How the NFL waiver wire works, priority, more

Waive vs. release

A lot of times you’ll see news outlets—and even NFL teams—use the terms “waive” and “release” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

When a team cuts a player, they either waive or release them. A player who has less than four years of accrued seasons in the NFL is waived. A player with four or more accrued seasons is released.

Note: An accrued season, in the simplest terms, is a year in which a player spends at least six weeks on a team’s 53-man roster. There are other stipulations, but let’s keep it simple.

When a player is waived, their contract is not yet terminated. Instead, they go on the waiver wire, where teams can put in a claim for them. If a team claims them, then he joins the new team on his current contract. If no team claims him in a designated period (usually by noon of the next day), his contract is terminated and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

If a player is released , their contract is terminated and they are free to sign anywhere immediately.


Here’s some more stuff about the rules with the cutdowns, Miguel (patscap) was one of the first people that I found doing cap work for another team in the early 2000’s. Very knowledgeable. He posted these reminders on twitter about cuts/roster/procedures.


Dead if a player is claimed then one must be removed from 53 man roster before you claim again?

Like Bears if they claim player don’t they have to on claim remove a player to maintain 53?
So when he says claim as many as they want each claim has to have a move to remove a player?

Yea, they can only have 53 on the roster, so each claim has to have a corresponding release.

I found #11 very strange. Let’s take Ibrahim as an example. In conjunction with point #4, Ibrahim has gotten waived with an injury designation. No one claimed him, so he reverted to the Lions IR, but according to points 4 and 11, if he remains there going into the regular season, his salary counts against the salary cap AND he is INELIGIBLE to return this year.

Provided I have the logic tree correct, this actually encourages teams to get rid of injured players like Ibrahim and denies them the benefit of a team rehab program.

I think I understand that the objective is to try to keep teams away from using IR as a player pantry, but it also seems to have the effect of being doubly punitive against players in need of injury rehab.


You have it correct.

If Ibrahim remains on IR for the entire season, he rehabs at the facility, but he can’t return at all for the season. This stops teams from tucking players on IR during the preseason in order to bring them back during the season.

If Ibrahim reaches an injury settlement, he will rehab on his own, not at the facilities and when healthy, he can sign with another NFL team (PS or Active roster) or after an additional 3 weeks with the Lions.

It’s over my head, but I’d imagine that the NFL health insurance would cover the cost of rehab and the settlement would more than cover the deductible and/or other expenses.

Nothing is perfect, but this seems like a decent way to allow players that get hurt during the preseason to come back and play during the year. With 500 plus rookies coming in each year (draft and UDFA), if you are out for a year, it can be hard to catch on again, the injury settlement gives them a chance to get back in the game and be noticed.

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Example from 2022:

C.J. Moore has had a tumultuous 2022 season. He started training camp on the Detroit Lions’ non-football injury list. When he returned to the practice field, it turned out to be short-lived, as he was waived/injured just a couple weeks later. After agreeing to an injury settlement with the Lions, he was released from the team, and it seemed like his three-year stint with the team had reached an unceremonious end.

But Moore, who had been a special teams stud with the Lions, wouldn’t let it end that way. Though he initially signed to the Houston Texans practice squad, when his injury settlement had expired (along with the two extra weeks required by NFL rules), Moore urged his management team to get him back in Detroit.


Hadn’t considered any ongoing insurance coverage, that’s a good point. Still not sure if the quality afforded would be on par with a team facility and training staff (unless you work for a cheapskate owner), but its something.

Yea, maybe not, but look at Romeo, he was 6 months into a rehab when he discovered that his surgery didn’t take (or he relapsed) and had to have a 2nd surgery. He was on IR and under the watch of the training staff. :person_shrugging: :person_shrugging:

I’m sure the trainers will recommend quality doctors/medical professionals to go to. Many and maybe most of the time, if a player comes back into the league after an injury settlement, it’s with the team that they got hurt with, so they want you to have a quality rehab.

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Wave - something Dan Campbell gets distracted watching during games.

Release - something Mathew stafford is very quick with.

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Makes it easier to gamble on the games when you have inside information on 2 different teams.

Going to give this a bump as we near the final cuts.

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