clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Explaining how the NFL Waiver Wire works

The 49ers are in prime position to improve their roster

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

We are at the time of the year where all 32 teams will be forced to cut their rosters from 90 players to 53 players. That needs to take place by 1:00 p.m. PT on Saturday, August 31. With that said, there will be around 1200 NFL players that are cut, with most of them being subject to “waivers.” Veterans cut with four years of accrued NFL service will not be subject to waivers, and will become unrestricted free agents right away. The majority of players that are cut won’t have four years of experience, so let’s take a look at how the waiver wire process works.

Which players will you find on Waivers?

Any player that has less than four years of service is subject to the waiver process. To my knowledge, there isn’t a snap count requirement, and it’s strictly based on how many years that player has been in the league.

How do Waivers work?

This is a system the NFL put in place to restrict where young players can sign. While I’m in favor of a league that is ultimately run by the players, I like the idea of allowing an even playing field and giving the teams that struggled the year before top priority when it comes to players that are released. These players don’t become a free agent right away but must first pass through waivers. It’s also important to note that the team that claims that player is also claiming said players contract.

The general rule of thumb is players that are cut with more than four years of NFL experience are able to sign wherever. During the regular season, however—once the trade deadline has passed and through the end of the regular season—vested veterans(players with four or more years of NFL service) are also subject to the waiver process.

The last thing of note is that during this weekend where players are cut, any player that is subject to waivers will remain on waivers through 9:00 a.m. PT on Sunday, September 1. It doesn’t matter if you were released on Friday or Saturday.

Waiver Priority

Through the first three weeks of the regular season, as I understand it, the waiver priority order is the same as the most recent year’s draft order. So for this year, the San Francisco 49ers have second priority, and they should be active. After the third week of the regular season, the waiver priority order reverts back to what the current NFL standings are, but in reverse order. That way the team with the worst record gets first priority on all waiver claims, then the team with the next worse record gets second priority, and so on and so forth.

The Arizona Cardinals have the first waiver priority. If they put in a claim for three players, they’ll be awarded all three. They aren’t limited to a certain amount. The top team in priority acquires every player that they claim. The second team acquires every player they claim that wasn’t claimed by the top team. The New York Jets, the third team in waiver priority, acquire every player they claim not claimed by the first two teams, and so on. That’s why we’re seeing teams like the New England Patriots trade for backup offensive tackles because they know they’re unlikely to be awarded a player that is subject to waivers.

The 49ers are in a position to improve the quality of their roster, especially the bottom, and should be aggressive.