Now That The Super Bowl Is Over, Here Are Important Dates During the NFL’s Offseason
Super Bowl LII is in the books and the 2017 Season champions have been crowned. Now full attention turns to the upcoming 2018 season as every NFL team restocks their roster during the offseason.
The NFL Scouting Combine (Feb 27-March 5) and the NFL Draft (April 26-28) are the two most publicized events of the offseason, but there are several other key dates on the NFL’s Offseason Calendar that you need to know about.
2018 NFL Important Dates:
February 5 – Waiver System Begins for 2018: Each year on the day after the Super Bowl, the NFL Waiver Period begins. Any player with less than four accrued NFL seasons that is released by any team must pass through waivers before he becomes a free agent. Once a player is waived, all NFL teams have a 24-hour window to claim his rights and sign him. If he goes unclaimed, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. The order for the waivers is determined in the same way as the NFL Draft: inverse order of the final standing. In other words, the worst team in the league gets the top claim, the best team gets the last claim. The Cowboys are #19 in cue, the same spot they have in April’s draft. If you are a veteran player with 4-or-more NFL seasons, you don’t have to go through waivers; you automatically become a free agent.
February 13 – CFL Signing Period Begins: NFL teams can sign players from the CFL (Canadian Football League) beginning today, if those players’ CFL contracts have expired.
February 20 – First Day to Designate FRANCHISE or TRANSITION PLAYERS: This is the first day that teams can Franchise Tag a player. They can also use a Transition Tag. It’s likely the Cowboys will use a Franchise Tag on Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. He is now a free agent and he wants a long-term contract with a big bonus and guaranteed money. If the Cowboys don’t feel they can work out a long-term deal with Lawrence, they can put a tag on him. A tag means a 1-year deal in which he receives the average of the Top 5 salaries (Franchise Tag) of the highest paid defensive ends in the NFL, or the average of the Top 10 salaries (Transition Tag) of the highest paid defensive ends. The Cowboys have used the Franchise Tag several times in their history, most recently on Dez Bryant, but also with players like linebacker Anthony Spencer, safety Ken Hamlin, and offensive tackle Flozell Adams. The price of a Franchise Tag in 2018 for defensive end is expected to be more than $17 million.
February 27-March 5 – NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis: The week-long meat market (excuse me, I meant ‘showcase’) is where the top college prospects will be gathered in front of scouts, NFL coaches, team executives, and player personnel directors. About 300 of the top prospects have been invited by the NFL to attend the Combine’s workouts, interviews, and aptitude tests. Think of this as an extended job interview. It takes place each year inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
March 6 – Deadline for Franchise and Transition Tags: This is the final day for NFL teams to use their franchise or transition tag. If the Cowboys have not worked out a new long-term deal with DeMarcus Lawrence by this day, they may want to slap the Franchise Tag on him.
March 12-14 – Negotiating Window Opens for Free Agents: Free agents cannot sign until March 14th, but beginning March 12th, they can negotiate with any NFL team. This is the time teams are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations, with the certified agents of players who are Unrestricted Free Agents because their 2017 contracts have expired.
March 14 at 3pm central – Free Agency Begins: The 2018 League Year and Free Agency Period officially begins. All 2017 Player Contracts officially expire. Let the feeding frenzy begin because now is the time that teams can sign unrestricted free agents. There will be some veterans getting big-money contracts today; star players will sign with other teams. Cowboys players who were on the team in 2017 but could sign with other clubs as Unrestricted Free Agents beginning this day include: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Anthony Hitchens, RB Alfred Morris, WR Brice Butler, G Jonathan Cooper, OL Byron Bell, LB Kyle Wilber, and OL Joe Looney.
March 14 at 3pm central – Qualifying Offers for Restricted Free Agents: Teams must submit qualifying offers to the Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain Right of First Refusal/Compensation if the player signs with another team. The Cowboys have two Restricted Free Agents this offseason: DL David Irving and FB Keith Smith.
March 14 at 3pm central – Trade Period Begins for 2018 Begins: The period begins after expiration of all 2017 contracts, which is 3pm central.
March 25th -29th – Annual League Meeting: This year’s meeting takes place in Orlando. It opens with a big speech by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, then owners and team/league executives talk about things like rules changes and business dealings and sponsor contracts. A big topic at this meeting will likely be the Competition Committee revising the rules regarding “what is a catch?” (you know, the fallout from Dez’s “catch-no catch”!).
April 2 – First Day of Offseason Workouts for Teams with New Head Coaches: If a team has a new head coach, they get a two-week head start on offseason workouts. This year, the Raiders, Titans, Cardinals, Colts, Lions, Bears, and Giants have new head coaches so they can begin workouts two weeks earlier than the rest of the NFL.
