With the NFL offseason comes some angst, some withdrawals and the ever-strong frustration that’s born mostly from complete lack of understanding.
The focused-upon aspect of the business side of New York Giants football is just about in the past months: Free Agency, the NFL Draft, and Team/Player negotiations that lead to a contract or a departure. It’s not what the fans thought (from the comfort of their favorite chair) should transpire, but eventually they grow to see the hows and whys – even if it takes actually seeing how things play out for them to have clarity.
We’re in an odd part of the offseason where the players and coaches focus on getting back to game day shape, acclimating with all things football and preparing for that common goal that is the basis for the game itself. The general managers, however, are still shifting, buying and building. A large part of the “shifting” includes using National Football League Waivers: a system by which a team makes a player contract or NFL rights available to all other teams.
Taking a deeper look into waivers – all 32 teams utilize them as they own the right to release a certain player without actually, say, cutting him. Once a team cuts a player, they cut every tie and said player is immediately a free agent to the rest of the league. With waivers, players who do not have a recognized minimum amount of experience (four years) playing in the league aren’t “cut”, but instead placed on the league's “waiver wire”. This waiver wire allows the other 31 NFL teams to claim (or waive) the right to the released player and to then secure him. Players with more than four years/ experience are considered “vested” and non-eligible.
Bear in mind here that these waived players must clear the NFL waiver wire before becoming a free agent. Once a player is placed on waivers, the other 31 teams have a 10-day period to place that claim on him. The team with the highest slot in the waiver order is then granted that player. If no team makes an assertion, that player then becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team. The teams’ waiver order is determined by the previous season's final standings – exactly like the NFL Draft (without the trade ability). Multiple teams can stake an interest in a waived player, but the higher-ranked team on the wire will get their man. Teams have ten days to do so – up until the start of July through December (considered in-season). Then, that time frame changes to just one day – 24 hours.
Here are some important side notes:
- If a player is claimed and then released from his new team, he must re-enter the waiver wire and pretty much begin the process all over again.
- Players with four or more seasons of league experience immediately become free agents if released from a team (the non-eligible part).
- A player who is on an NFL team's 53-man game roster, injured reserve list (IR) or physically unable to perform list (PUP) for at least six regular-season games qualifies for a season's worth of league experience. Interesting one.
- Players with more than four years’ experience are considered vested veterans – even midway through the season, and are not subject to the waiver process at that time (see: non-eligible). It’s just a “cut” at that point.
- Waiver claims are permanent.
- NFL teams are prohibited from contacting waived players until the player has been released by their team and after passing waivers.
Many teams utilize waivers to get players onto Injured Reserve without having to waste a valuable roster spot at critical times. What recent events have shown is that there is a degree of risk in doing so with young, talented players. Teams are basically showing their hand, so to speak, and hoping no one has better cards (or a spiteful plan).
What’s that old adage? “Without some risk there comes no reward”. Indeed.
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