The NFL and NFL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement sets forth specific rules for how NFL clubs can claim and release players using the NFL’s waiver system. Here is how the process works.
The waiver system allows player contracts or, in certain cases, a club’s NFL rights to a player to be made available by one club to the other clubs in the league.
The waiver period runs from the first business day after the Super Bowl through the end of the NFL’s regular season. Except in rare incidents, the waiver period lasts 24 hours and all waivers are categorized as “no recall” and “no withdrawal,” which means once a club waives a player, it cannot take the player back or change the player’s status.
Once a club waives a player, the 31 other clubs either file a claim to obtain him or they waive their chance to do so (thus the origin of the term “waiver”). Clubs are assigned players on a priority basis. From the first business day after the Super Bowl until the day after the third regular season week, assignments are based on a claiming order that is the same as the order in which clubs selected in that year’s Draft. From the beginning of the fourth regular season weekend through the Super Bowl, assignments are based on the inverse order of their win-loss record. For example, a team with fewer wins will be awarded a player off waivers ahead of a team with a better record. If a player passes through waivers unclaimed, he becomes a free agent.
Once the waiver period starts each year through the trading deadline, a vested veteran — a player who has acquired four years of pension credit — is not subject to the waiver system if the club decides to release him. That means if a team decides to release a vested veteran, the league considers his contract to be terminated immediately and he is free to negotiate and sign with any other club. From the trading deadline through the end of the regular season, vested veterans are subject to the waiver process.
Keep track of the NFL’s transactions.