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Practice squad rules and eligibilty: Which Buccaneers can make it?

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the process of cutting down their roster to 53 players, and they're well under way so far. After they've done that, they'll start assembling the practice squad -- but that's not as straightforward as it sounds. You can't just sign put any waived players on the practice squad. There are rules and regulations governing eligibility and the entire procedure. And we're here to tell you what those are.

Getting a player on the practice squad

Contrary to popular belief, a team can't simply place a player on its practice squad. First, that player has to be cut from the team, after which they have to pass through waivers. Every NFL team will get a chance to pick them up for their 53-man roster. If no team does that, the player is free to sign with a practice squad. That is: any practice squad. They could choose to spurn their original team's offer for that of another team. Conversely, the Bucs won't be limited to just their own players in constructing their practice squad.

Practice squad eligiblity

Not every player is eligible to be signed to a practice squad. Prospective practice squad players must meet one of these requirements:

  • Have no accrued seasons in the NFL. A season is accrued when a player spends six or more games on the active (that is: 46-man game day) roster.
  • They spent fewer than nine games on the active roster in each of their accrued seasons.
  • Each team can have two players on the practice squad who have a maximum of two accrued seasons.
  • Players can only serve a maximum of three years on a practice squad. For the purposes of this rule, six games on the practice squad counts as having served a season. They can only get a third season on the practice squad if their team keeps a full 53-man roster throughout their employment.

The simple version that catches almost all of these cases: if the player's a veteran, he's not practice squad eligible. If he's a young player who's never really played in the NFL, he is.

Keeping players on the practice squad

First, you have to pay them a weekly salary. This is a minimum of $6,300 per week, with no maximum. Sometimes, teams will pay players a full 53-man roster salary just to keep them around. The Bucs did that with Dezmon Briscoe way back in 2010.

Second, it means convincing players not to sign with another team if one comes knocking. Practice squad players can sign with any team at any point in time, and it's pretty common for teams to raid other teams' practice squads once injuries start to really take their toll. One exception: a practice squad player can't sign with their team's next opponent in the six days preceding that game (or ten days during a bye week). I'm convinced that rule exists solely to frustrate Bill Belichick.

Buccaneers' practice squad eligible players

Based on the team's 75-man roster, here are the players eligible for the practice squad. Note that I'm excluding players like Kwon Alexander, who are never getting cut, just to keep the list a little comprehensible. "Exemption" notes that they'd take up one of the two spots for players with accrued seasons on the practice squad.

Rookies:

CB Jude Adjei-Barimah
WR Kaelin Clay
DE Ryan Delaire
WR Donteea Dye
S Chris Hackett
WR Rannell Hall
WR Adam Humphries
LB Josh Keyes
DT Caushaud Lyons

Second-year players:

TE Cameron Brate
T Edawn Coughman
QB Seth Lobato
C Jeremiah Warren
LS Andrew DePaola (exemption)
CB Brandon Dixon (exemption)
G Kadeem Edwards
DE T.J. Fatinikun (exemption)
T Reid Fragel
WR Tavarres King
G Matthew Masifilo
K Patrick Murray (exemption)

Third-year players

S/CB Isaiah Frey (exemption)
DE William Gholston (exemption)
G Garrett Gilkey (exemption)
LB Khaseem Greene (exemption)
G Patrick Omameh (exemption)