NFL Practice Squad Salary Rules and Eligibility Explained

NFL Practice Squad Salary Rules and Eligibility Explained

Overview of Practice Squad Salary

The practice squad salary is an important part of the NFL rules that helps teams to have the flexibility to bring in players to their practice squad. The practice squad salary is a fixed amount that each team must pay all of their practice squad members. Additionally, players on the practice squad are also eligible for performance incentives and bonuses.

In this article, we will explain the practice squad salary rules and eligibility requirements:

NFL Practice Squad Salary Cap

The NFL salary cap, which was imposed in 1994 by owners of the 32 NFL teams in order to restore parity among teams, applies to all player contracts. Players can receive three different types of salary: roster bonuses, annual salaries, and performance-based pay.

The NFL practice squad salary cap limits the amount that teams can spend on players on their practice squad. The maximum practice squad salary is determined each year by the parameters set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This agreement sets a floor of $8,000 per week with incremental increases each year (the minimum for players who have been in an NFL system longer than two years is currently set at $8,400). The maximum practice squad salary for 2020 is $12,000 per week plus a team allowance of $3,129 for team housing and meals for players on the road.

NFL teams are allowed to sign up to ten players to their practice squads annually in order to get an edge against other teams’ competition during practices and exhibition games. Typically these players serve as replacements or backups should injury befall this team’s starters or other roster members. Eligibility requirements include age restrictions; any player over the age of 24 would be considered ineligible for a spot on a practice squad despite any credentials or footballing ability they may have as long as they’ve spent fewer than nine total seasons playing in the league before that point.

NFL Practice Squad Salary Breakdown

Practice squad salaries vary by team and year. In general, the salaries for NFL practice squad players range from about $7,600 to $13,200 per week for the entire 2020 campaign. The exact number hinges on a player’s experience in the league: those with no prior NFL experience make a minimum of $8,000 each week and are eligible for a maximum salary of $12,600 per week. By contrast, practice squad players with one or more accrued seasons make a minimum of $11,500 and have maximum salaries set at $13,200 for 2020.

In addition to base pay, NFL teams are required to provide certain benefits to their practice-squad players – including health insurance coverage that can extend up to six months after their contracts expire. Players on the practice squad may not participate in team-related activities while they are with the organization nor can they do any outside work unless it is properly approved by both their teams and the league itself.

Finally, it’s important to note that there is no limit on how long a player can remain on an NFL team’s practice squad roster – though they must be released at least six days before the end of an NFL season in order to be eligible for another season with the same team or another organization during the same year. All this said, contracts signed between clubs can sometimes bypass these parameters if both parties agree upon them during negotiations.

Practice Squad Eligibility Rules

The NFL practice squad salary rules provide financial security for players who are looking to make a mark in the league. Players who join the practice squad can earn a minimum salary and become eligible for benefits.

In order to be eligible for the practice squad, there are a few guidelines that must be followed. We will explore those rules in more detail in this article:

Age Limit

The NFL has an age restriction for practice squad members, as outlined by team personnel regulations. All practice squad players must be at least 26 years of age to be eligible for the practice squad. This age restriction does not apply to players signed to the active roster, only those drafted to the practice squad.

The NFL has also set a maximum age limit for players signing with teams, which means that any player older than 25 years of age cannot join a team’s practice squad without being approved by the Commissioner’s Office.

If a player is over 25 and they have 3 seasons or less of experience in professional football and they have not been on an active roster in 9 or more NFL games, then they are eligible to join a team’s practice squad.

A player can also be placed on their team’s practice squad if he has fewer than three seasons of free agency credit and/or was on an active list for fewer than nine regular season games during his only accrued season(s). To qualify for three seasons of free agency credit, a player must be on a club’s active roster or inactive list or on the 45-man game day inactive list nine times during each of any such three consecutive seasons. Players who do not meet these requirements are prohibited from signing with other teams’ regular/active rosters until after their clubs grant them full release waivers.

Number of Years Played

In the National Football League (NFL), the practice squad consists of up to 10 players signed by each team in order to provide a competitive environment during team practices and expose new players to professional football without requiring them to be members of the 53-man active roster.

A player may be on an NFL practice squad for no more than three years. All players on the practice squad are free agents, meaning any team in the league can sign them, but teams cannot sign a player from another team’s practice squad until after 6 p.m. ET on the day following the end of that week’s regular season schedule or anytime after 12:00 noon ET during the period from week five through week ten of any regular season schedule commencing that same season.

Practice squad eligibility is determined according to NFL rules. Players must have six games or less accumulated service time in order to qualify for a team’s practice squad. Those with more than six games on an active roster do not qualify, regardless of how many years they have been in the league, unless they received injury protection during that season; so eligibility extends beyond just years played and requires adherence to specific conditions set forth by NFL rule book regulations.

