Explaining the waiver wire and how it affects the Colts in 2023

With all 32 teams trimming their rosters down to just 53 players on Tuesday, the NFL waiver wire will be very active in the coming days.
Indianapolis Colts v Philadelphia Eagles
Indianapolis Colts v Philadelphia Eagles / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Indianapolis Colts will make a whopping 35 transactions to iron out their opening-day roster ahead of Tuesday's deadline, trimming the roster down to the standard 53 players. Although 90% of those transactions are of the waive/cut variety, other factors such as the injury reserve and suspension list serve as different but equal transactions. Any player can be cut, but not every player can be waived.

The NFL differentiates between so called vested veterans and less experienced plays: if a player has less than four accrued seasons on his résumé, he will not hit the free agency market right away but instead has to go through the waiver wire.

With all that being said, let's dive into what this means for the Indianapolis Colts and all NFL teams alike.

How the waiver wire works

Amidst roster construction, qualifying players who have been cut are then able to have claims submitted by opposing teams for their rights. Typically, when a player is waived, organizations have 24 hours to submit a claim for the player. However, of those waived on cutdown day, more specifically being victim to deadline cuts at 4 p.m. EST, teams then have until noon the following day to submit claims.

When a player is claimed, he is placed on the claimer's 53-man roster. If the acquiring team has a full active roster upon a successful claim, there will have to be a move made for accomodation. Team's are typically given an hour to make said subsequent move following the league's personnel notice that they've been claimed.

Who exactly can be placed on waivers?

Players with less than four accrued seasons are subject to the waiver wire and must pass it to become an unrestricted free agent -- this is when they're free to sign with any team of their choosing. A player who has at least four accrued seasons is released, not waived, meaning their contract is immediately terminated and they are a free agent who can sign anywhere immediately

As defined by the NFL, an accrued season is when a player logs, "six or more games on either a team’s 53-man roster, or on injured reserve, or on the physically unable to perform list." Each organization can put as many claims on players at they'd like, however, corresponding moves must be in order.

The Waiver Claim Order

Teams are able to submit claims based on the past draft's original order for the first three weeks of the regular season. Similar to the draft, the worst team in the league from a season ago (by overall record) has the first selection in the waiver wire. The second worst team follows, and so on and so forth; trades or forfeiture of picks are not considered.

For example, the Colts hold fourth place (like they did in the NFL Draft) in the waiver claim process after finishing a 4-12-1 in 2022. The full 2023 waiver priorty list can be found here.

After a successful waiver claim, the player's rights simply gets handed over to his new team. If the Arizona Cardinals (3rd) and Indianapolis Colts (4th) both place claims on the same player, the priority team, which in this case would be Arizona, wins the sweepstakes.

After those aforementioned three weeks, however, the waiver order is then reordered based on up-to-date, leaguewide standings and will continue to change until the setting of a new waiver once the regular season's standings are finalized.

Which Colts have hit the waiver wire?

In our 2023 cut tracker, that’s continually updated as moves happen, we separate the players that have been released and waived. Again, only the waived player will hit the waiver wire. Naturally, the list consists of young guys like Mike Strachan and Emil Ekiyor Jr.

Which Colts have not hit the waiver wire?

The veteran players that were released, won’t be hitting the waiver wire. That includes names like Kenyan Drake, Teez Tabor, Ronnie Harrison, Breshad Perriman, and James Washington.

As mentioned, these players have accrued four or more seasons in the NFL and are now free to sign with any team they'd like. There's always a chance they end up donning the horseshoe for the regular season as the front office could've merely elected to protect those hitting waivers, playing the long game with the vets.