On Friday, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to a couple of pretty significant changes to the way that practice squads will function during the 2020 NFL season.
First off, as had been previously speculated, practice squads will expand to 16 players for this season. The practice squads were already set to expand from 10 to 12 with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and now they are set to expand even more in light of the COVID-19 issue.
Given that the Vikings drafted fifteen players this past April, an expansion like this would likely alleviate some of the pressure of having to roster as many of them as possible. When you consider that there won’t be any preseason games or any opportunities to look at the players that other teams might cut, you would think that teams would favor the players they took through camp to fill out their practice squads.
Granted, most teams fill their practice squads with their own players in the hopes of developing them further, but now there really won’t be any reason for them to scour the waiver wires after cutdown day. My guess is that all 15 players the Vikings drafted this past April will be either on the active roster or the practice squad, thanks in part to this new expansion.
In addition, teams will be able to “protect” four members of their practice squads from getting poached by other teams each week. That would, essentially, make those players members of the active roster.
One of the big changes to the practice squads, and perhaps the biggest one, at least in my view, is a rule that was agreed on when the new CBA was signed. That rule says that a team can now bring a player up to the active roster and send him back to the practice squad twice without having to subject them to waivers.
The way it has worked previously is that if a team wanted to move a player back to the practice squad, they had to release them and subject them to the other 31 teams potentially plucking him off of the waiver wire. Now, sort of like sending a player back to the minor leagues in Major League Baseball, teams will be able to send a player back down to the practice squad twice without having to worry about losing them.
Yet again, we have an aspect of NFL football that is going to be quite a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.