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How It Works: NFL Waiver Wire Rules

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‘Tis the season for the NFL waiver wire to take center stage. Here’s a rules primer on that.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins wrapped up their preseason schedule Thursday, and now begins the two-day process of cutting down to the 53-man roster. Teams used to cut from 90 to 75 players on Tuesday of the final week, and then down to 53 on Saturday. This year, they removed the first cut, so now, teams are cutting from near 90 players to 53 at that final cut.

NFL rules dictate teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players no later than 1 p.m. PT on Saturday. That means a lot of talent will be available over the next 72 hours. The new rule removing the 75 man cut means upwards of 1,100 players are going to be released between the final preseason game and the Saturday afternoon deadline.

The Redskins may not be in the midst of its largest roster overhaul, but both veterans and rookies alike are scrambling to lay claim to the final spots. The Redskins might be set enough with their options to not be forced to scour the waiver wire for upgrades, though the Washington front office will likely do just that anyway. They could try and trade for someone before they are released, but the primary method of acquiring players this weekend is the waiver process.

When a team releases a player with less than four years of service, they are subject to the waiver process. Normally when a player is released, waivers runs the next day. For roster cuts, all players run through waivers on Sunday, whether they were released on Friday or Saturday.

The process involves a priority list ranking teams for claiming players. From the first day of the league year until the conclusion of Week 3 of the 2017 regular season, the priority is based on draft order. This means that the Cleveland Browns are the No. 1 team on the waiver priority list, while the Redskins are No. 17 (where they drafted current beast Jonathan Allen). This means that if the Redskins want to take a shot on a young player, they have to put a claim in on him, and then cross their fingers and hope that sixteen teams before them do not put in a claim.

You might be used to the waiver process in your fantasy football league. The NFL waiver process is different in that the No. 1 team can claim as many players from waivers as they want, and they retain priority. The Browns essentially get first dibs on every player. They will stay in that position through Week 3 of the regular season.

Any player with at least four years of service that is released is not subject to the waiver process. They immediately become free agents and can sign with any team.

We’ll be keeping an eye on roster cuts over the next day. The 53-man rosters will be reached by then, but then there will be further turnover as teams make waiver claims.

(h/t to Niners Nation for the rules copy above)