April 16 – First Day of Offseason Workouts for Teams with Returning Head Coaches: The Cowboys, and all other NFL teams that didn’t change head coaches in the offseason, can officially begin their offseason workout programs on this day.
April 20 – Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to Sign Offer Sheets: Back on March 14th, Restricted Free Agents (veterans with only 3 seasons of experience) started receiving qualifying offers from their previous team. Today is the deadline for those guys to sign those offers. If the Cowboys gave offer sheets to their Restricted Free Agents (David Irving & Keith Smith), those two guys must sign those sheets by the deadline.
April 26th-28th – NFL DRAFT: Yes, it’s being held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington this year. The first round is Thursday, April 26th. Rounds 2 & 3 are on Friday, April 27th. Rounds 3-7 are Saturday, April 28th. The draft is the highlight of the offseason, and all eyes will be on North Texas! The Cowboys hold the 19th overall pick in the 1st round.
May 4th-7th – Rookie Minicamps: Clubs may elect to hold a three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp Friday-through-Sunday or Saturday-through-Monday. This is the first chance for coaches to hold practice with their new rookie draft picks and rookie free agents.
May 8 – Deadline for Restricted Free Agent Tenders: By this day, teams must send their “May 8th tender” to its unsigned Restricted Free Agents. If that player has not signed a player contract with his former club by July 23rd or the first day of Training Camp (whichever is later), he may negotiate or sign a plyer contract from that date until Week 10 of the regular season only with his prior club. For the Cowboys, this affects DL David Irving and FB Keith Smith (if they haven’t signed their new deals yet).
May 11th-14th – Deadline for Rookie Minicamp: If a team did not hold it’s 3-day Rookie Minicamp in late April, they can hold it over this weekend.
Mid-to-late May – OTA’s (Offseason Team Activities): Although the Cowboys have not yet announced the dates of their OTAs, last year they held 3-day OTAs from May 23-25 and May 30-June 1. These are on-field activities with all players, not just the rookies. There’s no full-contact and no pads, so it’s not as intense as minicamp or training camp. But OTAs are the first time we see the full team together on the field with the coaches.
May 17th-20th – NFLPA Rookie Premiere: The players’ union invites the top rookie draft picks (usually 1st & 2nd round picks) to this event. It’s a chance to match the 40 brightest young rookie stars with business and marketing partners.
May 21st-23rd – Spring League Meeting: This is the another of the big Owners’ Meetings during the offseason. This year’s Spring meeting takes place in Atlanta. Lots of league business takes place, including the awarding of future Super Bowl sites.
Early June – OTAs: Last year the Cowboys held their final 3-day OTA from June 5-7. It will likely be near those same dates this year. Same rules apply as OTAs in mid-to-late May.
Mid-June – MINICAMP: This is the final time we’ll see the veterans and rookies working on the field with coaches until Training Camp begins in late July. Last year the Cowboys held their Minicamp from June 13-15; the dates for this year’s Minicamp has not yet been announced.
July 16 – Deadline for Designated Franchise Player or Transition Player to Sign Multi-Year Contract or Extension: If a team has slapped a Franchise Tag or Transition Tag on one of their players earlier in the offseason, they have until today to sign that player to a multi-year contract or a contract extension. If no new deal can be reached, the player may sign only a 1-year contract with his prior club for the 2018 season, and that contract cannot be extended until the end of the 2018 regular season.
Mid-to-Late July – Training Camps Can Begin: Club can open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players 7 days prior to the earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players. In other words, rookie and first-year guys get an extra week of camp before the veterans are required to report! Veteran quarterbacks and injured players can report no earlier than five days before the mandatory reporting date.
How do you know when your favorite team can start Training Camp? Players can be asked to report 15 days prior to the team’s first scheduled preseason game. Once the preseason schedule is determined, team’s can set the dates for training camp. For example, the two teams that play in the Hall of Fame Game can begin camp a week early because the Hall of Fame Game is played a week before the other preseason games.
August 2 – Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio
September 1 – Deadline for Mandatory Roster Cut to 53 players
September 2 – Waiver Claims: Until 11am central, teams can place claims on players who were waived during final roster cuts.
September 2 – Practice Squads May Be Established: Each team may sign up to 10 practice squad players.
September 6 – NFL Regular Season Kickoff: This is the Thursday Night Football Game to open the regular season. Traditionally, this game features the defending Super Bowl champion playing at home.
September 9-10 – Regular Season Opens for the Rest of the NFL: The 30 teams that aren’t playing the Kickoff Opener on Thursday Night Football play their games this Sunday or Monday.