How Does the NFL Waiver Wire System Work?

The Kansas City Chiefs will cut fourteen more players by 5 PM Central time today and then the waiver wire craziness starts.

What's the waiver wire you ask? It's the way that the NFL manages released players who have four or less accrued seasons in the league.

Once players are cut by a team, they are eligible to be signed first by the team with the worst record in the previous season (in this case the Lions), then the second worst and so on until you get to the best NFL team. So if a player is cut and the Lions don't put a waiver out on him, he's eligible to be signed by the Rams and then the Chiefs and so on. Of course, the team that signs him can't go over the 53-man roster limit so they may have to make cuts as well to make room.

If a waived player is picked up by a team and then released again, he goes through the waiver wire process all over again.

Only players with four or fewer accrued NFL seasons enter the waiver wire. Here is the definition of an accrued season: 6 or more regular-season games in one season in which a player is on the 53-man protected roster, IR list or PUP list.

Players who have completed more than four accrued seasons automatically become free agents if they are let go at this point in the season.

This waiver wire order is reset on September 28th to reflect the current worst win/loss records in the league.

So expect some player movement by the Kansas City Chief after the cuts this weekend. We'll see guys who seemingly "make the squad" get released only days later.

Keep in mind that in addition to the 53-man roster which we'll find out about today, the Chiefs have 8 spots on their practice squad that they can assign by noon tomorrow. Here's more info on which players are eligible for that:

The practice squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

I hope this explanation clears things up for those that weren't sure.

So, who makes the practice squad? Keep those restrictions I just mentioned in mind when you're picking. I dropped the official NFL CBA wording on waivers and practice squad players after the jump.

WAIVER SYSTEM

Section 1. Release:
   (a)      Whenever a player who has finished the season in which his fourth year of credited service has been earned under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan is placed on waivers between February 1 and the trading deadline, his contract will be considered terminated and the player will be completely free at any time thereafter to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period. If the waivers occur after that time, the player’s Player Contract will be subject to the waiver system and may be awarded to a claiming Club. However, if such player is claimed and awarded, he shall have the option to declare himself an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the League Year in question if he has a no-trade clause in his Player Contract. If such player does not have a no-trade clause and the Player Contract being awarded through waivers covers more than one additional season, the player shall have the right to declare himself an Unrestricted Free Agent as set forth above at the end of the League Year following the League Year in which he is waived and awarded.
   (b)      Whenever a player who has finished less than the season in which his fourth year of credited service has been earned under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan is placed on waivers, the player’s Player Contract will be subject to the waiver system and may be awarded to a claiming Club. 

Section 2. Contact:  Coaches or any other persons connected with another NFL Club are prohibited from contacting any player placed on waivers until such time as the player is released by the waiving Club. 

Section 3. Ineligibility:  Any NFL player who is declared ineligible to compete in a preseason, regular season or postseason game because of a breach by any NFL Club by whom he is employed of waiver procedures and regulations, or any other provision of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, will be paid the salary or other compensation which he would have received if he had not been declared ineligible, which, in any event, will be a minimum of one week’s salary and, when applicable, expense payments. 

Section 4. Notice of Termination:  The Notice of Termination form attached hereto as Appendix G will be used by all Clubs. If possible, the Notice of Termination will be personally delivered to the player prior to his departure from the team. If the Notice of Termination has not been personally delivered to the player prior to his departure from the team, the Notice of Termination will be sent to him by certified mail at his last address on
file with the Club. 

Section 5. NFLPA’s Right to Personnel Information:  The NFL shall inform the NFLPA of player personnel transactions communicated in the Personnel Notice between the NFL and its member Clubs concerning the termination or trading of players including awards on waivers, termination through waivers, confirmation of trades or any change in the status of players (e.g., placed on Reserve Injured, etc.). The NFL will make best efforts to communicate the information referred to in this Article to the NFLPA on the same day, but in no event later than noon on the next day. A player who is terminated shall, upon request at or around the time of termination, be informed by the terminating Club of any claims made upon him by NFL Clubs during that League Year. The same information will be provided to the NFLPA if requested. 

