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2016 NFL Practice Squad/Waiver Wire: Rules, Size, Eligibility, Salary

Get caught up on the NFL rules and regulations regarding the waiver wire and practice squad rules before official cuts begin.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their preseason schedule on Thursday, and now begins the two-day process of cutting down to the 53-man roster. Teams used to cut from 90 to 75 players on Tuesday of the final week, and then down to 53 on Saturday. This year, they removed the first cut, so now teams are cutting from near 90 players to 53 at the final cut.

NFL rules dictate teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players no later than 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. That means a lot of talent will be available within the next 72 hours. The new rule removing the 75-man cut means upwards of 1,100 players are going to be released between the final preseason game and the Saturday afternoon deadline.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have a ton of difficult roster decisions to make, but they certainly will have a few tough ones to make at positions like tight end, cornerback and wide receiver.

When a team releases a player with less than four years of service, they are subject to the waiver process. Normally, when a player is released, waivers runs the following day. For roster cuts, all players run through waivers on Sunday, whether they were released on Friday or Saturday.

The process involves a priority list ranking the order of teams to claim players. From the first day of the league year until the conclusion of Week 3 of the 2017 regular season, the priority is based on draft order. This means the Cleveland Browns are the No. 1 team on the waiver priority list.

You might already be used to the waiver process in your fantasy football league. The NFL waiver process is different in that the No. 1 team can claim as many players from waivers as they want, and they retain priority. The Browns essentially get first dibs on every player. They will stay in that position through Week 3 of the regular season.

Any released player with at least four years of service is not subject to the waiver process. They immediately become free agents and can sign with any team.

We’ll be keeping an eye on roster cuts during the next day. The 53-man rosters will be reached by then, but there will be further turnover as teams make waiver claims. But once you get the waiver wire information down, you realize there’s also the practice squad information.

Check out the nuts and bolts of the practice squad:

Over the summer, the NFL made minor headlines when it was announced that the league and NFLPA had agreed once again to a 10-man practice squad for NFL teams. In 2014, the two sides agreed to expand practice squads from eight to 10 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but the agreement was limited to the past two years, so a new agreement was necessary.

And the new agreement also brought other changes for the practice squad, which may be just as important as the expanded number of players.

First, the league will now allow four players per practice squad to have two accrued seasons, making it easier for teams to have experienced players on their practice squad. Under the previous agreement, only two players with two accrued seasons were allowed to be on a practice squad. An accrued season means a player was on full pay status for six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists

This is an important change, as it covers basically the entire rookie classes of 2014 and 2015, both drafted and undrafted players, regardless of how many NFL games they played.

Second, and this is a carry-over from the previous agreement, a player must now have a minimum of six games – an increase 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.

Ultimately the changes mean that teams can keep more players, and more experienced players, on their practice squads than before.

Practice squad basics

  • Each NFL team can have up to 10 players on its practice squad.
  • Practice squad players ... practice with the team. They do not play in games.
  • Not all players are eligible to be signed to NFL practice squads (see new rules on eligibility above).
  • Practice squad players are paid per week and can be released at any point during the season.
  • Practice squad players are free to sign with other NFL teams, but they have to be signed to the 53-man active roster of the acquiring team. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released.
  • A practice squad player can not sign with his team's upcoming opponent, unless he does so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if his team is currently on a bye week.
  • If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, he will receive a minimum of three weekly paychecks, even if he is released before spending three weeks with the new team.
  • In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear waivers, and is subject to waiver claims by other teams.

Stick with BTSC for the latest on all the cuts and signings which will be going on this Labor Day weekend.