The San Francisco 49ers did a ton of work overhauling their roster in 2017. They were aggressive in free agency and the draft, and they even worked out a couple trades over the course of the season. One additional area where they found a lot of success was on the waiver wire.
The NFL waiver wire sorts teams in reverse order of record, and when certain players are released, each team gets an opportunity to claim the player. Prior to the NFL trade deadline, players with less than four years of accrued service time are eligible for waivers if released. After the trade deadline, all players must go through the waiver wire.
A waiver claim is usually a flier type of pick-up. A player has been released for one reason or another, and the claiming team is hoping a change of scenery might help get some of the player’s potential. When a player is claimed off waivers, his contract with the previous team carries over to the new team. Any prorated signing bonus does not impact the new team’s salary cap, but the salaries and future bonuses carry over.
The 49ers spent much of the year with a top two waiver designation behind the Cleveland Browns. They made five waiver claims during the season, all of which came before their five-game win streak to close out the season. Here are the players they claimed, and the teams from which they were claimed.
July 31: WR Tim Patrick from Baltimore Ravens
September 3: DL Xavier Cooper from Cleveland Browns
October 9: DB Dexter McCoil from Los Angeles Chargers
November 20: DT Sheldon Day from Jacksonville Jaguars
November 22: DE Cassius Marsh from New England Patriots
The 49ers have had success in the past when it comes to waiver claims. Ahmad Brooks was their best waivers transaction in recent years, claimed from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008. Since then, some notable waiver claims include long snapper Kyle Nelson in 2013, and then Ray-Ray Armstrong in 2015.
This year however, four of the 49ers claims became productive regular season contributors. Cooper stuck around the first seven weeks before being released. McCoil, Day, and Marsh all stuck around through the end of the season from their claiming date. McCoil was primarily a core special teams player. Day was a key part of the team’s defensive interior as injuries piled up. Marsh proved to be a capable addition to an inconsistent pass rush.
We normally hear about college scouts and the draft process, but the team’s pro scouts have proven extremely capable providing quick turnaround for waiver claims. With offseason free agency, you get extensive time to put together analysis. With waiver claims, you get 24 hours to figure out if a guy is worth a claim. Ran Carthon directs the pro personnel work of the team, with R.J. Gillen and A.J. Highsmith serving as pro personnel scouts.
Getting a productive waiver claim is a combination of numerous factors: the talent evaluation, the coaching staff, the player himself, and sometimes a little luck. The 49ers put themselves in a strong position for success with their waiver claims.