The Arizona Cardinals set their 53-man roster for the 2016 season Saturday, and now the team can begin assembling its practice squad for the upcoming season.
Players are eligible candidates to be signed to a practice squad if they have fewer than three seasons accrued on a practice squad, if a player does not have an accrued season on an NFL roster, and if a player has one or more accrued seasons on an NFL roster but was not on the 46-player active roster for more than nine contests.
According to the league's collective bargaining agreement, any player on an NFL practice squad has the freedom to negotiate and sign a contract with any team during the league year without penalty or restriction.
A player shall be deemed to have served on a practice squad in a season if that player has passed a club physical and been a member of a team's practice squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons and for at least one regular season game during his third practice squad season.
A team may keep up to 10 players on its practice squad at any given time during the season. Though Arizona may elect to keep just seven or eight players on its practice squad, here are the 10 most likely in-house candidates who spent the preseason with the franchise to earn practice squad opportunities.
Practice squad candidates
Matt Barkley: Indications from reports around the league suggest Barkley has cleared waivers and can now sign with Arizona's practice squad. Barkley served on the Cardinals' active roster last season, but with head coach Bruce Arians electing to head into the regular season with just two quarterbacks active, Barkley could in effect remain as Arizona's third option and lead the team's practice squad.
***Update***: ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Arizona Cardinals will sign former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray to the practice squad and that Barkley will sign with the Chicago Bears' practice squad. Murray was released by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Elijhaa Penny: The Idaho product pretty much cemented his practice squad role after a 100-yard effort in the Cardinals' preseason finale against the Denver Broncos Thursday. Penny is a bruising back who demonstrated flashes of impressive potential during training camp, and a season spent learning more advanced technique from NFL coaches will only help his chances of making a professional roster next year.
Brittan Golden: Golden had an outstanding camp and the Cardinals would be fortunate to sneak the team's sixth receiver from the past two seasons through waivers and onto their practice squad, but it appears that's exactly what Arizona is hoping to do. If any Cardinals' receiver goes down with an injury during the regular season, there's no sense in looking outside the organization as calling Golden up from the practice squad will become the obvious transaction.
Jaxon Shipley: Teams don't always like keeping multiple players at the same position on their practice squad, but Shipley continues to live life on the margins in the NFL as he's still looking to break through for a full-time job on a 53-man roster. Shipley had an excellent finish to his preseason, and if the Cardinals do elect to keep two receivers, he might have better odds than undrafted rookie free agent Chris Hubert who started camp strong, but faded off toward the end.
Ifeanyi Momah: If Momah clears waivers, expect the Cardinals to keep the versatile tight end on their practice squad because like Golden, he could be an easy call-up during the regular season. Momah has the skills to contribute at tight end on a team that often uses 12-personnel sets, and it's likely Momah was one of the final players the Cardinals elected to release on Saturday.
Robert Crisp: The reserve offensive tackle served on Arizona's practice squad last season, and was among the final players cut this year as the Cardinals awarded their ninth offensive line spot on the roster to fellow reserve tackle John Wetzel. Of all the candidates listed, Crisp isn't as obvious of a practice squad addition because he struggled against second team pass rushers throughout much of the preseason. Still, we like Crisp's chances better than those of Antoine McClain because the Cardinals have three interior linemen serving as backups on their 53-man roster with just one backup tackle in Wetzel.
Harlan Miller: Arizona's sixth round draft pick didn't do enough to merit much consideration for the active roster during the preseason, but Miller is a good practice squad candidate because teams like to afford draft picks who don't make the team an opportunity to learn and grow within their own organization. Miller may never have the speed to make it on an Arians-coached team, but it's hard to imagine the Cardinals would give up on him after just one month of full practices.
Cariel Brooks: Brooks was a member of the Cardinals' practice squad last season and ended up being called up to the active roster in a time of need, but it's unclear whether Arizona still has faith in him after he struggled against the Denver Broncos on Thursday. With injuries to Mike Jenkins and Alan Ball during camp, Brooks was able to remain in the conversation for a roster spot until moments before the final roster deadline. And with cornerback being an obvious weak spot for Arizona, Arians will need someone ready in the event one of his active roster players suffers an injury.
Shaquille Riddick: A fifth round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2015, Riddick spent last season on the 53-man roster but never made it to the team's 46-man game day list because his potential was so raw. The Cardinals had Riddick working with the third team defense throughout much of training camp, and his transition from playing defensive end in college to playing outside linebacker in Arizona's 3-4 scheme hasn't worked as smoothly as anticipated.
Matthias Farley: The Cardinals are heavy on practice squad options in the secondary because the team elected to keep nine defensive linemen on the 53-man roster, so it's unlikely Arizona will keep any lineman on the practice squad. Farley flashed mild potential during training camp, but in terms of defensive back options, we actually thought undrafted rookie cornerback Ronald Zamort had a stronger preseason. It's difficult to foresee Arizona keeping three cornerbacks, though, so Farley's status as a safety could help him land a spot with the Cardinals.null