Now that we have beaten to death the narratives on Cam Newton's press conference etiquette, Peyton Manning's affinity for Budweiser and all the other Super Bowl stories, the NFL offseason is officially upon all 32 franchises. Because there is no true offseason for NFL fandom, let's take a look at all of the upcoming important dates for the Detroit Lions' offseason.
Feb. 8 - Beginning of waiver system
As of Monday, players who have accrued fewer than four years of NFL experience can be "waived" and then claimed by other teams in accordance to the NFL waiver wire order (determined by reverse NFL standings).
Feb. 15 - Teams eligible to designate franchise tag
Team are given the option to designate the franchise tag to one of their players who is set to become a free agent, essentially locking them into a one-year deal that the player can either accept or refuse to sign and sit out the season.
Feb. 23-29 - NFL Scouting Combine
March 1 - Franchise tag deadline
Teams have until 4 p.m. ET to use their franchise or transition tags on a player for 2016.
March 7-9 - Teams can start negotiating with unrestricted free agents
What has colloquially been named the "legal tampering period," teams can talk to players set to become free agents from other teams around the NFL. Contracts cannot be signed, but terms can be informally agree upon.
March 9 - Beginning of the 2016 league year
The beginning of the 2016 year means several things:
- Free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET
- Teams must be under the salary cap by 4 p.m ET (only the top 51 salaries count against the cap)
- If players drafted in 2012 have a 2016 option year, the salary for that year becomes fully guaranteed
March 11 - DeAndre Levy's $5.25 million base salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed
March 20-23 - Annual league meetings
Owners will congregate, propose and discuss potential rule changes, team relocations and any other matters regarding the entire league. Last year, the league agreed to a slew of new rules focused on improving player safety.
April 18 - Offseason workout programs can begin
For teams with returning head coaches, offseason workouts can begin starting on this date. For teams with new coaches, offseason programs can begin April 4.
April 22 - Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
Teams have until April 22 to try and sign restricted free agents from other franchises. If the player does sign one of these offer sheets, the team who owns the player's rights has seven days to match the terms of the potential contract.
April 28-30 - 2016 NFL Draft in Chicago, IL
After the seven rounds are complete, teams can immediately sign any undrafted free agents who were eligible for the draft.
May 6-9 - Start of rookie minicamp
Teams can start their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp. If teams do not choose to hold their rookie minicamp during this time, they can also hold it between May 13-16.
July 15: Multiyear contract deadline for Franchise Players
Any player designated with the franchise tag has until 4 p.m. ET to agree to a multiyear deal. If no agreement is made, the player must sign a one-year contract that cannot be extended until the end of the season.
Mid July: Start of training camp
Rookies and first-year players are permitted to start camp seven days prior to the earliest allowed reporting date for veterans.