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How likely is it that a RB or WR will be claimed if released by Seahawks at final cuts

Fans often fret about losing players to a waiver claim. Are those fears justified?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Current Seahawk Michael Wilhoite chases Alex Collins in week 17 last season.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We are only halfway into the preseason and debates regarding which receivers and backs will make the Seahawks final roster compared to who could potentially clear waivers and make it to the practice squad are raging full force among the Field Gulls commentariat.

Adding to the consternation on this topic is the recent memory of the “Popetastrophe” of last season, when the New York Jets broke the hearts of the fans who had been riding the Popemobile following Troymaine’s performance in the preseason. Seeing that Pope had gone to New York has some fans extremely worried for the prospects of losing players like David Moore, Chris Carson, Kasen Williams, Cyril Grayson, and J.D. McKissic.

The debates about who would and would not clear waivers this year will be strong in the next two weeks regardless of anything anyone says or does. However, I did want to take a very quick look at waiver claim trends from the past few seasons in order to try to get a better understanding just how likely certain players may or may not be to make it through waivers unclaimed. In order to do this, I first looked at the number of players awarded to a new team after being waived at final cuts. I did not take the time to evaluate waiver claims at the old 75-man cut, figuring that players cut at the initial cutdown were not likely to have been in the discussion for those last few precious roster spots that are up for grabs heading into the final preseason game.

The following table is a breakdown by position of waived players claimed by a new team at the cut to 53 in each of the last three years.

Waiver Claims by Position Group

Position Number Claimed 2014 Number Claimed 2015 Number Claimed 2016 Three Year Total
Position Number Claimed 2014 Number Claimed 2015 Number Claimed 2016 Three Year Total
WR 4 0 3 7
RB 1 0 4 5
OL 6 7 2 15
DL 4 5 4 13
LB 2 6 6 14
DB 7 5 9 21
Number of players claimed off waivers by position at final cuts in each of last three seasons.

What immediately jumps out from that table is that backs and receivers seem to be rarely claimed at the final cutdown, and teams claim a much larger number of players at other positions.

Interested to find out a little bit more about the odds of a running back or a wide receiver being claimed, I then took some time to comb through the cuts list for the day of the final cuts to count the number of backs and receivers let go at the deadline in each of these seasons. Now, the resource I was using did not differentiate between players who were cut or who were waived, and I was not about to spend my time looking up each player individually to determine if they were waived (less than four years of experience) or simply cut (four or more years of experience), so these are simply the raw numbers for each position.

Backs and receivers cut at the end of training camp by year

Position 2014 2015 2016
Position 2014 2015 2016
RB 62 58 63
WR 85 99 101
Number of backs and receivers cut at final roster cuts by year.

Translating that into a percentage of the players cut it looks like this

RBs and WRs claimed by percentage of players cut

Position 2014 2015 2016 Three Year Total
Position 2014 2015 2016 Three Year Total
RB 1.61% 0.00% 6.35% 2.73%
WR 4.71% 0.00% 2.97% 2.46%
Backs and receivers claimed as a percentage of players at the position cut at final roster cuts.

What this tells me is that as angry and upset as fans of Troymaine Pope were last year, Pete and John appear to have been correct in their belief that Pope would clear waivers and make it through to the practice squad. In fact, the odds of any particular back or receiver getting claimed appear to be very slim, and hopefully this will help quell the fears of those who may be losing sleep over potentially losing those guys who are fighting for those last spots on the roster at running back and wide receiver. Of course, the fresh memory of Pope being lost to the Jets will likely outweigh the logic that the odds of any player being cut are slim.

Also, Pope has 49 career yards from scrimmage and is still fighting for a job with the Colts.