With the 53-man roster set. . .certainly not in ink, but set for now. . .we will soon be learning about who the Minnesota Vikings will be putting on their practice squad to start the 2020 season. As with so many other things in this year of COVID-19, the practice squad is going to work a little bit differently. Let’s talk about things here, shall we?
Teams have until 11:00 AM Central time, or about half an hour from the time this story goes up, to make waiver claims on players that were let go by their teams on Friday and Saturday. The waiver priority order is still based on 2019 regular season records, so the Vikings are quite a ways down the priority list, so if they make claims on any players, they have to hope that about 20 other teams don’t decide to claim the same player or else they won’t get them. The Cincinnati Bengals had the worst record last year, so they are #1 on the list and can, literally, claim as many players as they want.
If a team claims a player on waivers, they have one hour to make the corresponding move to add them to the 53-man roster. That means that the 53-man roster will again be “finalized” by noon Central time. At that time, teams can start signing players to the practice squad.
The Difference Between Being “Waived” and “Released”
It is important to note that not every player that was let go yesterday is subject to the waiver process. Players like Brett Jones that are considered “vested veterans” can sign with teams whenever they wish as free agents. Players with three seasons of accrued service or less, however, are subject to the waiver wire and need to wait to see where they will be awarded.
If players that were waived are not claimed by the deadline today, they then become free agents. This is when the practice squad process really gets underway.
Practice Squad Changes for 2020
The practice squad is now 16 players: Due to concerns with the pandemic, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to expand practice squads to 16 players. It was supposed to expand to 12 anyway, but the number of players was increased for the reasons we’ve already talked about.
Every single NFL player is eligible for the practice squad this year: In the past, practice squads were limited to players with two seasons of accrued time or less. This year, however, six of the 16 practice squad spots can be filled by veteran players regardless of how many accrued seasons they have built up.
Practice Squad protections: Each week of this season, teams will be able to protect four members of their practice squad. This means that no other team can sign them to the 53-man roster. These designations can be made on Tuesday of each week, meaning that from Monday until the designation deadline on Tuesday, every player on the practice squad is vulnerable to getting “poached.”
Increased flexibility: Due to COVID-19 concerns, teams can now activate up to two practice squad players per week on game day before the inactives are announced, which happens 90 minutes before kickoff. The player does not have to be elevated to the 53-man roster in order for this to happen. The team can do this with a player twice per season. If they do it with a player a third time, they must be signed to the 53-man roster and then subject to the normal procedures to be placed back on the practice squad.
So, let’s sit back and see what the Vikings do as far as changes to the 53-man roster, folks. We expect at least a few changes today, and we’ll update you on those as well as what’s going on with the practice squad.