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NFL Offseason: Dates to Know Leading Up to the NFL Draft

Everything football fans have to look forward to as the NFL offseason gets going, from the Combine to free agency to the 2022 NFL Draft.

With the Los Angeles Rams claiming their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, the 2021-22 NFL season has officially concluded. But while the action on the field has halted, the action off the field is picking up. The NFL offseason really gets going next week when scouts gather for the HBCU Legacy Bowl and NFL Combine. Then, front office chaos will ensue in March when free agency begins, and rule changes could come at the end of March when the annual league meeting occurs.

So while there will not be a game played for six months, drama off the field will shape what the game looks like when play resumes in the fall.

February

HBCU Legacy Bowl: Feb. 19

Saturday will be a historic day in NFL history as the league hosts the first-ever HBCU Legacy Bowl, an all-star game showcasing draft-eligible players from HBCUs. The HBCU Legacy Bowl is presented by the Black College Football Hall of Fame and will be broadcast live on NFL Network. The event comes after the NFL hosted its first-ever HBCU Combine in Mobile, Alabama at the end of January. Partners for the Legacy Bowl include State Farm, Adidas and Coca-Cola.

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March

NFL Scouting Combine: March 1-7

Two weeks later and for the 34th time ever, Indianapolis will host the NFL Combine. Had the 2021 NFL Combine not been canceled, the Indiana capital would have hosted the event for 35 years straight, dating back to 1987.

This year’s combine will come with changes. On the field, wideouts and tight ends will run crossing routes instead of wheel routes, and running backs will run option routes instead of corner and post-corner routes.

Off the field and within interviews, the league sent a stern notice to its teams earlier this year. In a memo obtained by the AP, the league said that if a club is found having been “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional during an interview, the individual(s) and club will be subject to accountability measures.” These measures include a minimum $150,000 fine and the possibility to forfeit a draft pick between the first and fourth round. The league also plans to eliminate the Wonderlic test for players.

There is also the possibility that this could be the last combine in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future. In June 2020, the league opened the NFL Combine up for bids from franchises hoping to land the event in their cities. Currently, the finalists for next year’s combine are Dallas, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. The NFL has not yet said when the winning bid will be announced.

Franchise Tag Deadline: March 8

For teams who either can’t afford to re-sign a player or can’t come to terms with a player and his representation, franchise tags exist.

There are two types of franchise tags: The first is exclusive, in which the player’s current club is the only team that can negotiate with him. The second is a non-exclusive tag where a player can negotiate with other teams, but the original club has the right to match any offer. If the team chooses not to match the offer, it gets two first-round picks as compensation. Players anticipated to receive a franchise tag this season include the Packers’ Davante Adams, the Patriots’ J.C. Jackson, and Chiefs’ tackle Orlando Brown.

Teams Can Contact Future Unrestricted Free Agents: March 14-16

On Monday, March 14 at noon ET, teams are allowed to enter negotiations with players who will become free agents on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET. 

Beginning of 2022 New League Year and Free Agency: March 16 

On March 14, chaos will ensue. Teams with the cap space will have the ability to plug holes on their rosters by agreeing to deals with free agents whose contracts have expired with their previous teams. This year’s most highly touted free agents include Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Terron Armstead, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu. 

Top Unrestricted Free Agents by 2021 salary, via Spotrac
Annual League Meeting: March 27-30

Arguably the most important meeting of the year will take place in Palm Beach at the end of March when the league gets together to discuss potential rule changes. Given this year’s playoffs, it stands to reason that overtime rules will be brought up, as they have been in the past. Interestingly enough, after losing in overtime to the Patriots in 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs proposed that both teams should be guaranteed a possession in overtime. The Chiefs are also the reason that skill players and defensive players have more jersey numbers to choose from.  

April

2022 NFL Draft: April 28-30

The brightest college stars in the game become professionals during the three-day draft extravaganza in Las Vegas. The draft will be Vegas’s second NFL event of the year after last week’s Pro Bowl. Originally, Vegas was supposed to play host to the 2020 NFL Draft but the league held the draft remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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