As early as today, teams will start signing players to their practice squads.
In addition to a 53 man active roster, teams are allowed to sign up to 10 players for their practice squads. The practice squad is exactly what it sounds like. The players are allowed to practice with their teams and work with coaches. They cannot play in games, however, unless they are signed to the 53 man active roster.
There are eligibility rules. Teams are allowed to spend up to four slots on the practice squad on players with exactly two years of NFL service time. A player has a year of NFL service time for each season he is on an NFL roster or injured list for at least six games. The rest of the spots have to go to players with less than two years of service time.
Players can be on a practice squad for no more than three years. A player is given a year of practice squad experience for each season where he was on a practice squad for at least six games.
Practice squad players do count against the salary cap, but they cost substantially less than active players. The league has a minimum salary of $7,200 per week. That adds up to $122,400 for a full 17 game season. By contrast, the minimum salary for rookies on an active roster is $465,000. Of course, that $7,200 per week is just a minimum. Teams can sign players to deals as big as they want. Again, though, it is worth remembering these contracts count against the practice squad.
Practice squad players are technically free agents. They are allowed to sign to the active 53 man roster of any team. There is an exception that does not allow teams to sign practice squad players from their next opponent. The league doesn’t want teams signing practice squad players just to get information for their next game and then dumping the player.
Since every player on a practice squad has two years or less experience, anybody going to a practice squad will have to go unclaimed through the waiver process to become free agents and eligible to sign.
The Jets can sign any free agent to their practice squad, even if that player was in training camp for another team. Conversely, players the Jets cut who clear waivers aren’t limited to signing with the Jets practice squad. They can sign on the practice squad of any team.