The New England Patriots made a total of 27 transactions ahead of Tuesday’s roster cutdown deadline from 80 to 53 players. While injured reserve and the suspension list also came into play, a majority of those moves — 24, to be exact — involved players getting cut.
Not ever cut is the same, however. The NFL differentiates between so called vested veterans and less experienced plays: if a player has less than four accrued seasons — more on that in a moment — on his résumé, he will not hit the free agency market right away but instead has to go through the waiver wire.
So, what exactly does this mean for the Patriots and the NFL’s other 32 teams? Let’s find out.
How does the NFL waiver wire work?
The waiver wire allows teams to submit claims for qualifying players that have previously been cut by other teams. Organizations usually have 24 hours to do so, but the window is a bit shorter on cutdown day: with final cuts taking place at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, teams only have until noon Wednesday to submit claims to a player’s rights.
If a player does get claimed, he moves onto a team’s active 53-man roster. As a result, that the team will need to have an open spot on its active team, or otherwise create one; teams usually have an hour to do so after receiving the league’s personnel notice that players have been claimed.
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 become unrestricted free agents. 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 players not hitting those criteria that were cut on Tuesday have since hit the waiver wire and are subject to being claimed by other teams. Clubs can use as many claims as they like, but roster limitations obviously need to be considered.
What is the waiver claim order?
For the first three weeks of the season, teams submit claims based on this year’s original draft order. The worst team in the league last year is the first able to put in a claim, and so forth; trades or forfeiture of picks are not considered. The Patriots are in the 21st spot after ending the previous season with a 10-7 record and wild card playoff exit.
The full order looks like this, with Jacksonville atop for a second straight year:
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Detroit Lions
- Houston Texans
- New York Jets
- New York Giants
- Carolina Panthers
- Chicago Bears
- Atlanta Falcons
- Denver Broncos
- Seattle Seahawks
- Washington Commanders
- Minnesota Vikings
- Cleveland Browns
- Baltimore Ravens
- Miami Dolphins
- Indianapolis Colts
- Los Angeles Chargers
- New Orleans Saints
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- New England Patriots
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Arizona Cardinals
- Dallas Cowboys
- Buffalo Bills
- Tennessee Titans
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Green Bay Packers
- San Francisco 49ers
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Los Angeles Rams
A player’s rights get awarded to a team based on that order. If the 20th ranked Steelers and 21st ranked Patriots, for example, are the only teams to submit a claim for a player, he joins Pittsburgh given the organization’s better ranking.
As noted above, the waiver claim order will be changed after the third week of the regular season. At that point, it will be based on the league-wide standings and adapted weekly throughout the rest of the season — until a new draft order is set after the Super Bowl.
Which Patriots have to hit the waiver wire?
A total of 20 players released by New England on Tuesday are subject to waivers. They are as follows:
TE Devin Asiasi, OL Drew Desjarlais, OL Yasir Durant, OL Arlington Hambright, WR Josh Hammond, RB Kevin Harris, S Brad Hawkins, WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, LB Cameron McGrone, OL Bill Murray, WR Tre Nixon, DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr., DT LeBryan Ray, OL Kody Russey, TE Matt Sokol, RB J.J. Taylor, K Tristan Vizcaino, LB Nate Wieland, TE Jalen Wydermyer
Over the last four years, New England saw a total of 11 players claimed off waivers. The New England practice squad, meanwhile, became the destination for several of those who were not picked up and made it to the open market unclaimed.
Which Patriots have not hit the waiver wire?
Players with more than four accrued seasons will not have to go through the waiver system. Four such vested veterans were let go by the Patriots on Tuesday:
CB Justin Bethel, OL James Ferentz, LB Harvey Langi, CB Terrance Mitchell
All four of them are free to sign with other teams right away. Obviously, though, there is a chance that some of them return to New England after all: their releases might just have been procedural in nature to help keep some players around with short-term injured reserve eligibility in mind (such as wide receiver Tyquan Thornton).