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NFL Waiver Wire Primer: Priority, claims, eligibility and more

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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:

1. Tennessee Titans

2. Cleveland Browns

3. San Diego Chargers

4. Dallas Cowboys

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

6. Baltimore Ravens

7. San Francisco 49ers

8. Miami Dolphins

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10. New York Giants

11. Chicago Bears

12. New Orleans Saints

13. Philadelphia Eagles

14. Oakland Raiders

15. Los Angeles Rams

16. Detroit Lions

17. Atlanta Falcons

18. Indianapolis Colts

19. Buffalo Bills

20. New York Jets

21. Washington Redskins

22. Houston Texans

23. Minnesota Vikings

24. Cincinnati Bengals

25. Seattle Seahawks

26. Green Bay Packers

27. Pittsburgh Steelers

28. Kansas City Chiefs

29. New England Patriots

30. Arizona Cardinals

31. Carolina Panthers

32. Denver Broncos