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How the NFL waiver wire works

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NFL teams begin making roster moves on Friday, and it continues into Saturday and Sunday. With so much happening, we need to take a look at how the waiver wire operates.

The San Francisco 49ers are officially into roster cuts, clearing space to get down to the 53-man roster limit by Saturday. Teams used to cut from 90 to 75 players on Tuesday of the final week, and then down to 53 on Saturday. Last year year, they removed the first cut, so now, teams are cutting from near 90 players to 53 at that final cut.

NFL rules dictate teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players no later than 1 p.m. PT on Saturday. When a team releases a player with at least four years of accrued service, they immediately become free agents, able to sign with any team they want. When a team releases a player with less than four years of service, they are subject to the waiver process. Normally when a player is released, waivers runs the next day. For roster cuts, all players run through waivers on Sunday, whether they were released on Friday or Saturday.

The process involves a priority list ranking teams for claiming players. From the first day of the league year until the conclusion of Week 3 of the 2018 regular season, the priority is based on draft order. This means that the Cleveland Browns are the No. 1 team on the waiver priority list, followed by the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. 49ers hold the No. 9 waiver priority having won the draft pick coin toss with the Oakland Raiders.

You might be used to the waiver process in your fantasy football league. The NFL waiver process is different in that the No. 1 team can claim as many players from waivers as they want, and they retain priority. The Browns essentially get first dibs on every player. They will stay in that position through Week 3 of the regular season. When they pass on a player, the Giants then get priority, followed by the Colts, and so forth.

The 49ers have used the waiver wire in the past, although primarily during the season. Last year, they claimed defensive lineman Xavier Cooper. He was released after Week 7. They had success last year during the regular season when they claimed defensive tackle Sheldon Day and edge rusher Cassius Marsh, both of whom could be impact players this season.

We’ll be keeping an eye on roster cuts the rest of today. The 53-man rosters will be reached by then, but then there will be further turnover as teams make waiver claims.