The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the top waiver priority, thanks to being the worst team in the NFL last year. They'll hold that priority through week three of the regular season, and have already used it to pick up a few likely contributors, most notably safety D.J. Swearinger and tight end Tim Wright, both of whom were highly coveted by other teams.
But the biggest addition of waiver wire pickups will come the day after final cuts, when every team in the NFL is forced to cut nearly 40 players to get down to a 53-man roster. Over the past four years, various teams have used the first waiver priority to add some real talent to their team. So let's take a look at how other teams used that priority, and what we can expect of the Bucs this year.
2014 Houston Texans
The Texans were fairly busy on the waiver wire, which was to be expected with a new head coach. They picked up four players on the first day, according to Turf Show Times: T Jeff Adams, CB Darryl Morris and WR Damaris Johnson. Those three didn't do too much, but the Texans still got some mileage out of them: Adams played two games, Darryl Morris managed 11 games, one start and and seven passes defensed, while Johnson played in 16 games even starting eight, although his statistical production was not overly impressive. All three are still on the Texans' roster.
|T Jeff Adams||2||0||-|
|CB Darryl Morris||11||1||7 passes defensed|
|WR Damaris Johnson||16||8||31 catches, 331 yards, one touchdown|
2013 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs claimed a whopping six players after final cuts, according to Arrowhead Pride, most notably cornerbacks Ron Parker and Marcus Cooper, who both played a full season and combined for four interceptions and 22 passes defensed. Linebacker James Michael-Johnson was also a valuable contributor, and tight end Sean McGrath even turned into a regular starter.
|CB/S Ron Parker||16||1||3 passes defensed, one interception|
|LB James Michael-Johnson||16||1||17 tackles, one forced fumble, one sack|
|TE Sean McGrath||16||9||26 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns|
|CB Marcus Cooper||16||6||21 passes defensed, three interceptions|
|WR Chad Hall||9||0||Seven catches for 20 yards|
|LB Dezman Moses||13||0||Six total tackles|
Of these players, Cooper, Parker, Michael-Johnson and Dezman Moses are still on the Chiefs' roster, and Parker and Michael-Johnson were still full-time starters in 2014, while Cooper was relegated to a backup role but still managed four starts. Most notably, Parker hit the open market this offseason, saw some interest from the Bucs but eventually re-signed with the Chiefs on a five-year, $25 million contract.
2012 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts picked up three players off waivers after final cuts, per Stampede Blue: S Sergio Brown, T Mike Person and NT Martin Tevaseu. Brown was the only player who turned into a productive player for the Colts, playing 45 games over the past three years with eight starts, all of those coming in 2014. Person didn't play a single game, while Tevaseu was gone after a single year.
|S Sergio Brown||16||0||One pass defensed|
|NT Martin Tevaseu||13||2||One pass defensed|
|G Mike Person||0||.0||-|
The Panthers got a disappointing haul out of their waiver wire pickups as well, per ESPN. The only player to do really anything for the Panthers was Seyi Ajirotutu, and his contribution was limited to special teams. It should be noted that George Selvie and Stevie Brown turned into valuable role players for other teams, though -- so perhaps this was more about the Panthers' incompetence than the players' lack of quality. They did get some decent play out of Thomas in 2012 and 2013, when he played 29 games, started ten and managed nine passes defensed and an interception. None of these other players stuck around beyond 2011, though, so the long-term benefits were very meager as well.
|WR Seyi Aritotutu||14||0||1 catch for four yards|
|DB Stevie Brown||0||0||-|
|DE George Selvie||4||0||Five total tackles|
|NT Marcus Harrison||0||0||-|
|DB Josh Thomas||9||0||One total tackle|
Overall, it's probably not realistic to expect a haul the size of that of the 2013 Chiefs, who got extraordinary production out of their waiver wire pickups. But the Bucs should be able to fill one or two holes on their roster with productive players during final cuts, or at least find a couple of special teams contributors. Defensive back and wide receiver appear to be the most common positions at which these teams pick up reinforcements, although the Bucs' receiving corps doesn't have a lot of room right now.
We'll have to wait and see what actually happens come final cuts, but looking at the past four years we can expect at least three waiver claims, and likely more. If things work out, the Bucs may even find a couple of starters. Regardless, the value of waiver priority is undeniable. Here's to hoping the Bucs use it well.