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The Jets Can't Just Sign Karlos Williams; How the NFL Waiver Process Works

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Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills made a major move yesterday releasing running back Karlos Williams. Williams is a 23 year old back who averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns last year in his rookie season. I have noticed a few questions about whether the Jets will sign him. I wanted to take this chance to discuss why any talk is moot at least until later today.

Williams isn't a free agent right now.

Just because Williams was released doesn't mean he is currently eligible to sign with any team. First, he would have to clear waivers.

When players with less than four years of service time are released, he does not immediately become a free agent. There is a 24 hour window where teams can put in a claim for that player. If a team claims a player, that team assumes his contract and gives him a roster spot. If no team claims a player, then that player is able to negotiate a new contract with any of the league's 32 teams.

Players with more than four years of service time automatically become free agents when released.

What happens if more than one team claims a player?

There is a process for priority. Before Week 3 of the NFL regular season is completed, the player goes to the claiming team that had the highest pick in the previous year's NFL Draft.

If a team makes a waiver claim, does it go to the back of the line for the next waiver claim like it works in my fantasy league?

No, the order remains the same no matter how many claims are made until the third week of the regular season, where teams are ordered by the current record from worst to best.

Why is it set up this way?

It is set up this way for the same reason the NFL Draft goes from worst to best. It gives the worst teams a chance to improve.

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For the Jets to even have a chance at Williams, the 19 teams that had higher picks would all have to not claim the young, cheap, talented back.