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Waivers, The Practice Squad, And How It All Works

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We've spent a pretty healthy portion of today looking at players getting cut and things of that nature. The Minnesota Vikings, along with 31 other NFL teams, are now sifting through the names and bios and stats of the players that got cut today to determine who they would like to make a claim on in an effort to better their team.

Every player that was cut on Friday that is not a "vested veteran" is subject to the waiver process. A "vested veteran" is a player that has accumulated four or more seasons worth of experience in the National Football League. The Vikings released four such players on Friday. . .cornerback Chris Carr, defensive end Jeff Charleston, safety Eric Frampton, and quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Those four players, due to their status as vested veterans, automatically become unrestricted free agents and can sign with any team they wish immediately. Everyone else that was cut on Friday is subject to the waiver process.

The waiver priority list is still based on records from the 2011 season, and will be until after Week 3 of the regular season. As a result, the Vikings sit third on the waiver priority list, behind only the Indianapolis Colts (who are at #1) and the St. Louis Rams. This basically means that if the Colts want a player, they get him. If the Rams want a player, they get him as long as the Colts don't claim him as well. The Vikings, as a result, can get any player they want that the Colts or Rams don't put a claim on.

Waiver claims have to be in by 11 AM Central time on Saturday, at which point we will find out which teams have been awarded which player(s). From there, teams can start building their practice squads.

An NFL practice squad is generally made up of borderline NFL players. . .lower-round draft picks, unsigned free agents, those sorts of players. In order to be eligible for the practice squad, a player has to meet the following requirements:

  • Have no prior Accrued Seasons in the NFL (An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster);
  • Have one prior Accrued Season in which the player was on the 46-man active roster for no more than 8 games; and,
  • Have been on the practice squad with a particular team no more than 2 prior seasons unless the team never had their active roster go below 53 players during the two years the player served on the practice squad. If that is the case, the player is eligible for a third practice squad season.

Yes, certain parts of that are a bit confusing, particularly the first two lines. Remember, only 46 players are active on game days. So, a guy can be on the 53-man roster and still not have been active for six games. Or he could have been active for seven or eight games, gotten injured, and was then placed on IR or something. He would then have an accrued season, but he wouldn't have been on the 46-man roster for more than eight games, thereby still making him eligible for the practice squad.

Now, one important thing to keep in mind is that players on the practice squad are always free agents, which means they're eligible to be signed away by other teams at any time. There are a couple of caveats to this, however. First off, a team can't sign a player from the practice squad of a team they're playing the next week. So, if the Vikings see a player on the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad that they like, they can't sign him during the week prior to their Week 2 match-up. They could, however, sign him any time after that game.

Also, if a team signs a player off of another team's practice squad, that player takes up a roster spot for his new team for at least three weeks, bye weeks included. Even if the team chooses to release that player after one week of having him on the roster, he still counts against their 53-man roster for three weeks. This also means that you can't sign a player away from one team's practice squad simply to put them onto your practice squad. If you sign a player off of a practice squad, they must go onto your 53-man roster.

Also, if a player is promoted internally to the practice squad, they must stay there for three weeks, and be compensated at the minimum salary for their status. If they get let go before those three weeks are up, they still get paid for those three weeks.

Speaking of which, how much does a practice squad player in the NFL get paid? Well, their minimum salary is $5,700 a week. . .nice work if you can get it. . .although in rare instances some teams will pay more. They'll also usually get a couple thousand dollars as a signing bonus.

Within the next 24 hours, we'll see the Minnesota Vikings work their way through both of these processes. This is a pretty decent chance for the Vikings to improve their squad, and I expect that we'll see a few new names added to the 53-man roster before 11 AM Central time tomorrow.