Section 6. Rosters:  The NFLMC shall supply the NFLPA with an opening day and final roster for each Club. Rosters shall consist of the following categories of players: Active; Inactive; Reserve Injured; Reserve Physically Unable to Perform; Exempt Commissioner Permission; Non Football Illness/Injury; Practice Squad. 

Section 7. Procedural Recall Waivers:  A player with four or more Credited Seasons who is subject to procedural recall waivers from the Reserved/Retired or Reserve/Military status, and who opts for Free Agency in lieu of assignment, cannot, during the same season, re-sign or return to the Club that originally requested such waivers.

PRACTICE SQUADS

Section 1. Practice Squads:
   (a) The League may elect in any League Year in accordance with this Article to establish practice squads not to exceed eight (8) players per Club. The League’s election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season.
   (b) The League may elect to allow some or all Clubs to add to their practice squads one additional player, who shall not count against the limit above, whose citizenship and principal place of residence are outside the United States and its Territories (“International Player”). The League’s election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season. Such International Players shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment that apply to other practice players except that they (1) may not, during the term of their practice player contract, negotiate or sign an NFL Player Contract with any Club; and (2) may not practice with any Club following the last Conference Championship Game unless both Conference Championship teams have such a player. In addition, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 4 below, such International Player shall be eligible to serve on a Practice Squad for three additional seasons after the completion of the player's year(s) as an International Player. As set forth in Article XXXIV, Section 3, the weekly salary for such international players shall not be included in the employing Club's Team Salary and shall be deducted from the calculation of the Salary Cap in the same manner as any Player Benefit.

Section 2. Signing With Other Clubs:
   (a) Any player under contract to a Club as a practice squad player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club at any time during the League Year, to serve as a player on any Club’s Active or Inactive List, and any Club is completely free to negotiate and sign such a Player Contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period, except that such player shall not be permitted to sign a Player Contract with another Club to serve as a practice squad player while under contract as a practice squad player.
   (b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a) above, a practice squad player may not sign an NFL Player Contract with his Club’s next opponent later than 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the sixth day preceding the game (except in bye weeks, when the prohibition commences on the tenth day preceding the game).

Section 3. Salary:  Minimum salary for a practice squad player shall be $4,700 per week for the 2006-07 League Years, $5,200 per week for the 2008-10 League Years and the 2011 League Year if it is an Uncapped Year, and $5,700 per week for the 2011 League Year if it is a Capped Year and the 2012 League Year, including postseason weeks in which his Club is in the playoffs.

Section 4. Eligibility:
   (a) The practice squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s). An otherwise eligible player may be a practice squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List
during the entire period of his employment.
   (b) A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club’s physical and been a member of the club’s Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)

Section 5. Active List:  If a player on the Practice Squad of one club (Club A) signs an NFL Player Contract with another club (Club B), (1) the player shall receive three weeks salary of his NFL Player Contract at the 53- player Active/Inactive List minimum even if he is terminated by Club B prior to earning that amount, and (2) Club B is required to count the player on its 53-player Active/Inactive List for three games (a bye week counts as a game) even if he is terminated or assigned via waivers to another club or is signed as a free agent to another club’s 53-player roster or another club’s Practice Squad prior to that time. If the player is terminated from Club B’s 53-player roster and signed to Club B’s Practice Squad, he shall continue to count on the club’s 53-player Active/Inactive List but shall not count against the eight-player Practice Squad limit until the three-game requirement has been fulfilled. If a player is terminated prior to the completion of the three-game period and is signed to Club B’s Practice Squad or is signed or assigned to another club’s 53-player roster or Practice Squad, any salary (as that term is defined in Article XXIV, Section 1(c)) that he receives from any NFL club applicable to the three-game period shall be an offset against the three weeks salary that he is entitled to receive from Club B.

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