Explaining Roster Designations


Over the last two days you likely noticed some changes on your favorite NFL teams official roster pages (and OTC cap pages too) regarding various roster statuses of players. So for those who are unsure this is what all the roster definitions mean for teams and players:

Active- Active is pretty self explanatory. This is the 53 man roster of players who are all eligible to be activated for Sunday and play in a game. Salary cap charges count in full except for the base salary which is prorated for how many weeks are left in a year when a player signs a contract.

Reserve/Injured– This list is what is commonly referred to as IR. Players placed on the Injured list are ineligible to play for the team this season. In most cases players on IR will be carried on the roster for the entire season, however once a player is healthy enough to play he may be released. Many players on IR are paid a “split” salary rather than the stated P5. This is a reduced rate that moves the salary down from that of an active player. I have changed those numbers for players I am sure have a split but have left them untouched for ones I am unsure of at this time.

Reserve/PUP– The Physically Unable to Perform list is essentially a short term IR for players who were unable to pass their teams physical at the start of camp. The major difference is that players on the PUP list are eligible to return after 6 weeks of being inactive. Once 6 weeks passes a 3 week decision window begins for teams. During this time they can elect to place the player on the Active 53 man roster. Once the 3 week window passes the player is ineligible to play during the season. A player can be released from PUP, though if that occurs before passing a physical he can not return to the same team during the season.  Players salaries on PUP are treated just like IR, count towards the cap and often “split” Once the player moves up to the regular roster his P5 increases to the standard rate of pay for the remainder of the season. If a player on PUP is in the final year of his contract he will not become a free agent and his contract will toll.

Reserve/NFI– This reserve list if for players who sustained a non-football injury or illness that has caused him to be unable to play during the season. The major difference here is that if placed on NFI a player does not necessarily get paid while on such a list. Lawrence Tynes of the Buccaneers will be paid and some players such as Jason Peters in 2012 negotiated reduced rates of pay while on NFI. Players on NFI can be activated if they never passed their teams preseason physical in the same manner as PUP. Since I do not know who will or will not be paid on NFI I will assume that the players will be paid, even though in most cases this is not the case. Contract year players will see their contracts toll on NFI if they are paid following the 6th week of the season and not activated. For Tynes this should mean the Buccaneers own his rights in 2014, which likely does not make him too happy since the Buccaneers facility caused his placement on NFI.

Reserve/Suspended- This listing is for players who have been suspended by the NFL. Players on the suspended list are not paid for their time suspended, do not count against the active 53, and their salaries are reduced to reflect the weeks they are suspended. For example Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars will see his base salary drop from 17 games of pay to just 13 games of pay. Players can also have their signing bonuses reduced due to forfeiture provisions in the CBA. In the case of drug suspension this is mandatory. In other cases teams will determine  if they will go after bonus money. I am unsure if this forfeiture is accrued during of after the season, but will try to clarify at a later date. While suspended the cap charges count in full.

Reserve/Retired– The retired list is what players are placed upon if they choose to retire rather than honor their contracts. This is more procedural than anything else. The player does not count towards the roster nor do they carry any cap charges as contracts are treated just as if the player was cut for salary cap purposes with prorated bonus money accelerating and being included as “dead money”.  Teams do maintain the rights to players on the retired list. These lists are not included on the site.

Reserve/Left Squad; Reserve/Did Not Report– These are two other categories that I do not track. Essentially these are players who have quit the team. Most players who have left the team are subsequently released during final cutdowns.  There are rules about the timeframe in which players who did not report may be reinstated to the active roster.

Reserve/Military– This category is for players who are required to serve in the military while under contract to an NFL team. Teams maintain rights but there are no base salary charges associated with the players. Unlike other reserve lists the league is very flexible if a player returns from active duty, going so far as to allow a player to practice with the team and not count against the Active 53 until he plays in a game.

Practice Squad– Players on the PS are paid for the 2013 season at a minimum of $6,000 a week. There is no limit as to how much a player can be paid while on the Practice Squad.  The entire salary counts against the salary cap. The players are ineligible to play for the team while on the Practice Squad and players are free to sign a contract with any other team while on the Practice Squad. If signed by another team the team must carry the player on its active roster for at least 3 weeks. Sometimes teams will increase PS salary to entice a player to remain on a PS and not  accept an active contract from another team. For example Greg Salas, who was on the Patriots’ Practice Squad in 2012, was paid $1 over the minimum salary for an Active player to give him the financial incentive to stay in New England rather than accept another teams offer. Players can be activated from the Practice Squad to their own teams Active roster at any time.

Only certain players are eligible for the PS. Players must either have zero accrued seasons or less than 9 games with another team in their only accrued season, so veterans are ineligible. Players can serve up to two years on a Practice Squad with no limitations. A third year can be served provided the team maintains 53 players on its Active roster, which usually is not a concern.