As we approach the end of the first week of July, nearing three weeks before training camps open for most teams in the NFL, the reality is that the league and the NFLPA are continuing ongoing discussions regarding what exactly football will look like during a viral pandemic.
One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is that both players and owners are acknowledging teams may need a larger pool of players to draw from this year, in light of the very real possibility of a team experiencing an outbreak and needing to quarantine a large number of players.
While we have previously written about reports of league proposals to expand the practice squad, ranging anywhere between 16 to 20 players in total (from what its currently 12), Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy added another interesting bit of information to the discussion.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified back in March, the practice squad expanded from 10 to 12 players, and is set to expand to 14 next season. In addition, teams may have up to two players with any amount of previously accrued experience on the practice squad, a major change that essentially allows any player in the NFL to be eligible.
Murphy suggests that the league is considering expanding the number of practice squad slots that may be available to veteran players of any degree of experience beyond the two that is included in the CBA, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, that would allow teams to retain more experienced veterans within their sphere than they might otherwise ordinarily have access to.
While it is in my eyes a positive change, I’m not sure how frequently a situation would arise in which a team would release more than three veteran players of significant experience that they would also want to retain on the practice squad. One or two is pretty common, but generally, you understand who is not going to be kept around.
Last season, the following players did not make the 53-man roster from the team’s 90-man roster who under the previous CBA’s rules would not eligible for the practice squad but now would be (full disclosure, I’m ballparking, and this might not be 100 percent on the nose: RB Trey Edmunds; WR Johnny Holton; WR Eli Rogers; OLB Jayrone Elliott. Each of these players at this time have more than two years of accrued seasons with at least one season in which they dressed for the qualified number of games that would remove their eligibility.
So, if the Steelers had the same roster as last season, with the same players’ current eligibility standards (as opposed to their status prior to the start of the 2019 season), these four players would not have been practice squad-eligible last year, but now would be.
Note, Holton of course was on the practice squad last season, but at the time he only had two accrued seasons of experience. He would now have three, and would not be eligible under the previous rules, but now would be under the new CBA.
Players who would fall under this category who may be at risk of missing the roster would include Jordan Dangerfield, Ryan Switzer, Daniel McCullers…and that’s pretty much it. But of course the team could also sign a veteran off the street to the practice squad who isn’t a part of their team.