How does the NFL waiver system work?

Jake Nichol November 6, 2021
How does the NFL waiver system work?
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images


Odell Beckham Jr is being released by the Cleveland Browns, and being placed on the waiver list, but how do they work in the NFL? What is the difference between the waiver and released list?

After three seasons with the franchise, the Browns officially confirmed on Friday that they will be releasing wide-receiver Beckham Jr.

He will be placed on the waiver list.

But what are the conditions for an NFL player to be waived and how does the league decide the current waive order?

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How do waivers work in the NFL?

When a franchise wishes to cut a player from their roster, they can either waive or release them.

The amount of time a player has spent in total in the NFL is the deciding factor as to whether someone is waived or released.

Those with four seasons or fewer experience in the NFL, will be placed on the waivers list.

This means that teams, based on their record for the season are listed – with the worst-performing franchise getting first dibs on a waived player.

Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

If you have more than four years’ NFL experience, players can be released and can sign whether they wish immediately.

However, in the case of Beckham Jr being released by the Browns is the timing.

If a player is cut after the NFL trade deadline they will be placed on waivers, no matter their experience.

In this case, the trade deadline fell on Tuesday, 2nd November.

This is how the NFL waiver system works – basically designed to give the worst-performing franchises a shot at improving themselves.

Who could sign Beckham Jr off waivers?

Under the terms of Beckham Jr’s release, any franchise that signs him off the waivers list must stump up the remainder of his 2021 contract.

That works out at $7.25 million.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Although if he is not picked up by Tuesday afternoon, he will become a free agent.

Should he be picked up off the waivers list, teams must make sure that his salary falls within their cap space.

Only nine franchise currently have this space:

The respective teams named above have a range of about $20 million in their available salary cap space.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have $28 million in reverse, Seattle Seahawks $11.8 million and the Cincinnati Bengals $8.4 million.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.