Now that Super Bowl 55 is over, it’s officially the offseason for all 32 teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will spend the next couple weeks celebrating their accomplishments, while the other 31 teams will start the process of evaluating what went wrong and what they can do to fix it in 2021.
Like last year, this will be another challenging offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL Combine has already been cancelled, and it’s unclear if events like free agency, the NFL Draft, or offseason workouts will operate normally. Chances are the NFL Combine won’t be the last event impacted by the pandemic.
Still, the NFL runs on a fairly predictable schedule, and while the official NFL website has taken down most of the offseason events on its calendar, here’s a look at the originally-dated events that are expected to take place in the upcoming months—as provided by the Carolina Panthers’ website and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Note: These dates are very subject to change.
February 23 - March 9
Teams can designated players for the franchise tag or transition tag.
As it relates to the Detroit Lions, one name to keep an eye on is Kenny Golladay. A franchise tag would’ve cost the Lions $17.865 million last year, but with the salary cap expected to drop at least $10 million in 2021, that number will likely be closer to $16.4 million per Over The Cap.
Legal tampering period for free agency.
Teams will have three days to legally negotiate with the agents of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Direct communication with players is still not permitted.
March 17 — 4 p.m. ET
Beginning of 2021 league new year.
Free agency begins
Signings can become official as all negotiations and visits to team sites (if permitted by COVID guidelines) will begin.
Trades become official
Assuming there are no bumps in the road between now and March 17, the Matthew Stafford trade will become official, along with any other trades that are agreed upon before the new year.
Offseason workouts begin for teams with new head coaches
The Lions and the six other teams with new head coaches get a head start on the offseason with offseason workouts. Commissioner Roger Goodell has already hinted that these may be virtual again this year, but that decision has yet to be made.
Offseason workouts begin for everyone else
Last day for restricted free agents to sign their offer sheets.
The Lions only have one restricted free agent, cornerback Mike Ford. If they give him a tendered offer, he has until April 23 to sign it.
Similarly the Lions have three exclusive rights free agents: punter Jack Fox, fullback Jason Cabinda, and offensive tackle Matt Nelson. The Lions will likely tender these players a league-minimum contract, giving the players two options: sign the tender or sit out 2021. April 23 is the deadline for that decision.
April 29-May 1
2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, Ohio
If the pattern of the last few years hold, here’s the schedule breakdown for the draft.
- Round 1: Thursday, April 29 — 8 p.m. ET
- Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 30 — 7 p.m. ET
- Rounds 4-7: Saturday, May 1 — 12 p.m. ET