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What you need to know about the NFL’s practice squad rules

The key things to understand about the NFL’s practice squad.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks Training Camp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have formed their initial 53-man roster for the 2023 NFL regular season, but we know that’s not the end of the story. Additional moves and tinkering will be made to the roster over the next several days, and separate from the active roster the team will get to work on forming its practice squad.

We won’t have any practice squad signings confirmed until Wednesday, so in the meantime here’s a little primer on the rules for NFL practice squads.

How many players are allowed on the practice squad?

A maximum of 16, with an exception for a 17th through the International Pathway Program, which the Seahawks have done in the past with Aaron Donkor. He’s not with them this year so that’s not a story for 2023.

Who is eligible for the practice squad?

  • A maximum of 10 free agents who have 0-2 years of accrued NFL experience.
  • A maximum of 6 free agents who have no limitations to their accrued NFL experience. If the Seahawks, for instance, sign Joey Hunt and Ben Burr-Kirven to the practice squad on Wednesday (which they can, since neither one was waived), they will count against the unlimited accrued limit. As explained by Behind the Steel Curtain, “These players are not in addition to the 10 from the previous category, but are a subset within the category of players with more than one accrued season. In other words, if a team has four players on the practice squad with unlimited accrued seasons, they could have another six that have two accrued seasons.”

What constitutes an accrued NFL season?

  • A player must have been on full-play status for at least six regular-season games in a given season. This includes being on the active/inactive list, injured reserve or reserve PUP.

How much do practice squad players make?

  • Players with 0-2 years of accrued experience earn $12,000 per week for each season they’re on the practice squad.
  • Players at least 3 years of accrued experience earn anywhere from $16,100 to a maximum of $20,600 per week.

How many practice squad to active roster elevations are allowed?

Practice squad players can be gameday elevations a maximum of 3 times, at which point they either have to be signed to the active roster or pass through waivers, then be re-signed to the practice squad, at which point they are eligible for another 3 games (regular or postseason).

No more than 2 practice squad players can be eligible for gameday of a specific week.

Can a practice squad player be signed to another team’s active roster?

Yes, but only to the active roster. There is no PS to PS swapping allowed. However, an important caveat as it pertains to the active roster is that practice squad players cannot sign to the active roster of an upcoming opponent unless they do so six days before the upcoming game, or 10 days if their team is currently on a bye.

In other words, whichever players get signed to the Seahawks practice squad cannot be signed to the Rams’ active roster on the Tuesday of game week.

Another protection: Teams can designate four players each week that are protected from being signed by other teams. Unprotected players can be signed at any time (e.g. Joshua Dobbs to the Tennessee Titans via the Detroit Lions practice squad)

That should just about cover everything important! We now await the practice squad building, which starts after waivers clear at 9 am PT on Wednesday.