The NFL cleared up one last piece of business this week at its spring meetings, finalizing rules concerning team rosters for the 2022 season and also setting cutdown dates.

And while there were no major changes overall, there were a few alterations that are worth noting.

So, let’s take a look at some of the key dates and roster rules for this season.

Roster cutdown dates

NFL teams can have 90 players on their offseason/training camp roster (or in Seattle’s case, 91 due to an exemption for international player Aaron Donkor, a linebacker).

Teams must first cut their rosters from 90 to 85 on Aug. 16, after the first week of preseason games; then from 85 to 80 on Aug. 23, after the second week of preseason games; and then to the regular season limit of 53 on Aug. 30 after the third and final week of preseason games.

Seattle’s three preseason games are Aug. 13 at Pittsburgh; Aug. 18 at Lumen Field against Chicago; and Aug. 26 at Dallas.

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Practice squad sizes

On the day after rosters are cut to 53, teams can then begin assembling their practice squads. The NFL decided this week to make it permanent that practice squads will now consist of 16 players. Practice squads were 10 before the 2020 NFL labor agreement, and were then scheduled to increase to 12 in 2020 and 2021 and 14 in 2022.

But to give teams more flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, practice squads were set at 16 the past two years, and now that number is permanent.

That’s worth remembering as cutdown time nears. While there is always understandable focus on who makes the 53, teams also are assessing players during camp to see who will be good fits for the practice squad and what is essentially a 69-man overall regular season roster.

The makeup of the practice squad has become more important to teams due to new rules the last two years allowing teams to elevate players from the PS to the active roster on gameday.

Teams are allowed to elevate two players from the practice squad each week to the 53 (though the past two years, exceptions were also made in case of players being out due to COVID-19, allowing for unlimited elevations to replace those players).

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That essentially gives teams a 55-man roster on gameday that they then have to cut to a max of 48 active players 90 minutes before kickoff.

With the elevation, a player can play on Sunday and then return to the practice squad on Monday without having to go through waivers and being able to be claimed by any other team.

The Seahawks used 32 elevations last season, among the more notable occurring when Seattle signed running back Adrian Peterson to the practice squad and then he played that week against the 49ers.

In a change from last year, players can now be elevated three times during a season instead of twice before they have to be signed to the 53-man roster to be able to play on gameday.

That will give teams a lot more game-week flexibility to fill out rosters.

Players who are elevated receive regular pay for the week.

The practice squad salary for this year is $11,500 per week while the minimum salary for a player on the 53-man this year is $41,470. So some practice squad players will also make more money this year by being able to be elevated one additional time.

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Also, of the 16 players on the practice squad, six can be veterans with any number of years in the league. That’s the same number as last year but up from four in 2020 and a number that now appears permanent, as well.

Injured reserve

In another change, players who go on the injured reserve list once 53-man rosters are set can return after missing four games.

The rule before 2020 was eight, and then the last two years was set at three to allow more flexibility during the pandemic. Now the league appears to be settling on four as a potentially permanent number.

Also, teams can declare eight players who go on IR as able to return after missing four games. During the pandemic there was no limit, but before 2020, teams could only declare two players who went on IR as eligible to return.

Teams like the shorter time span so that players who have more minor injuries can be placed on IR and not have to be carried on the active roster as they recover, as was often the case in previous years.

Also, a player can return off IR twice during a season, but each time counts against the team’s limit of eight players who can return.

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Teams, though, do not have to declare players as eligible to return when they go on IR. Before 2020, teams had to make that declaration at the time the player went on IR.

All of the new rules give teams more flexibility for handling their rosters during the season and on gamedays.

That was a direction the league was already moving in before the pandemic. But the added roster flexibility during the pandemic was something both teams and players felt was beneficial in allowing teams to put better overall rosters on the field on gameday and provide more opportunities for players, as well.

Notes

  • The Seahawks have signed third-round pick Abe Lucas to his four-year rookie deal. Lucas, a right tackle from Washington State, can make up to $5.39 million over the life of the deal (all terms are slotted based on where a player is selected) with a $1.01 million signing bonus. Seattle has now signed five of its nine draft picks. Remaining unsigned are first-round pick Charles Cross, second-rounders Boye Mafe and Ken Walker III and fourth-rounder Coby Bryant.
  • Alonzo Highsmith, who has held the title of senior executive adviser to the general manager with the Seahawks since June 2020, is returning to his alma mater, the University of Miami, as general manager of football operations.