The NFL doesn’t really have an offseason, at least not for fans and media who follow the league. Although the players have several months off from football and on-field work, there are events going on involving contract negotiations, player scouting, and spring practices nearly every day of the year.
The 2017 offseason has its biggest date set for March 9th. That is the date on which the new league year begins, and along with it comes the start of the free agency period.
Here is a nearly-complete list of many of the high-profile (and some less-profile) dates to know as the offseason is underway for 24 teams around the league.
January 10: Assistant coaches of non-playoff teams may discuss employment if their contracts are due to expire
January 16: Deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.
January 20: The complete list of underclassmen who have declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and are ruled eligible is distributed to NFL teams.
January 21: East-West Shrine Game, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
January 21: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, StubHub Center, Carson, CA
January 28: Senior Bowl, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
January 31: Deadline for NFL teams to try out and negotiate with CFL players whose 2016 contracts are due to expire
February 6: Waiver system begins for 2017 NFL season
February 11: NFL Regional Combine: Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Seattle, WA
February 14: (12 Noon ET) NFL teams may begin signing CFL players whose 2016 contracts are expired.
February 15: NFL teams may begin designating Franchise or Transition players
February 18: NFL Regional Combine: Methodist Training Center, Houston, TX
February 25: NFL Regional Combine, Inova Sports Performance Center, Washington, D.C.
February 26: Punter/Kicker NFL Regional Combine, Inova Sports Performance Center, Washington, D.C.
February 28 - March 6: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
March 1: (4:00 PM ET) Deadline for teams to designate Franchise or Transition players
March 4: NFL Regional Combine: Minnesota Vikings Practice Facility, Eden Prairie, MN
March 7 (Noon ET): “Legal Tampering Period” begins — NFL teams may begin contract negotiations with the agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents (but may not formally agree to terms)
Prior to 4:00 PM ET
- NFL teams must exercise options for 2017 on any player with option clauses in their 2016 contracts
- NFL teams must submit qualifying offers to players with expiring contracts who will become Restricted Free Agents to ensure team has Compensation or Right of First Refusal
- NFL teams must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to players who will become Exclusive-Rights Free Agents (expiring contracts and fewer than 3 accrued seasons)
4:00 PM ET
- All 2016 player contracts expire
- 2017 NFL league year and free agency begin
- Top-51 salary cap rule begins - only the 51 highest cap hits for each NFL team apply to the salary cap through the offseason
- All teams must be under the salary cap for 2017
- Trades are allowed for 2017
March 11: NFL Regional Combine: New Orleans Saints Training Facility, Metairie, LA
March 26-29: Annual League Meeting, Phoenix, AZ
April 3: NFL teams who hired new head coaches may begin offseason workout programs
April 17: NFL teams with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs
April 21: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets
April 27-29: 2017 NFL Draft, Philadelphia, PA
May 5-8: Rookie Minicamp weekend #1 - NFL teams may conduct a three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp (either Friday-Sunday or Saturday-Monday) for rookies and first-year players
May 9: Deadline for a “May 9 Tender” for Unrestricted Free Agents. Players receiving this tender from their prior team but not signing with any team prior to July 22 or the start of the first NFL training camp can only sign a contract with their prior team until Week 10.
May 12-15: Rookie Minicamp weekend #2 - NFL teams may conduct a three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp (either Friday-Sunday or Saturday-Monday) for rookies and first-year players
May 15: Rookie Football Development Programs begin
May 18-21: NFLPA Rookie Premiere - invited rookies must be allowed to attend.
May 22-23: Spring League Meeting, Chicago, IL
June 1: Deadline for NFL teams to send “June 1 Tender” to Restricted Free Agents who received qualifying offers in order to subject that player to “June 15 Tender” provision
June 2: Any player released, waived, or traded on or after this date will have any remaining signing bonus salary cap charges assigned to the team’s 2018 salary cap.
June 15: NFL teams may withdraw qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents and replace with “June 15 Tender”, equal to one year at 110% of previous year’s salary. Players then have exclusive negotiating rights with that team.
Late June: NFL teams host Rookie Transition Programs
July 15: (4:00 PM ET) Deadline for Franchise players to sign multi-year extensions. Following this deadline, a player can only sign the one-year Franchise tender.