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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.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins wrapped up their preseason schedule Thursday, and now begins the 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. They removed the first cut two years ago, so now, teams are cutting from 90 players to 53 at that final cut.

NFL rules dictate teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players no later than 4 pm today. That means almost 1,200 players will be available.

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 are very thin at outside linebacker and could be looking to the waiver wire to fill the last spots on the depth chart. They could also 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 2018 regular season, the priority is based on draft order. This means that the Arizona Cardinals are the No. 1 team on the waiver priority list, while the Redskins are No. 15 (where they drafted future franchise QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.). 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 the fourteen 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 Cardinals 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 today. The 53-man rosters will be reached by then, but then there will be further turnover as teams make waiver claims.