Today will be the day of the year with the most waiver activity in the NFL. With that in mind, let’s go over how the process works. This will be a refresher for some of you, but I am sure others have questions about the process.
The first thing to know about the waiver process is that it does not apply to every player. If a player has more than four years of experience, he does not need to go through the waiver process. Teams simply release these players if they are not going to make the roster. They become free agents and can negotiate a new contract with any team in the league.
Players with less than four years of experience do have to go through the waiver process. When a team decides to get rid of one of these players, they enter an NFL version of purgatory. The other 31 teams are notified and given a chance to claim the player. If a team claims the player, they inherit his contract and have to give him a spot on the 53 man roster. If more than one team claims a player, he is awarded to the team that had the earlier pick in the last NFL Draft. (In season the order is based on record.)
If nobody claims a player, only then does he become a free agent and able to negotiate a new contract with any team.
Today is the biggest waiver day of year in the NFL because of how many players have been cut. Teams are scanning the league to find out which potentially useful players other teams waived so claims can be made.
Of course, since teams have to give claimed players a roster spot, that means more players will have to be waived or released (or placed on IR) today to make room. So we will have a second round of claims tomorrow on the players who are waived today, a third round on Tuesday for the players who are waived tomorrow, and so forth.
That’s why the initial 53 man roster that came out yesterday isn’t finalized.