Here I am, once again, with no power or authority, stating the case for the NFL to create unaffiliated practice teams. With the league reportedly strongly considering trimming 90-man rosters down to 75 or 80, you’re going to have between 320 and 480 unemployed players, the majority of whom would probably love to still be getting paid to be practicing somewhere.
With this number of players, you could fairly easily create four to eight practice teams, who could be set up in different regions of the country. There is no reason the NFL couldn’t find coaches willing to work and train them. On the spur of the moment, they managed to get Hue Jackson to orchestrate Colin Kaepernick’s workout last year.
This is an idea borrowed in part from the XFL’s ‘Team 9’ concept executed earlier this year. The XFL was an eight-team league that lasted only half a season this year because the coronavirus halted the world dead in its tracks smack dab in the middle.
But one of the many innovations that they were working on was to have a ninth ‘team’ of players who would be regularly practicing and keeping in shape, and who would be available to be signed, or assigned, to one of the league’s teams should that need a player.
The MLB, NHL, and NBA basically already have this with their minor league systems, the MLB especially. Young players in AAA or AA are routinely ‘called up’ at the end of the season when rosters expand ahead of the postseason and minor league seasons are over.
There is no such minor league equivalent in the NFL, even if they are currently talking about expanding the practice squad this year potentially up to 20 players in total. Prior to this season, the practice squad had been limited to 10 players, though expanded to 12 in 2020, and slated to go to 14 next year.
Creating additional practice teams accomplishes multiple objectives, however, in the event that the league does decide to trim rosters. It’s going to cost hundreds of players their jobs, and this will be the perfect solution to offer them continued employment. In fact, it would be advantageous to them, since nearly all of them would be unlikely to be on a 53-man roster when the season actually starts.
On these practice teams, they would be able to be on these practice teams and earning weekly paychecks, though of course it would have to be worked out as to how much they would be paid, and who would be paying them (presumably an equal share from all 32 teams).
Even if this isn’t something that they are interesting in adopting permanently, it seems to me that it would be in their best interests for 2020 if they are that concerned about the potential of a coronavirus outbreak depleting a team’s roster during the course of the season.