Number of Games Played

Each player(s) on the practice squad must have not been active for an accumulated total of nine or more regular season games during their only season in the NFL. The number of games is calculated throughout the entire league and includes any regular season or playoff games. In order for a player to be placed on a practice squad, they must meet this specific eligibility requirement.

For players who have been active for nine or more regular or postseason games, they become ineligible and no longer qualify to be part of a practice squad’s roster.

Players who are newly entered into the NFL are eligible if they have not participated in any regular season (or post-season) game with any club during their current/only season in the NFL. These players must sign an initial contract before participating with an official NFL team’s active roster or practice squad, meaning that college and other professional football leagues cannot count toward the eligibility requirement.

The eligibility requirement also applies to overseas leagues affiliated with the NFL such as NFLEL, Can-Am Football League, Spring League etc., so players who competed in these leagues are subject to this specific rule as well.

Benefits of Being on a Practice Squad

Being on a NFL practice squad provides an opportunity for players to improve their skills and expand their knowledge of the game. It also provides a steady salary and a chance to get noticed by NFL teams. Being part of the practice squad also offers a range of health and retirement benefits that other leagues do not provide.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of being on a NFL practice squad and the rules and eligibility requirements for signing up:

Health Insurance

Being on a practice squad offers benefits beyond just getting the chance to be an NFL player. For example, those that are on a practice squad are offered health insurance with coverage that is almost equal to what is included for players on actual 53-man rosters. Those being part of practice squads also get dental and vision plans too.

Practice squad players have access to the same medical and injury reimbursement benefits as they would as if they were part of a 53-man roster. This includes treatment by team physicians, physical therapy coverage and post-career medical help such as lifetime insurance coverage and medical reimbursement through the league’s disability program.

Players on the practice squad are provided six weeks of paid vacation per year, with vacation days accumulated during their time with the team (or other teams). They cannot accrue more than 42 paid vacation dating back three successive seasons. Vacation days can be used for any purpose, whether it’s holidays or for personal use; however, teams can refuse to approve any requested days off (although rarely ever done in reality).

Lastly, unlike other professional sports leagues, NFL practice squad members even get paid-time off for military leave when called upon by their country to serve.

Retirement Plan

One of the key benefits that attract players to join a practice squad is the NFL’s retirement plan. Once a player is on an NFL team’s roster (active or practice) in any given season, they are eligible to receive contributions from the Player Disability and Neurocognitive Benefit Plan. Players with three or more credited seasons receive higher levels of benefit eligibility than those with less than three credited seasons.

Additionally, since practice squad players are still part of an NFL roster, they also qualify for contributions to their 401(k) plan by their team. For every year spent in the league as either an active player or part of a practice squad, each team will make matching contribution payments to qualifying 401(k) programs up to their vested level. This can result in larger nest eggs upon retirement if a player spends multiple years on multiple different rosters – both active and practice.

Other Benefits

In addition to the monetary rewards, being on an NFL practice squad offers other benefits that can shape a player’s career and future. Here are some examples of those perks:

  • Exposure to the Team and Coaching Staff: Players are exposed to the team, giving them a chance to work with veteran players and get feedback from coaches. Being on a squad can promote growth and development as players strive for more significant roles on the team.
  • Opportunity for Advancement: Practice squads provide unique opportunities for advancement and success. With an eye towards advancement, some players take advantage of their time in practice by picking up tricks of the trade by watching veterans working on different skills or technique. This knowledge can help them grow as players more quickly than if they were just practicing against members of their own team.
  • Development Time: Because practice squads typically don’t travel with teams, they have little pressure from coaches or media that younger players could find discouraging during development stages in their careers. Instead, this is an opportunity for young athletes to sharpen skills away from public scrutiny while still having access to quality coaching and instruction.
  • Financial Security: Even though practice squad salaries aren’t particularly high compared to other league members, they do offer some financial security over long periods of time because contracts can be renewed every season; in turn allowing these athletes to better plan ahead financially or work towards getting onto a different team roster within the league.

How to Get Signed to a Practice Squad

Becoming part of a NFL practice squad is a great way for players to further their career with the unique opportunity to develop their skills and stay in the game without having to join a full team. Players must be eligible for the practice squad according to specific rules and regulations set by the NFL.

In this article, we will discuss the process and explain the eligibility rules and salary requirements for a practice squad.


One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting signed to an NFL practice squad is through networking. While skills, talent level, and track record are important, making and maintaining relationships in the industry is essential.

