An NFL practice squad player may be a future star in the making or just another NFL bust. A player on the practice squad does not dress for games and isn't even on the team's active roster. The job of the practice squad is to help the team prepare for games by simulating a future opponent's style of play. The league dictates the minimum salary for a practice squad player though no maximum salary exists.
Practice Squad Rules
Each NFL team can place eight players from training camp onto a practice squad in September before the start of the regular season. A player is eligible for the practice squad if he has no accrued seasons -- six or more games on an active roster -- in the NFL, has one prior accrued season on an active roster for no more than eight games or was on a team's practice squad for the previous two seasons and the team's active roster never dipped below 53 players. These rules, while complicated, have a great influence on whether a player ends up on an NFL team's active roster, potentially garnering a higher paycheck.
Minimum Practice Squad Salary
As of 2014, the minimum salary for a practice squad player was $6,000 per week, according to the SB Nation website. Over a 17-week NFL season, this equates to a salary of $102,000. Teams are free to pay a practice squad player more than the league minimum, though the majority of teams choose not to pay more. A practice squad player also usually receives a small signing bonus of a couple thousand dollars, according to football information website Arrowhead Pride.
Practice Squad Promotions
Injuries or impressive play over the course of the season may force a practice squad player's promotion to an NFL active roster. Signing a player from the practice squad to an NFL active roster requires a team to pay the player at least the league minimum salary, broken down into the weeks the player is on the active roster. As of 2014, the minimum NFL player salary comes to $420,000 for a 17-week season, according to the Steelers Depot website, or approximately $24,700 weekly. While on the active roster, a practice squad player must receive at least this minimum amount.
Earning a Living
Some practice squad players, like New York Giants running back Derrick Ward, rise from the practice squad to become everyday NFL players and earn large contracts. Other players, including New Orleans Saints tight end Tyler Lorenzen, struggle to stay with a team long enough to earn enough to pay the bills. According to NFL.com, Lorenzen's practice squad earnings from 2009 totaled just north 0f $30,000. Pay can be sporadic for practice squad players because NFL teams take no penalty for cutting them loose.