Why Patriots Might Use Practice Squad Elevation On Kicker Due To Loophole

Why the Patriots are likely to use a new practice squad rule to add a kicker

by Doug Kyed

September 12, 2020

The New England Patriots’ 2020 season opener is one day away, yet the team still doesn’t have a kicker on their 53-man roster.

Don’t be surprised if it stays that way at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday when the Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins.

Don’t get us wrong. The Patriots will have a kicker on their gameday roster, but New England might use a new rule in which it can temporarily elevate Nick Folk from their practice squad rather than signing the veteran kicker to their 53-man roster.

Here’s why: If Folk is added to the Patriots’ 53-man roster for Week 1, then his salary is guaranteed for the season since he would be eligible for termination pay as a vested veteran. That means that if Folk signs a veteran minimum contract worth $1.05 million, then that amount will count against the Patriots’ salary cap even if he’s released at any point in the season. So, if Folk is signed Saturday, misses 10 field goals and is cut Monday, then he can still make that entire $1.05 million, and it would count against the Patriots’ cap.

Given the volatile nature of the kicker position, that’s probably not the smartest path to take.

But there’s a loophole. If the Patriots use one of two weekly temporary practice squad elevations on Folk, then he’s not eligible for termination pay, and his salary is not guaranteed even though he would earn active roster money for the week.

NFL teams sometimes will wait to sign vested veteran players until Week 2 to avoid handing out fully guaranteed salaries. This is a way around that.

Here’s the verbiage from Article 33, 5(i) of the NFL and NFL Players Association’s Collective Bargaining Agreement:

“A Practice Squad Player?s elevation to a Club?s Active/Inactive List pursuant to this Section 5 shall not serve as the basis for any claim for Termination Pay pursuant to Article 30 of this Agreement.”

So, if the Patriots sign Folk to their 53-man roster prior to Sunday’s game, then Belichick is either being a very nice guy or has supreme confidence in his veteran kicker.

It’s much more likely that the Patriots will temporarily elevate Folk to the active roster for a week or two to avoid guaranteeing his salary. A player is no longer eligible to receive full termination pay if he’s signed to a 53-man roster after Week 1. If a player is signed to the 53-man roster after Week 1, then he’s only eligible to receive 35 percent of his salary in termination pay if he’s cut at a later date.

The Patriots’ other option would be to sign rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser to their 53-man roster or to temporarily elevate him from the practice squad. Rohrwasser is not eligible for termination pay as a rookie. If Rohrwasser is temporarily elevated to the active roster, then he would not be subjected to waivers when sent back down to the practice squad.

The Patriots are more likely to use Folk than Rohrwasser in Week 1.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots

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