According to his Instagram account, veteran safety Curtis Riley claims to now be a member of the Arizona Cardinals—presumably unofficially at this time, with an official signing pending. As you will recall, he made the Pittsburgh Steelers’ initial 53-man roster, but was released and re-signed to the practice squad after Sean Davis became available and was signed in his stead.
Riley now lists himself on his profile as an “Arizona Cardinals Safety“, and in Instagram stories, posted a photo of himself stepping off a plane in Phoenix. Earlier, he shared a story reading that he and his partner were “sliding into our new destination”.
Under ordinary circumstances, practice squad players are permitted to sign to other teams’ 53-man rosters at nearly any time during the season, except of course during games, and teams cannot sign practice squad players from their next opponent within six days of the game (or 10 days for a team with a bye week).
As part of the Covid-19 CBA addendum this year, however, teams were given the opportunity to ‘protect’ four players on their practice squad each week, beginning on Tuesday at 4PM. Teams are permitted to sign practice squad players before then, but may not sign protected practice squad players until after the team’s successive game.
Teams who play on Monday night, however, will not have their protected status designations go into effect until 4PM on Wednesdays. As we noted yesterday, all four of the teams who played on Monday were not included on the list of teams designating their protected players this week.
Riley was one of the four players the Steelers protected last week. A protected player who was not subsequently elevated to active/inactive status (in other words, added to the then 54- or 55-man roster for the upcoming game) is permitted to terminate his practice squad contract in order to sign with another team either as soon as the team’s next game ends or at 12:01AM on the following day, whichever comes later.
So, the #Steelers did not need to declare four protected practice squad players until Wednesday so it really looks like Curtis Riley maybe terminated his practice squad contract to sign with the Cardinals. I don’t think this one is on Tomlin. pic.twitter.com/fEVh9mFPaV
— Steelers Depot 🏆👑 (@Steelersdepot) September 16, 2020
Thanks to the Steelers having played on Monday, they are unable to ‘protect’ Riley until today at 4PM, rather than yesterday at 4PM. The Cardinals, from what it sounds like, may have been able to take advantage of this gap to sign him.
To give you an example of how this works, the official transaction sheet lists ‘contracts terminated by player’, and includes T Alex Light of the Arizona Cardinals and LB Rashad Smith of the Chicago Bears. Both players were signed to the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster, and the team’s official website says that they were signed from those teams’ practice squads.
— Steelers Depot 🏆👑 (@Steelersdepot) September 15, 2020
Basically, the only real protection that the new protection rules give teams is protection against teams who are not able or willing to make quick roster decisions in the early part of the week. As long as you sign a player before 4PM on Tuesday (or 4PM on Wednesday for teams who play on Monday), signing players off the practice squad, even protected players, works the same as it always has.
And now the Steelers have (or will have, according to the player himself) one fewer safety in their system, a safety they felt was good enough to keep on the initial 53-man roster. With Marcus Allen apparently a linebacker now and Jordan Dangerfield largely a special teamer, the only other backup aside from Davis is rookie Antoine Brooks, who is also on the practice squad.