NFL Teams Can Now Sign, Elevate International Pathway Players To Active Roster In 2021

More flexibility has just arrived for NFL rosters in 2021.

The league has really begun fine tuning its International Pathway Program over the past several years, and another tweak made in August gives players in the program a very real chance at realizing their dreams this season of playing in an NFL game. Teams will now be allowed to sign and/or elevate IPP players to their active roster — the league announced in a memo on Thursday, via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Previously, IPP players were forced to remain on their respective team’s practice squad but the club would get a roster exemption for that season. Under the new rules, the 14 players currently in the program can agree to terminate their IPP contract and sign a Practice Player Contract (to join the team’s practice squad), but there’s an asterisk that requires them to remain on the practice squad for a minimum of three consecutive games before they can be activated to any roster.

A bye week counts toward that required three-game minimum.

And once the exemption is lifted, it can’t be reapplied later in the season. There are several notable players which of whom this could truly help — including Isaac Alarcon (Mexico), who was awarded to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Considering the Cowboys are coming off of a season mostly derailed by injuries across the offensive line, the value of Alarcon is increased dramatically. They weren’t able to elevate him last season due to the mandatory exemption, but now that it’s lifted, his impressive camp and Hall of Fame Game film helps put him in the running to grab a roster spot after his three-game practice squad minimum is met.

And the same applies for all IPP players going forward.

The goal of the International Player Pathway program is to allow players from outside of U.S. borders a greater chance at carving out a roster spot at the NFL level, and the league (usually stringent on what stickers are permitted on helmets) are allowing the IPP players to don their home nation’s flag on their helmet during games.

In the past, they’d have to wait and develop before the door was opened for them to formally suit up and take the field. It’s now flung ajar, and if any of the 14 can earn a roster spot, there’s no NFL legislation stopping them from playing making their pro football debut in 2021.

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