The NFL passed along a memo to teams Tuesday with rubber-stamped approval for expanding practice squads from eight to 10 players this season, a move that will go into effect immediately and will essentially open up 64 new job opportunities around the league after final cuts are made Aug. 30.
That's the deadline for teams to condense their rosters down to 53 players for the start of the regular season. At present, every team in the league is allowed to be carrying 90 players with a cutdown to 75 coming by Aug. 26.
After final cuts are made and waivers complete, teams can then assemble their practice squads and this year will have two extra job openings to work with.
The change is expected to receive overwhelmingly favorable approval from teams around the league as a means of enhancing their player development. It will be a notable step toward helping teams create more quality depth.
In the Bears' case, the move should create added roster flexibility as general manager Phil Emery puts the pieces of his puzzle together. For example, Emery used a sixth-round draft pick in May on quarterback David Fales with an eye on developing him into a long-term back-up option. But the Bears likely won't be able to afford keeping Fales on their 53-man roster as the No. 3 quarterback behind Jay Cutler and whoever wins the No. 2 job between Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer. So the ideal landing spot for Fales seems to be on the practice squad.
The same might be true for undrafted rookie linebacker Christian Jones, who clearly has plenty of athletic upside and potential but is facing a cruel numbers game at his position in a quest to make the 53-man roster. The Bears are likely to keep a maximum of six linebackers with Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, Shea McClellin and D.J. Williams likely roster locks and Khaseem Greene and Jordan Senn good bets as well.
It remains to be seen whether other young and still developing players will find a home on the practice squad but this latest development should come as welcome news to guys like running backs Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry, offensive tackle Charles Leno and defensive tackle Tracy Robertson, all prime candidates to become practice squad players in a couple weeks.
Practice squad expansion has been formally approved for this season and 2015 and will be re-evaluated from there.
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