The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a new set of rules for practice squads in 2016 and 2017, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has to be excited about the change.
In 2014, the two sides agreed to expand the practice squad from eight members to 10 for the subsequent two seasons, with two of those players allowed to have accrued up to two seasons in the NFL.
The increase in practice squad size was a two-year test drive, with the 2016 season set to revert back to an eight player group. The two sides agreed that increasing the practice squad was beneficial.
The new change reinstates the 10 player practice squad and boosts the number of allowed players with NFL experience to four. This allows players with a year or two of service in the NFL to stick around with a franchise if they don’t make the active roster, increasing their odds of remaining in the league.
A player like Malcolm Butler or Dion Lewis could technically be released and, if no team claims them, they could sign with the Patriots practice squad despite their two years of service in the NFL.
The more realistic opportunity would be for a player like fullback James Develin or offensive tackle Cameron Fleming- players that might not make the active roster, but have been in the league a long enough time to accrue a year or two of service that would have prevented them from joining a pre-2014 practice squad- to make the team and remain in the league.
Look for Belichick to fully capitalize on the change to the practice squad as those players with up to two years of experience can be viewed as the 54th and 55th players on the roster and can be called up to the active roster to offer their NFL experience in case of an injury.
In other rule changing news, the Patriots are no longer allowed to wear numberless jerseys in practice during minicamps (Belichick liked it because it forced players to bond and learn names, and it likely forced the scouts to watch the player instead of the number). Boo.
But it makes sense. The league wants numbers to make players easily identifiable in case of any reported violations and a bunch of numberless players makes that difficult.