How do the new practice squad rules impact the Browns?
The 2020 practice squad rules are significantly different than in previous years, due to the fears that COVID might play havoc with NFL rosters and this will affect the way that the Cleveland Browns and other NFL teams shape their final rosters.
First, let’s take some time to explain what the practice squad is, especially since the rules have changed so much. The practice squad is formed only after all NFL teams have reached their 53 player limit. Each team can now sign16 additional players to the practice squad.
Six players can be veterans with any level of experience. They get paid $8,400 a week for 17 weeks of the season, with veterans getting $12,000 per week.
This is significantly different from 2019 when each team was allowed to keep four players with no more than two years of experience.
Thus, a player like Garrett Gilbert would not have been eligible to be a practice squad player in 2019, but he is eligible in 2020. This actually should be a no brainer. Every team would love to have a third-string quarterback, especially in the COVID year, but it’s a wasted roster spot most of the time.
Cleveland’s practice squad does not exclusively belong to the Browns. Other teams can take players from the Browns, and the Browns can take players from the practice squads of other teams. That player must remain on the 53 player roster for three games or more. The main limitation is that they cannot take a player from their next opponent.
Another limitation, new for 2020, is called the “no-poaching rule” which allows the team to designate four players from Tuesday through game day who can not be signed by other teams. However, they can still be signed on Monday, so really it is “limited poaching” rather than “no-poaching.” The NFL wants to ensure that some team does not come up with a way to hide more than its share of talented players. Truthfully, it’s probably a phobia left over from the dominant Cowboy and 49er teams of the 1980s that had peanut vendors who could run 4.3 40 yard dashes.
Another rule change is that teams can give a practice squad player a one-time temporary promotion, creating up to 55 players on the active roster. They then return to the practice squad without going through the waiver process. The idea is that teams might have players who are banged up but not seriously enough to go on Injured Reserve (IR), so it makes sense to have someone come in and fill in for a game. Plus it is a good way to give a practice squad guy some exposure.
The new rules seem to favor having a few veteran “insurance policy” players, like Garrett Gilbert, assuming he clears waivers and wants to come back. You could imagine similar players might be helpful in patching together an offensive line or defensive backfield. The 16 player practice squad league-wide will be vastly more talented than the squads of the past, which were largely made up of undrafted first-and-second-year-players.
Yet it is possible that the Browns could make some waiver claims as well.
This fan is keeping his fingers crossed that Garrett Gilbert will still be in a Browns Uniform. Some other familiar faces, including Willie Harvey, Dontrell Hilliard, Willie Wright and A.J. Green might reappear also.