According to Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog, the Patriots have decided to increase the pay of select practice squad players:
According to NFLPA documents, defensive end Markell Carter and offensive linemen Nick McDonald and Matt Kopa, three players who have been on the practice squad since the start of the 2011 season, are now being paid at a $149,940 rate, or $8,820 per week.
In addition...cornerback Malcolm Williams, a 2011 seventh-round pick who was re-signed to the practice squad this week, is earning currently being paid at a $163,200 rate, or $9,600 per week.
The Patriots have often increased the pay of players they consider their top practice squad members, and those who have the most likely chance of impacting the team in the future. "Next-Man-Up" players like safety Ross Ventrone and Thomas Welch have been given increased salaries this season and they have gone on to play on the football field on Sunday. McIntyre also notes that tight end Garrett Mills has had an increased salary all season.
The list of higher-pay players also have a correlation to practice success. The Patriots given black jerseys, after a win, to those players (practice squad or depth) the coaches deem the most helpful in practice from the prior week. It's no coincidence that out of six possible jerseys, Matt Kopa has four, and Markell Carter and Garrett Mills have three. Nick McDonald recently won his first jersey and, with the current depth problems on the offensive line, his value is sure to be measured carefully.
Starting cornerback Antwaun Molden is tied with Kopa for the season lead with four jerseys.
A question can be posed about why Williams has the highest pay on the practice squad, but with the secondary missing a lot of talent, it's clear the Patriots want to retain players familiar with the system.
In that same line of thought, if another offensive lineman goes down with an injury, don't be surprised to see Matt Kopa or Nick McDonald brought up to the active roster- and don't be surprised if they fit right in.