All NFL teams have cut their rosters down to 53-man rosters, which means around 700 players were released or waived over the past couple of days. Most of those players will hit the waiver wire, which means other teams can pick them up by assuming their contracts. Those who don't hit the waiver wire can sign with any team. It's all a bit confusing, so I wrote a quick primer for those of you who are not familiar with the waiver wire.
What is the waiver wire?
It is the list of players teams waived, and whose contracts can be assumed by other teams. When a player is placed on the waiver wire, other teams can notify the league that they want to pick up those players, which means their previous contract will be assigned to the new team.
When can teams make waiver claims?
Within 24 hours of players being placed on the waiver wire, which happens at 4:00 p.m. ET of every day during the waiver period. If no one picks up a free agent within a day, they move off the waiver wire and become true free agents.
Which players go on the waiver wire?
Any player with fewer than four years of accrued seasons. A player "accrues" a season if he spends six or more weeks during the regular season on full pay. That is: on the regular season, on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, or on injured reserve. Essentially, anyone who you think is a veteran does not go through waivers, they just become free agents.
Crucially, that changes after the trade deadline, which falls on November 1 this year. Afterwards, every player regardless of veteran status goes through waivers. That changes back after the Super Bowl.
What happens if multiple teams claim a player?
Whoever has waiver wire priority wins. Right now, that waiver wire priority is the same as the draft order. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ninth in that order. During the season, the order is the reverse of the current NFL standings. Here's what the waiver wire order looks like right now:
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. New York Giants
11. Chicago Bears
14. Oakland Raiders
15. Los Angeles Rams
16. Detroit Lions
17. Atlanta Falcons
19. Buffalo Bills
20. New York Jets
22. Houston Texans
25. Seattle Seahawks
32. Denver Broncos