The Chiefs could use 2022 practice team rules to avoid a roster crisis

On Tuesday, Arrowhead Pride Editor-in-Chief Pete Sweeney published his first prediction for the Kansas City chiefs‘ 53-man squad. Pete sees the Chiefs rely heavily on offensive weapons – which could force the team to sacrifice depth elsewhere.

In recent seasons, the Kansas City front office has built a solid reputation for scouting talent — particularly late in the draft and in the open hand without a draft. The downside of such thorough work, however, is that talented players are lost to the league’s waiver system at the end of training camp. In last season’s roster cut, the Chiefs lost cornerback Bopete Keyes – a selection of the seventh round 2020 – to the Indianapolis Colts. Defensive end was claimed by Tim Ward New York Jets.

If they make their final cuts on Aug. 30, the Chiefs could lose more young talent — though everyone The team will face a roster crunch, and waivers are rarer than fans generally predict.

One way teams can protect their fledgling fortunes may be in this updated practice group rules created by the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) – which have been further modified over the past three seasons as the league played through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022 (and maybe beyond), teams can sign up to six practice squad players who have more than four seasons of NFL experience — although those players count toward an overall limit of 10 players who have appeared in nine or more career games. When needed to replace injuries, such players can be promoted from the practice roster to the active roster up to three times during the regular season — and an unlimited number of times during the playoffs. However, remember: only two players from the training team can be included in the squad for a given game.

Because players with four or more NFL seasons aren’t subject to waivers until the midseason trade deadline, a team can essentially cut a veteran backup with the understanding that they’re joining the practice team — assuming there’s no chance of joining another active one join squad.

Using Pete’s roster prediction, let’s look at some ways the Chiefs could use these rules to keep younger talent on the 53-man roster — without sacrificing internal depth.

Offensive line depth

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Lots of Chiefs fans – still shattered by the collapse of the offensive line at Super Bowl LV — probably stopped reading the moment it was suggested sacrificing offensive line depth.

However, it’s important to remember that while Pete’s roster projection listed nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, the Chiefs typically line only eight offensive linemen on a 47-man roster. (This has been increased from 46 players in the 2020 CBA; a 48th player is allowed to dress if at least eight offensive linemen are active).

Two players Pete predicted would make the active roster — tackle Roderick Johnson and center Austin Reiter — could be candidates for veteran positions on the practice team. (In fact, we’ve already seen how the Chiefs have used riders to creatively manipulate roster rules this offseason. Kansas City released the center on May 6 — just before rookie minicamp began — and reinstated him four days later signed (this allowed the team to sign an additional rookie player for a minicamp appearance).

Kansas City could then have an experienced ninth (or even 10th) offensive lineman in the building while still only having eight on the 53-man roster. That flexibility at Reiter and Johnson could be helpful when a young offensive lineman like Prince Tega Wanogho impresses in the preseason — or when the team simply decides to use just eight offensive linemen due to numbers in other positions.

Position Depth of Offensive Skills

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The Chiefs currently appear overstuffed at running back, wide receiver and tight end — though camp injuries and preseason performances sometimes prove that perception is a mirage. Running backs Ronald Jones and Jerick McKinnon, wide receivers Josh Gordon and Justin Watson, and tight end Blake Bell all appear to have enough service time to avoid waivers if they get cut at the end of camp.

While these players appear firmly in the Chiefs’ plans for 2022, none likely would garner much interest if cut in August. Anyone could be considered a cut candidate to make room for injured players at the end of camp – only to be quickly re-signed if those players go on injured reserve. (A player must be on the team’s opening 53-man list to be placed on the reserve/injured list for the season).

It also wouldn’t be surprising if one or two of these players spent a few weeks in the practice squad when they’re falling significantly on the depth chart.

defensive depth

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Veteran linebackers Jermaine Carter Jr. and Elijah Lee — and safety guard Deon Bush — will likely be looking over their shoulders from the moment they report to St. Joseph Tuesday. The Chiefs invested in both the draft and free agency difficult in their positions.

When rookie players like linebacker Mike Rose or safety Nazeeh Johnson put themselves on the roster, their roster spot comes at the expense of a veteran. If Carter, Lee, and Bush were released on the final cut, they probably wouldn’t find an immediate market for their services — although Kansas City would be wise to keep such veterans in the building.

The Chiefs could also use the practice team to address their worrying lack of depth at EDGE. Barring significant moves, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a player like former Kansas City defenseman Alex Okafor added to the practice squad.

backup quarterback

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

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To put it bluntly, this opportunity is extraordinary unlikely. But the Chiefs must be prepared to make a tough decision when quarterback Shane Buechele trumps longtime Chiefs backup Chad Henne in the preseason.

Late last season, Kansas City signed Büchele to the active roster to prevent that Arizona Cardinals poach him from the practice group. On several occasions this offseason he has been seen working with starter Patrick Mahomes.

In a league that never has enough quarterback talent, Buechele might be the boss most likely to ask for waivers – or to be signed by another team from the practice team. While Buechele being added to the roster would likely result in the team retaining three quarterbacks at the 53, Henne could potentially agree to remain on the team’s practice squad — just like Matt Moore did in 2020. The Chiefs would gobble up more than $3 million cutting hens, but Buechele’s minimum salary would make the impact of the cap pretty small. If cut, the 37-year-old veteran would likely retire sooner – but as the saying goes: “Hen thing is possible.”

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