Start by attending all the school-sponsored football functions you can, or reach out to schools with a letter or email expressing interest in their program. Attend college sporting events and NFL games whenever you can and take the opportunity to meet players, coaches, scouts and general managers around the league. Let them know what you’re looking for in terms of a spot on an NFL practice squad and that you’re ready to put in whatever it takes.

You may also opt for a more direct approach by joining semi-pro football or Arena Football. Organizations such as these are regularly scouted by teams from professional leagues such as the NFL and XFL. If your play turns heads while competing against professionals at this level it can open doors that were previously closed to you.

Once you’ve built relationships over time and made yourself known among the right people, there will be substantially more success when it comes down to landing a place on an NFL squad’s practice roster.

Preparing for NFL Tryouts

Taking part in the National Football League’s (NFL) tryouts is a long-term project. You must highlight your skills and abilities through multiple seasons of play, attend dozens of meetings, impress coaches with interviews and clinics, and navigate complex contract negotiations. To begin preparing for participation in the NFL Tryouts, it is important to have a full understanding of the practice squad rules and salary guidelines established by the NFL.

Practice squads are teams made up of players who are not on any other professional team’s roster but who still want to participate in competitive football. This allows organizations to observe prospective talent in competitive conditions without having to commit to any financial or contractual obligations until they have determined if they have found the right person for them. To be eligible for a practice squad, an individual must fulfill the following criteria:

  1. Be under 26 years old by September 1st of the current season
  2. Have less than nine games played on a team’s active/inactive list
  3. Not be protected by any kind of contractual agreements
  4. Possess an understanding of all NFL rules and regulations
  5. Show potential as an asset during evaluation periods

Salaries vary from league to league but most potentials can expect around USD $8,000-$10,000 per week when on a practise squad yet contracts are not guaranteed so these wages can differ from year to year. It is also possible for players on practise squads to move up permanently to their respective team’s roster if that team has space on it or of course join another organisation completely should negotiating rights indicate such scenarios arise.

Working with an Agent

If you are serious about pursuing an opportunity to join a practice squad, it is recommended that you work with an agent who is familiar with the NFL and its operations. Not only can your agent provide advice on what teams and coaches may be interested in signing you, but they can also help structure a contract that meets your needs and expectations.

Working with an agent means providing them with relevant information about your athletic background, position experience, and sporting achievements. The more detailed information they have, the better they can promote you to scouts. Additionally, your agent should represent you during the negotiation process if a team wants to sign you to the practice squad. It is wise to have someone on your side who understands stipulations such as compensation structures, benefits packages (such as pension plans or healthcare), roster size limits, and other NFL rules that impact player contracts.

Your agent also acts as a representative of the NFL Players’ Union (NFLPA). Therefore, they will ensure that all of your rights are respected throughout negotiations and beyond. In cases when players have grievances with team management or league personnel over their contract conditions or bonuses earned from their performance in practice games or scrimmages, the NFLPA provides them with legal counsel if need be. Working closely with a trusted agent significantly increases players’ chances for not only earning larger salaries but also defending themselves against hard negotiations at team meetings and grievances filed against them by league officials over violations of policy or disputes arising from restrictions imposed by their contracts.


Now that we have discussed the NFL practice squad salary rules, eligibility and potential benefits, it is clear that the practice squad is an important part of the NFL. With the right rules, it allows for teams to sign talented and experienced players to their practice squads and receive a paycheck for their efforts. Practice squad members are an integral part of the NFL and understanding the salary rules, eligibility and potential benefits of joining a team’s practice squad can assist players in making an informed decision when considering joining an NFL practice squad.

Summary of NFL Practice Squad Salary Rules and Eligibility

The NFL Practice Squad allows teams to carry up to 10 extra players on an active practice squad, while paying them weekly salaries. In the 2021 NFL season, teams can sign a maximum of six veterans and four rookies with no more than two players in their 4th or 5th year of experience, meaning that the vast majority (over 85%) of practice squad members will be in year one or two of their career.

Practice squad players are not eligible for postseason play and cannot retract from a team for more than 14 days per season unless it is for personal reasons. Additionally, players must carry a minimum salary of $8,400 per week, but teams may elect to pay higher salaries as long as it does not violate the overall salary cap. There are also bonus opportunities available through incentive programs that are designed to help entice veteran practice squad member’s to stay on board.

Finally, the competitive nature between teams is always at play in the practice squad environment as a team will try and keep the best available talent from being picked up by rivals. A unique aspect here is that once a player has been promoted from the practice squad for more than three games in one season he can no longer return unless released again by his original team. This makes decision-making complicated but also encourages loyalty amongst talent on both sides – organization and player alike – as each party looks out for their own security in a volatile business landscape.