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2018 Patriots roster cuts: How does the practice squad work and what does it mean for New England?

New England will add to its practice squad soon.

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are in the process of setting their first 53-man roster and they will soon also be able to establish their practice squad. Beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET today, they will be adding up to ten players who will serve both as a scout team for the regular season and as depth in case of injury. Most of their released players are potential candidates, like cornerback Cyrus Jones, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, and quarterback Danny Etling.

So, what exactly does this mean? Let’s find out.

What is the practice squad?

Each team is allowed a group of up to ten players who do now count against the 53-man roster. The practice squad is used, typically, to develop younger guys, while also giving the team itself a group of players who are used to replicate the offense or defense of the up coming opponent.

Who is eligible to join the practice squad?

The NFL’s practice squad rules are two-fold. For six of the 10 players, the following criteria have to be met (via the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan):

1. A player who has not accrued a season of NFL experience is eligible for the practice squad. (e.g. a rookie).

2. A free agent who was active (46-man game-day roster) for fewer than nine games during their accrued season(s) is eligible for the practice squad.

3. A player cannot be on a practice squad for a third season unless his team has a full 53-man roster.

An accrued season, per the NFL’s definition, is a season of six or more games on either a team’s 53-man roster, or on injured reserve, or on the physically unable to perform list.

The other four players on the practice squad are allowed to have up to two accrued seasons. Without this exception, players that have earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a spot unless they spent fewer than nine games on a club’s 46-player active list in each of the accrued seasons.

How much does a practice squad player get paid?

Practice squad players receive a weekly salary, though there are no guarantees tied to it. The minimum salary defined in the collective bargaining agreement is $7,600 per week for 2018, or $129,200 for the year. It is possible that teams pay a practice squad player more than that, though, which teams will do when they like a player and are trying to keep him with the squad. The practice squad salaries count against a team’s salary cap.

What is poaching?

The NFL allows practice squad players to be signed by other teams, if they are going to put them on their 53-man rosters. When this happens, the player in question receives a guaranteed three-week salary and is added to the 53-man roster for at least three weeks – even if the team decides to release him before the three weeks are over.

What if a team promotes their own practice squad player?

A team can choose to sign their own practice squad player to the 53-man roster as well. Often, a team will use the practice squad to keep depth in case of injuries, so they will call up players if an injury occurs. Teams will also call a player up to the 53-man roster if they feel another team is trying to poach a player the original teams wants to keep.

When can teams start signing practice squad players?

Typically, any player who has cleared waivers and fits the eligibility criteria, can sign with a practice squad. A player who is released from a practice squad is also free to sign with another practice squad. When it comes to the final round of roster cuts – which happened yesterday – the league starts the practice squad signing an hour after the waiver period ends. That means that teams can start signing players to the practice squad as of 1:00 p.m. ET today.

Which Patriots are eligible?

The following Patriots roster cuts can potentially be added to the practice squad after getting released yesterday:

DT Vincent Valentine

CB Cyrus Jones

QB Danny Etling

DE Eric Lee

OL Cole Croston

LB Harvey Langi

CB Jomal Wiltz

WR Riley McCarron

OL James Ferentz

DB Damarius Travis

OL Jason King

RB Ralph Webb

DB A.J. Moore

DT John Atkins

P Corey Bojorquez

FB Henry Poggi

WR K.J. Maye

RB Kenneth Farrow

WR Paul Turner

DT Frank Herron

WR Devin Lucien

CB Ryan Lewis

RB Khalfani Muhammad

DT Trent Harris