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How NFL Waivers Work

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NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

All 32 NFL teams are required to trim their rosters from the 90 players allowed during the preseason to the 53 players allowed during the regular season by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, August 31. As a result, nearly 1200 NFL players are cut en masse. Most of the players cut are subject to waivers. Veterans cut with four years of NFL service are not subject to waivers and will immediately become unrestricted free agents.

Let’s take a closer look at how the waiver process works.

What Players Must Pass Through Waivers?

When an NFL team releases a player with less than four years of service, he is subject to the waiver process.

How Do Waivers Work?

The NFL’s waiver process is a system that restricts where young players can sign. Any player with less than four years of NFL service when cut is not a free agent, but must first pass through waivers. Any player on waivers is subject to having their contract claimed by any other NFL team.

Generally speaking players cut with four or more years of NFL experience immediately become free agents and are free to sign with any NFL team. However, during the season, beginning immediately after the NFL trade deadline passes and continuing 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.

On cutdown weekend all cut players subject to waivers remain on waivers through 12:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, September 1, whether they were released on Friday or Saturday.

Waiver Priority Order:

During the offseason and through the first three weeks of the regular season, the waiver priority order is the same as the most recent year’s draft order. After the third week of the regular season, the waiver priority order reverts to reflect then current NFL standings in reverse order, so that the team with the worst record gets first priority on all waiver claims, the team with the next worse record gets second priority on all waiver claims, and so on.

The New York Jets are third on the waiver priority order. The two teams ahead of them (the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers) have priority over the Jets on all players claimed on waivers this weekend.