The Pittsburgh Steelers promoted rookie linebacker Anthony Chickillo from their practice squad on Wednesday and that transaction resulted in several people speculating that the move was made because of another team wanting to sign the Miami product to their 53-man roster. While that very well could’ve been the case, the Steelers did not have a right of first of refusal to prevent that from happening.
I asked former NFL agent Joel Corry about this very thing Thursday morning and he told me that practice squad players are essentially free agents and thus they have the freedom to sign with any team that offers them a contract. That contract, however, must be for the 53 man roster and the player must be paid a salary for the next three weeks even if he is terminated prior to the three weeks being up.
Corry also told me that a typical scenario is another team wants to sign a player to their 53 man roster and at that point his agent will call the team that has him on the practice squad to see if they will elevate him to stay with the organization instead of leaving.
All of this is noted in the CBA under Article 33.
Section 2. Signing With Other Clubs:
- (a) Any player under contract to a Club as a Practice Squad player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club at any time during the League Year, to serve as a player on any Club’s Active or Inactive List, and any Club is completely free to negotiate and sign such a Player Contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period, except that such player shall not be permitted to sign a Player Contract with another Club to serve as a Practice Squad player while under contract as a Practice Squad player.
- (b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a) above, a Practice Squad player may not sign an NFL Player Contract with his Club’s next opponent later than 4:00pm, New York time, on the sixth day preceding the game (except in bye weeks, when the prohibition commences on the tenth day preceding the game). When the current employer club has a bye the weekend before the game against the Club signing the Practice Squad player to an NFL Player Contract, such contract must be executed prior to 4:00pm, New York time, on the 10th day preceding the game.
Section 5. Active List:
- If a player on the Practice Squad of one club (Club A) signs an NFL Player Contract with another club (Club B), (1) the player shall receive three weeks salary of his NFL Player Contract at the 53-player Active/Inactive List minimum even if he is terminated by Club B prior to earning that amount, and (2) Club B is required to count the player on its 53-player Active/Inactive List for three games (a bye week counts as a game) even if he is terminated, traded, or assigned via waivers to another club or is signed as a free agent to another club’s 53-player roster or another club’s Practice Squad prior to that time. If the player is terminated from Club B’s 53-player roster and signed to Club B’s Practice Squad, he shall continue to count on the club’s 53-player Ac-tive/Inactive List but shall not count against the ten-player Practice Squad limit until the three-game requirement has been fulfilled. If a player is terminated prior to the com-pletion of the three-game period and is signed to Club B’s Practice Squad or is signed or assigned to another Club’s 53-player roster or Practice Squad, any Salary (as that term is defined in Article 13, Section 4 that he receives from any NFL club applicable to the three-game period shall be an offset against the three weeks’ Salary that he is entitled to receive from Club B. If the promotion occurs with fewer than three games remaining in the Club’s regular season, the three game requirement for roster count shall not carry over into the next season.
In the case of Chickillo’s Wednesday promotion, the reason that likely happened was two-fold. For starters, being as tight end Matt Spaeth has been ruled out for Thursday night with a hand fracture, Chickillo can likely take his place on some of the special team units. Additionally, being as linebacker James Harrison is currently nursing a right thumb injury, promoting Chickillo results in added depth at the outside linebacker position. Harrison was photographed Wednesday with some sort of cast on his right hand, so he might have issues playing with that Thursday night.