It didn’t take long for the Seahawks to need to take advantage of some new NFL roster rules this year.
The Seahawks are suddenly low on depth on the offensive line with the news Friday that backup Cedric Ogbuehi is out for Sunday’s regular-season opener at Atlanta, due to a pec muscle injury he suffered in a mock game two weeks ago, and that Jamarco Jones is questionable with an illness. Seattle made the designation of Jones on Saturday.
That leaves Seattle with no certain-to-be-available backups at tackle with the only other healthy linemen on the roster other than the starting five being guard/center B.J. Finney and guard Jordan Simmons. Ogbuehi is listed as the backup at both tackle spots with Jones listed as the backup right guard, though Jones has played tackle regularly in camp.
To add depth, the Seahawks on Saturday activated Chad Wheeler off the practice squad.
Wheeler, who was on the practice squad much of last season, has 19 NFL starts in his career and can now suit up Sunday and serve as a backup at either tackle spot.
But unlike in past years, the Seahawks now are simply able to add Wheeler as a 54th player to the roster instead of having to waive or release someone to create a spot on the 53-man roster.
While some roster change rules this year were implemented to try to add some roster flexibility due to COVID-19, the ability to add up two players each week off the practice squad was a change in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed to by the league and players in March (and a provision that when announced led to something of a misperception that rosters had increased to 55).
Teams can now add two players off the practice squad each week and then send them back down to the practice squad after the game without going through waivers (meaning, no risk of losing them). That’s what will happen with Wheeler.
Teams can only do that with each player twice a season. After that, then the old rules would apply of having to put the player on the 53-man roster. So because of that, you may not see teams add two players off the PS every week as teams will want to be judicious about using those spots on players who may be needed.
There’s also a financial component to this.
As a veteran with two or more years, Wheeler will make $12,000 for every week he is on the practice squad this year (there are fixed salaries this year for the practice squad). But being activated for Sunday’s game means he’ll get a prorated share of the minimum salary he qualifies for, which in Wheeler’s case means he’ll get $48,529 for being promoted to the roster for Sunday’s game.
In what is a change for COVID reasons, practice squads this year were increased to 16, with six able to have any amount of experience. That number was set to be at 12 and two prior to COVID-19 changes.
Another new roster rule this year also would have motivated Seattle to add Wheeler. NFL teams this year can have 48 players active on gameday instead of the previous 46, but only if eight are offensive linemen.
Most teams are likely to want to take advantage of that each week and adding Wheeler assures Seattle has eight healthy offensive linemen active Sunday against the Falcons.
Wheeler was also promoted to the 53-man roster by Seattle last year prior to the playoff game at Green Bay.
He played at USC where he was an all-conference left tackle in 2016 and started five games for the Giants in 2017 and then 14 in 2018 as a right tackle.