PatsCap: Explaining the waiver process, practice squad requirements and who’s eligible for the Patriots

(Getty Images)

Two common questions I get around roster cutdown time are:

1. How does the waiver process work?

2. How does the practice squad process work?

If you want to know how they both operate, it's important to know the definition of an "accrued season."

An accrued season is six or more games on a team's 53-man roster, injured reserve (IR) or physically unable to perform (PUP).

Now, let's tackle the waiver process. Before the October 29 trade deadline, veterans (players with four or more accrued seasons) are not subject to waivers. This means the following released Patriots are now able to sign with any team in the NFL, since they are now street free agents:

  1. Mike Pennel
  2. Ryan Allen
  3. Dontrelle Inman

Before the trade deadline, players with less than four accrued seasons must go through the waiver process when cut. If claimed on waivers, the player must go to the team that claimed him on waivers. During their first three weeks of the NFL season, the waiver priority goes by the original draft order. The ten teams with the highest priority are:

1. Cardinals
2. 49ers
3. Jets
4. Raiders
5. Buccanneers
6. Giants
7. Jaguars
8. Lions
9. Bills
10. Broncos

If the Cardinals make a claim, they do not fall back to the last position. That is, they will always have the first crack at a released non-veteran. The Patriots have the last waiver priority. Beginning on the Tuesday following the third weekend of the regular season, the claiming priority will be based on the inverse order of the standing of clubs.

When a player is claimed, his contract goes with him. For example, Andrew Beck has $100,000 of his 2019 salary fully guaranteed, any team that claims him then becomes responsible for paying that guaranteed amount, even if they waive him later on.

Hopefully, the above explains the waiver process. If you have any further questions, please ask them in the comments section and I will be sure to answer them.

Now, the practice squad. Each team is allowed a 10-man practice squad. This year the four AFC East teams are allowed 11 players because of the International Player Pathway Program. Below are the criteria for six of the ten players:

1. A player who has not accrued a season of NFL experience is eligible for the practice squad. (e.g. a rookie).
2. A free agent who was active (46-man game-day roster) for fewer than nine games during their accrued season(s) is eligible for the practice squad.
3. A player cannot be on a practice squad for a third season unless his team has a full 53-man roster.

Note that a player must have a minimum of six games – up from the current three games – on a practice squad in order for that season to count as one of the player’s three permissible seasons of practice squad service. Four of the 10 players can have up to two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Absent this exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a practice squad berth unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club’s 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.

A couple of simple rules of thumb to keep in mind for the practice squad are:

1. Rookies and first-year players are always eligible.
2. Veterans are never eligible.

Note: A credited season determines the minimum salary of a player with X numbers of credited seasons. An accrued season determines when a player reaches free agency. If a player at the end of his contract has three accrued seasons, he will become a restricted free agent. If he has four or more accrued seasons to his credit, he will become an unrestricted free agent. A player needs six games to get credit for an accrued season; three games to get credit for a credited season. Games on Injured Reserve count in the accrued season calculation, but do NOT count in the credited season calculation.

Reminder: In order to be placed onto the Patriots practice squad, the player MUST FIRST clear waivers.

This year practice squad players will be paid a minimum of $8,000 a week, an increase from $7,600 last year. $8,000 * 11 players * 17 weeks= $1,496,000. Each and every year a few players on the Patriots practice squad will receive more than minimum.

On August 7, 2015 ESPN's Dianna Marie Russini tweeted that "clubs can give signing bonus, salary guarantees, and roster bonuses to players on (the) Practice Squad." I've only heard of one such instance of this actually happening in 2015, 2016 or 2017 when Darius Kilgo's last three weeks salary were fully guaranteed in 2016.

Here is the list of all practice squad eligible Patriots on the team's current roster and the reason why they are eligible.