only be a member of the practice squad for two years, unless the team for which the player has been under contract with during the previous two seasons never had less than 53 players during his time on the team. A term of three weeks qualifies as a season.

A player may only be a member of the practice squad for two years, unless the team for which the player has been under contract with during the previous two seasons never had less than 53 players during his time on the team. A term of three weeks qualifies as a season.

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