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How the practice squad works for the Jets and other teams

New York Jets Training Camp Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Beginning today the Jets will be able to sign players to their practice squad.

If you are unfamiliar with the practice squad, it is exactly what it sounds like. The Jets and the rest of the league will have a group of players who will practice with the team but not be on the active roster. For all intents and purposes, these players are free agents. The Jets can sign them to the active roster. The Jets can also sign players off the practice squads of other teams with a few exceptions. Likewise, players on the Jets practice squad can sign with other teams to join their active rosters. The league has put in a rule that allows teams to protect up to four players each week from signing with other teams.

For the 2021 season teams will be allowed to sign 16 players to their practice squad. The NFL expanded practice squads from 10 to 16 last year to help teams be prepared in case there was a COVID-19 outbreak prior to a game. The league kept the expanded practice squads this year.

Another change from 2020 that will remain in place is allowing veteran players to join practice squads. In the past there were strict eligibility requirements that only allowed young players on the practice squad. However, 6 of the 16 spots can be used on veteran players. (Teams can also use these spots on young players. These 6 spots can go to players at any point of their career.)

Of the remaining 10 spots, 4 can be used on players with more than one but less than two years or less of NFL experience. These spots can also go to rookies and first year players.

The remaining 6 spots are exclusively dedicated to rookies or players with less than one year of NFL experience (less than 9 games played).

The minimum salaries are $9,200 per week for players with two years or less of NFL experience and $14,000 per week for players with more than two years of experience. There is no maximum salary. Teams can pay whatever they want for practice squad players, but the practice squad does count against the salary cap so teams typically don’t want to pay too much for players who aren’t technically on the team.

Each week teams can activate two practice squad players for their games without adding them to the 53 man active roster. This prevents teams from needing to pay the minimum salary for a roster player, which is substantially higher than the practice squad minimum. It also prevents the team from needing to expose the player to waivers if he is only going to be active for one game.

There are many more nuances to the practice squad, but these are the basics. We will likely see the Jets start to sign practice squad players once we find out which players went unclaimed on waivers by other teams and are free agents.