For the Detroit Lions, the offseason is officially underway. While the NFL playoffs are just about to begin, all eyes are already on next season for the Lions. This means it's time to start looking at things like coaching changes, free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft. Actual on-field activities will only return with OTAs and minicamps later in the offseason. For now, the main focus is on putting together a roster and coaching staff capable of getting the Lions back to the playoffs next season.
Earlier this week, the NFL released its 2013 offseason schedule. It includes quite a few important dates that are worth marking on your calendar, and I have highlighted them below.
Jan. 15: Deadline for underclassmen to enter 2013 NFL Draft
Jan. 19: East-West Shrine Game (Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL)
Jan. 24-25: Regional Combine (University of Hawaii in Honolulu, HI)
Jan. 26: Senior Bowl (Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL)
Jan. 27: Pro Bowl (Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI)
Feb. 2: Texas vs. Nation College All-Star Game (Eagle Stadium in Allen, TX)
Feb. 3: Super Bowl XLVII (Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA)
Feb. 9-10: Regional Combine (Orange Coast College in Los Angeles, CA)
Feb. 16: Regional Combine (Methodist Training Center in Houston, TX)
Feb. 17: Regional Combine (Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Cleveland, OH)
Feb. 20-26: NFL Combine (Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN)
March 2-3: Regional Combine (Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility in Florham Park, NJ)
March 9: Regional Combine (One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, FL)
March 9-11: Teams can begin negotiating with the agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the league year (teams can only talk to agents and not the players during this negotiating window)
March 10: Regional Combine (Halas Hall in Chicago, IL)
March 12: 2013 League Year begins at 4 p.m. ET, opening free agency and the trading period
March 16-17: Regional Combine (Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Atlanta, GA)
March 17-20: Annual League Meeting (The Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ)
March 23-24: Regional Combine (Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, WA)
March 23-24: Regional Combine (Baltimore Ravens Training Facility in Baltimore, MD)
April 7-8: Super Regional Combine (Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX)
April 25-27: 2013 NFL Draft (in New York City, NY)
May 20-22: NFL Spring League Meeting (Hyatt Harborside in Boston, MA)
Dates for OTAs, minicamps and the start of training camp won't be announced until later in the offseason. However, assuming the schedule is similar to last year, expect the Lions to hold OTAs in late May and early June, their rookie minicamp in early May and their full-team minicamp in mid-June. Also, expect training camp to begin at the end of July.
Basically, the only real change to the offseason schedule this year is the three-day negotiating period before the start of free agency. While teams can only talk to the agents of impending free agents, it will allow for negotiations to begin before free agency actually opens. This means that you should expect the free agency rumors to get started a few days earlier than usual.