With a major overhaul happening to all NFL Practice squads in 2015, this offseason has seen even an additional change to the practice squads that might affect the Arizona Cardinals.
First off, what big changes took place in 2015 to how the practice squad worked?
Well, to sum up a lot of complicated information in a short amount of time, the NFL made two big changes to how the practice squad was utilized.
1. The number of players on the practice squad was expanded from eight to ten for two years.
2. Two players of those ten can be put on the practice squad with up to two accrued years of playing experience
What this means is that not only can teams keep more developmental players, but they can also keep players who have seen game experience on their practice squad so long as they have not seen more than two years of time.
The big change this year? It added an additional two spots with that second designation, meaning that teams can now stash four out of their ten players on their squad with two accrued years of NFL experience.
So what this means for the Cardinals? It means more options to hang on to with a considerably stacked roster, as it's highly unlikely that many rookies or undrafted free agents who aren't fighting for open positions will make the cut.
Beyond that, some players on the bubble trying to make the final 53 could include vets such as Kerwynn Williams, Ifeanyi Momah or Cariel Brooks or even CFL players Tristan Okpalaugo and Elie Bouka.
Oddly enough, even a player like Deone Bucannon, or D.J. Humphries still fall under the 2-year limit requirement, though their first round status means that it's impossible to stash them there without being claimed. Bobbie Massie, now, could have been practice-squad eligible in 2013 when Eric Winston started at Right Tackle over him. While none of these players could likely hit the practice squad without being claimed, others might.
For example, the 3rd string quarterback position.
Under the new rules, not only would QB Jake Coker be practice-squad eligible, but so, it seems, could QB Matt Barkley. If the Cardinals like what they have in both quarterbacks, they could keep both and stash the other on the practice squad. (Alternately, they could keep one, cut the other and find another practice squad QB as well).
Another rule changes was to the contracts, making it easier for teams to be able to carry the ten practice squad players under the salary cap.
The Cardinals utilized this new rule in a creative way during the QB-stricken 2013 season in which they stashed 29-year-old Dennis Dixon, who hadn't reached the two-year limit yet. With a deep team like the Cardinals, it wouldn't be unheard of to cut Barkley and put Coker on the practice squad to open up another roster spot. As a former draft pick, Barkley seems more likely to be claimed.
Another area to watch out for with these new practice squad rules? The defensive backs.
It's no secret that the Cardinals have quite a few defensive backs on their hands, all competing for a limited amount of playing time with Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel, Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson and Tyvon Branch will be hogging the majority of the spots in the secondary.
What this means is that the final spots could come down more to special teams play to make the 2016 roster. But if there's a player who looks to be a development potential at CB down the road, stashing them on the squad could be a way to get the best benefit for this year as well as the future.
Another area to watch out for with this new rule, however, is OTHER teams' practice squads.
Steve Keim has been able to find a few key contributors by signing them from other teams' practice squads over the last few years. In 2013, he signed Josh Mauro off of the Steelers' squad, and also swiped Marion Grice from the Chargers when they were RB-needy.
With four of ten spots open instead of two now for players with two years of experience or less, it's possible more teams will put players who have seen NFL experience on their practice squad, meaning that if one catches Steve Keim's eye, he might pounce.
Imagine if you could bring in a player who's been in 20 NFL games at a position where none of your current players have played a real NFL down? It's definitely possible, though it'd cost having to claim that player at the cost of a spot on the 53, but the flexibility is indeed important.
So what do you think of the new 2016 Practice Squad rule changes? Which Cardinals do you think it might affect the most? Any players you'd put on the practice squad?
Sound off in the comments section below!