Following the final roster cuts before the start of the 2012 regular season, the New England Patriots acquired wide receiver Greg Salas from the St. Louis Rams. The transaction made sense as the price to acquire Salas was cheap (late-round draft choice in 2015), the Patriots have the league's oldest receiving corps (average age of 29.9 years), and he caught 27 passes for 264 yards while playing for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as a fourth-round pick out of the University of Hawaii by the Rams in 2011.
Salas was inactive for the first two games of the regular season before he was waived by the Patriots to free up a roster spot for Deion Branch. Salas was re-signed to the practice squad on Sept. 20 at a rate of $8,800 per week ($149,600 over a full season), much higher than the $5,700 per week practice squad salary minimum. Two weeks later, the Patriots increased Salas' practice squad salary to the same $465,000 rate he had been earning while on the 53-man roster.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, an undisclosed club attempted to sign Salas to their 53-man roster, prompting the Patriots to raise his salary.
Paying a practice squad player at an active roster rate is nothing new to the Patriots. At one point during the 2011 season nearly all of the players on the eight-man practice squad were being paid above the minimum, including current active roster center/guard Nick McDonald and current practice squad players Matt Kopa, Alex Silvestro and Malcolm Williams. This season, Kopa is earning $8,820 per week ($149,940 rate), the same rate that center/guard Thomas Austin had been earning prior to his release. Austin is currently on the Carolina Panthers' 53-man roster.
Rams Investing In Developmental Offensive Linemen
The Rams were not the team that attempted to poach Salas, but they are currently paying a pair of practice squad offensive linemen at an increased rate. Brandon Washington, a fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami by the Philadelphia Eagles, has been earning a practice squad rate of $9,500 per week ($161,500 over a full 17-week season) since joining the Rams in Week 1. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Washington played left guard before moving to left tackle for the Hurricanes, but is viewed as a guard prospect at the NFL level.
In addition to Washington, the Rams are paying offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe at an increased rate. The 6-foot-8, 325-pound Nsekhe played his college ball at Texas State and had arena league stints with the Corpus Christi Sharks, Dallas Vigilantes, Philadelphia Soul and San Antonio Talons from 2009 to 2012 before he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 1. Nsekhe was waived by the Colts and claimed by the Rams and appeared in 15 snaps (eight on offense, seven on special teams) in two of the three games he on the 53-man roster before he was waived and re-signed to the practice squad.
When initially re-signed to the practice squad, the Rams began paying Nsekhe at the same $9,500 per week rate that Washington had been receiving, but that was quickly bumped up to $22,900 per week ($389,300 over a full season), $41.18 per week less than the 26-year-old had been earning on the 53-man roster. Several clubs had been interested in Nsekhe when the Rams waived him and increasing his rate should help keep him in Earth City.
Other Practice Squad Players Earning Increased Rates
Minnesota Vikings running back Jordan Todman - $10,000 per week ($170,000)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Andy Tanner - $7,000 per week ($119,000)
New York Jets tight end Hayden Smith - $6,875 per week ($116,875)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver B.J. Cunningham - $6,000 per week ($102,000)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Josh Portis - $6,700 per week ($113,900)
At the beginning of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been paying defensive end Markus White at a practice squad rate of $299,999. White re-joined the Washington Redskins' 53-man roster (by doing so, White was guaranteed three game checks totaling $82,059) before he was released and rejoined the Buccaneers practice squad, where he spent four days before being elevated to their 53-man roster on Oct. 13. (White was waived on Thursday.)
As noted by Shutdown Corner this week, Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Josh Bynes had been earning an increased salary while on the team's practice squad.