Why the Rams signed Brett Maher to the practice squad instead of the 53-man roster

There’s only one team in the NFL right now that doesn’t have a kicker on their active roster. The Rams are the lone outlier, opting to go kicker-less on their initial 53-man roster this week.

After it was reported Wednesday that they were going to sign Brett Maher, the official transaction came down the wire on Thursday. Only, the Rams didn’t sign him to their 53-man roster. They added him to the practice squad instead.

That had some fans confused, wondering why Los Angeles would sign him to the practice squad rather than adding him to the actual roster. Well, there are a few good reasons for it, making this a prudent and wise move by the Rams.

He doesn't take up a roster spot

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The first major benefit of having Maher on the practice squad is that he doesn’t take up a spot on the 53-man roster. That prevents the Rams from having to waive someone to make room for him, allowing them to keep 51 position players (plus a punter and long snapper) and have more depth at positions that need it.

Sure, Los Angeles could’ve just put Ochaun Mathis on injured reserve and signed Maher, making it an easy swap, but now the team can add a position player once Mathis goes on IR instead of using his spot on Maher.

Chess, not checkers.

Maher can be promoted to the gameday roster 3 times

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL made a change in 2020 that allows teams to promote up to two players from the practice squad each week to be active on gamedays. It was a widely beloved rule, giving practice squad players the opportunity to play on Sundays when they otherwise may not have had the chance to in past years.

A single player can be promoted up to three times in a season, which is likely the Rams’ plan with Maher. So while he might be on the practice squad now, the Rams can simply promote him in each of the first three weeks of the season so that he can be their kicker.

After he’s been promoted three times, the Rams will need to sign him to the 53-man roster so that he can be active on Sundays.

At least this way, they can essentially give Maher a trial run in the first three weeks to see if he’s “the guy” at kicker. If he struggles, they can just leave him on the practice squad (or cut him) and sign another kicker to take his place. Until they decide whether he’s their long-term kicker, they don’t have to use a roster spot on him.

Practice squad players cost less than players on the roster

(Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)
(Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

Because Maher has been in the NFL for at least three seasons, he’d be subject to a contract worth the veteran minimum, which is $1.08 million for 2023. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s significantly more than what Maher will cost the Rams on the practice squad.

As a member of the practice squad, Maher won’t even count against the salary cap. The standard weekly salary on the practice squad in 2023 is $12,000, which works out to $216,000 for an 18-week season.

It’s highly unlikely Maher will be on the practice squad for all 18 weeks because the Rams will need to sign him to the roster if they want him to keep playing in games, but just the weekly cost is way cheaper than if he were on the 53-man roster.

So it’s a cost-saving move by Los Angeles, too.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire