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Looking back at 6 players the Chiefs lost on waivers over the past 5 cutdown days

Kansas City general manager Brett Veach has made the right calls on the fringes of the roster.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs (and the rest of the NFL’s teams) must trim their roster from the current 90 players to the 53 that they will take into the regular season.

The roster cutdown is often stressful for fans, who fear that preseason favorites could be lost to other teams on waivers — and can’t be signed to the Chiefs’ practice squad the next day.

Let’s look at the process — and Kansas City players who were claimed on waivers by other teams over the last five roster cutdowns.

What does it mean for a player to be claimed on waivers?

The vast majority of players released on cutdown day will be subject to waivers. This is because players with less than four accrued seasons (an “accrued season” is least six games on a team’s 53-man roster) must “pass through waivers” after being cut.

This means that the other 31 teams have a chance to take over their contracts. (There’s normally a 24-hour deadline to make a waiver claim. But at the roster cutdown, the deadline is 11 a.m. Arrowhead Time the following day). If no teams claim a player, they become a free agent. Many of these new free agents are signed to the practice squad of the team that released them just the day before.

While any team can make a claim on a waived player, teams with worse records are given priority. And unlike in most fantasy football leagues, claiming a player does not alter the priority order. So 2022’s last-place Chicago Bears will be able to claim as many players as they wish. The 2013 Chiefs famously took advantage of being in the “pole position” by claiming seven waived players just before the season.

In August, every team faces a roster crunch. Justifying the release of one current player in exchange for another team’s castoff is often a higher bar than most fans realize. Still, we can expect something around three dozen waived players to be claimed after the final cutdowns.

In 2022, 33 waiver claims were processed. The claimed players included two quarterbacks, one running back, two wide receivers, two tight ends, seven offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, three linebackers, nine defensive backs and a kicker.

11 of those 33 players went to the five teams with highest priority.

Waived Chiefs claimed by other teams in recent years

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Chiefs at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • 2018: The Los Angeles Chargers claimed defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. The Chargers waived him soon after— but late in the season, he rejoined the team after twice being signed and cut by the Philadelphia Eagles. Since 2018, McGill has played in 20 games for six different teams — including a second stint with the Eagles and a third with the Chargers. He is currently with the San Francisco 49ers.
  • 2019: As they began their Super Bowl-winning season, none of the Chiefs’ waived players were claimed — even though strong preseasons from wide receiver Cody Thompson and tight end Jody Fortson were thought to be enough to generate interest from other teams. Both ended up on Kansas City’s practice squad.
  • 2020: the New York Giants claimed safety Adrian Colbert and tackle Jackson Barton. Colbert has bounced around the league ever since; a week ago, the Bears placed on him season-ending injured reserve. Kansas City might have eventually wished it had kept Barton, since it later lost starting tackles Michell Schwartz and Eric Fisher to season-ending injuries. Barton, however, has done little since then. He spent one season with the Giants before bouncing off and on the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster in 2021 and 2022. Now with the Arizona Cardinals, Barton played in the second half the Chiefs’ 38-10 preseason victory in the desert.
  • 2021: The Indianapolis Colts claimed cornerback BoPete Keyes and the New York Jets acquired defensive end Tim Ward. At the time, both of these losses seemed significant. But now, they look minor. The Chiefs had traded back into final selections of the 2020 NFL Draft to get Keyes. Despite his tantalizing size, the cornerback lasted only until November with the Colts. Since then, Keyes — currently with the Cleveland Browns — has been on and off six practice squads. Ward flashed over two preseasons in Kansas City — and had a sack in his only regular-season game with the team. But he did not accrue a sack in his eight games with the Jets — and in 2023, he played for the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks.
  • 2022: The Atlanta Falcons claimed defensive tackle Matt Dickerson. Dickerson played in six Atlanta games in 2022. Still, the Chiefs must have liked what they saw in the former UCLA product. The team re-signed him in May — and now, Dickerson is once again fighting to make Kansas City’s roster.

Which Chiefs would be the most likely to be claimed?

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If released, quarterback Shane Buechele’s strong preseason performances would almost certainly put him on a new team if he were to be waived. In addition, a league-wide shortage of offensive tackle depth would make it very unlikely that Lucas Niang or Prince Tega Wanogho could be released and slip through to Kansas City’s practice squad.

A year ago, a quarter of the players claimed were defensive backs. The Chiefs’ undrafted rookie cornerback Kahlef Hailassie has had some big moments in the preseason, including an interception against the New Orleans Saints. Kansas City’s recent success in finding talented young defensive backs could make other teams interested in players like him.

But with 97 wide receivers selected in the past three drafts, almost every team is trying to keep their own young wideouts under control. This late in the process, teams tend to be less interested in “dart throws” on receivers. There is less time available to learn an offense and build chemistry with a new quarterback.

So a player like the Chiefs’ Ihmir Smith-Marsette — who had an incredible preseason and offers value as a kick returner — might be less likely to be claimed. He was already available to other teams for much of last season. The receiver’s market may also be overshadowed by underwhelming performances in regular-season games with the Bears and Minnesota Vikings. While we should consider him a candidate to be claimed, it will be interesting to see how much preseason highlights can change existing opinions about a player.

But regardless of which waived players eventually land elsewhere, recent history shows that Kansas City general manager Brett Veach is unlikely to cast aside players with legitimate upside. It would seem that the Chiefs’ GM has few regrets about players he exposed to the waiver wire on cutdown day.

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