Now that the 2016 NFL season is officially over for all 32 teams, the seven months of offseason are upon us. Lucky for us football fans, the NFL tends to be a year-round affair. When games aren’t being played, teams are being designed and planned. When teams aren’t being built, there’s training camp and OTAs to drool over. When none of that is happening, there are league meetings to complicate the rulebook just a little more every year. When all of that fails, at least we have the Name Bracket to look forward to.
But for now, we have the entire offseason ahead of us. Here’s a look at the most important dates in the upcoming months:
Waiver system begins. Starting today, players that are released with fewer than four accrued seasons in the NFL are subject to the normal waiver wire process. If the player has four or more seasons under their belt, they immediately become free agents. This is only for players that have been cut, not for players whose contracts have run out.
NFL Regional Combine in Seattle, WA.
Starting at noon ET, NFL teams can sign anyone from the CFL whose contracts have expired.
Teams can start to designate a player for the franchise tag or transition tag. The Detroit Lions have not used the franchise tag since 2012, when they tagged Cliff Avril with the Non-Exclusive tag. The Lions let Avril hit free agency the following year.
NFL Regional Combine in Houston, TX.
NFL Regional Combine in Washington, D.C. (kickers and punters)
February 28 - March 6
Deadline for using the franchise/transition tags. (4 p.m. ET)
What is known as the “legal tampering period” begins. Teams can negotiate with any unsigned players set to become an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of the league year.
- By 4 p.m. ET, teams must decide whether to exercise the 2017 option on any contracts with that clause in their 2016 contracts.
- By 4 p.m. ET, teams must submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents.
- 4 p.m. - New league year begins. Free agency begins.
NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix begin. This is where rule changes are proposed, compensatory picks will be awarded and the draft order will be officially set.
Lions will be revealing their four new uniforms.
Lions, and any other team with a returning head coach, may begin offseason workout programs.
Deadline for restricted free agents to sign their offer sheets. The Lions have just two restricted free agents: Cornelius Lucas and Khyri Thornton.
Mid-April (estimated April 13)
The 2017 NFL schedule will be released. The Lions 2017 opponents have already been set, but this will designated the time and date of each game, including Monday, Thursday and Sunday night games.
The NFL Draft in Philadelphia. Day 1 will feature just the first round. Day 2 will be the second and third rounds. Day 3 will be Rounds 4-7.
Three-day rookie minicamp (either May 5-7 or May 6-8, depending on team’s choice).
Second option for three-day rookie minicamp (either May 12-14 or May 13-15, depending on team’s choice).
Spring League Meeting in Chicago, IL.
Mid-May to mid-June
Organize Team Activities begin. Clubs are allowed three weeks (10 sessions) of team practices, minus any live contact.
After OTAs, teams will hold a three-day minicamp sometime within this time period.
Teams have by 4 p.m. ET to have franchised player sign a long-term contract. If agreement isn’t made, player is only eligible for the one-year franchise contract.
Training camp begins. NFL rookies are permitted to start seven days before veterans.
Hall of Fame Game
Preseason begins for all other teams not involved in the Hall of Fame game.
The NFL 2017 regular season kicks off on Thursday night.