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2021 NFL roster cuts: How does the waiver wire work and what does it mean for the Patriots?

Related: Patriots roster cuts tracker: News, rumors, instant reactions

New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The New England Patriots, as part of the 53-man roster limit, cut 21 total players ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. Not all cuts are the same, however, as the NFL differentiates between veterans and less experienced players: If a player has less than four accrued seasons — more on that in a moment — on his résumé, he will not hit the open market right away but instead has to go through the waiver wire.

So, what exactly does this mean? Let’s find out.

How does the NFL’s waiver wire work?

The waiver wire allows teams to submit claims for some qualifying players that have previously been cut by other teams. Organizations usually have 24 hours to submit claims but this window is shorter over the NFL’s cutdown weekend: With final cuts taking place at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, teams only have until noon Wednesday to submit claims to a players rights. If a player gets claimed, he joins a team’s 53-man active roster — meaning that the team will need to have an open spot on its active team, or otherwise create one.

Who is placed on waivers?

As noted above, players with less than four accrued seasons need to pass through the waiver wire in order to hit “regular” unrestricted free agency. The NFL defines an accrued season as six or more games on either a team’s 53-man roster, or on injured reserve, or on the physically unable to perform list. All qualifying players released yesterday have hit the waiver wire and are subject to being claimed by other teams.

What’s the waiver claim order?

For the first three weeks of the season, teams submit claims based on the draft order. The worst team in the league last year is the first able to put in a claim, with the Patriots coming in at No. 15 after their first losing season in 20 years.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. New York Jets
  3. Houston Texans
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
  6. Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Detroit Lions
  8. Carolina Panthers
  9. Denver Broncos
  10. Dallas Cowboys
  11. New York Giants
  12. San Francisco 49ers
  13. Los Angeles Chargers
  14. Minnesota Vikings
  15. New England Patriots
  16. Arizona Cardinals
  17. Las Vegas Raiders
  18. Miami Dolphins
  19. Washington Football Team
  20. Chicago Bears
  21. Indianapolis Colts
  22. Tennessee Titans
  23. Seattle Seahawks
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers
  25. Los Angeles Rams
  26. Cleveland Browns
  27. Baltimore Ravens
  28. New Orleans Saints
  29. Green Bay Packers
  30. Buffalo Bills
  31. Kansas City Chiefs
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A player gets awarded to a team based on the ranking: If the Bengals and the Patriots, for example, are the only teams to submit a claim for a player, he joins Cincinnati given the team’s higher ranking.

After the third week of the regular season, the waiver-claim order will be changed based on the standings at that point and adapted weekly throughout the rest of the season until the draft order is set after the Super Bowl.

Which Patriots have to hit the waiver wire?

The following is a list of the 11 ex-Patriots who are now subject to waivers:

OL Will Sherman, WR Kristian Wilkerson, DT Nick Thurman (injured), CB D’Angelo Ross, DB Myles Bryant, WR Isaiah Zuber, DL Tashawn Bower, OL Korey Cunningham, CB Michael Jackson Sr., DT Bill Murray, WR Tre Nixon

Over the previous three Labor Day weekends, New England saw 11 players claimed off waivers by organizations around the league. Practice squads, meanwhile, became the destination for the majority who were not picked up.

Which Patriots have not hit the waiver wire?

Those with more than four accrued seasons will not have to go through the waiver system. In New England’s case, there are 10 vested veterans who were officially released on Tuesday:

QB Cam Newton, K Nick Folk, QB Brian Hoyer, DT Akeem Spence, DL Montravius Adams, OL Alex Redmond, S Adrian Colbert, OL James Ferentz, TE Matt LaCosse, DB Dee Virgin

All 21 players listed above are now cleared to catch on with another team — or potentially sign back on with the Patriots.