This is a question that I was asked a couple of times yesterday in different platforms, so, given that I’m sure the answer didn’t reach anybody and it has become obvious that there is interest in it, I thought I would take a moment to formulate my thoughts into article form as to why a player would turn down an offer on a team’s practice squad.
The reason that this is suddenly a topic is obvious. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not keep 2016 seventh-round wide receiver Demarcus Ayers on the 53-man roster. They offered to sign him to the practice squad, but sources told our team that the first-year player turned the offer down.
So why would a player turn down the opportunity to make, at a minimum, $7200 a week while remaining on the streets? For a player in Ayers’ specific situation, there are two obvious reasons that make his decision seem much less ill-advised.
Most importantly, it has to be considered that he is a young player with very little tape. Ayers wants to play football on Sundays this season, and he is not going to do that from the Steelers’ practice squad. While a team could sign him off of the team’s practice squad, it would be more advantageous in finding another team as a street free agent.
The primary key here is the fact that, as a free agent, he and his agent can actively pursue other teams, and most fundamentally, organize workouts for other teams. For a player who barely played in the preseason and has limited history for other teams to look at, it is likely that he may be required to go through a workout before a team is comfortable signing him to their 53-man roster.
As an aside, there is also the advantage that a team would not have to hold him on the 53-man roster for a minimum of three weeks (or three weeks’ pay) if they were to sign him off the practice squad, in case he didn’t work out.
Ayers missed most of training camp and the preseason with some undisclosed injury, and he only got limited opportunities to play during the preseason finale, including fielding two punts that were returnable. But he didn’t show enough for anybody to just go ahead and sign. After all, if he did, somebody likely would have claimed him off waivers. Remember, he is not on his original rookie contract already.
The other major reason he wouldn’t want to sign on to the Steelers’ practice squad? Little to no opportunity for advancement. This is a team that traded away a wide receiver because they had too many. They have six on the 53-man roster and another two on the practice squad without him.
For a team with eight wide receivers, it would be difficult for Ayers to even get in much valuable practice time. Combine that with the fact that he is not maximizing his opportunity to connect to a 53-man roster, and it makes much more sense how he could turn down at least $7200 a week.
EDIT: Ayers has signed with the Patriots practice squad this morning.