Here are the important NFL offseason dates NFL fans should know

Ryan Wormeli
·3 min read

Here are important NFL offseason dates NFL fans should know originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Super Bowl has once again come and gone, and now it's time for football fans to turn to another long, dark offseason.

The upcoming months may be without actual NFL games, but there are still plenty of critical dates on the calendar as teams prepare for the 2021 season in the fall.

Last year's offseason was the most unique in league history as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and while COVID-19 is still a health threat across the country, the NFL is hoping this year's calendar can look a little closer to normal. If not, they are at least now prepared for how to handle a virtual offseason after having done it already in 2020.

Whatever the offseason looks like, we do have a sense of a few key moments and when they are scheduled to happen.

Dates to know:

March/April -- NFL Combine: The NFL Combine is usually one of the draft-centered highlights of the offseason, but it will look quite a bit different in 2021. There will be no in-person workouts, with players running drills at their college's pro days, and interviews will take place virtually.

March 1 -- College decision deadline: Deadline for eligible college football players to notify the NFL Player Personnel department of their intent to forgo the 2021 NFL Draft and return to college.

March 9 -- Last day to apply franchise tag: The window to begin applying franchise or transition tags opens on February 23 and closes on March 9. The Ravens, in particular, seem likely to take advantage this year since their top three pass-rushers are all free agents.

March 15 -- Open contact in the free agency period: For 48 hours, teams are allowed to contact free agents, but not allowed to formally sign until the new league year.

March 17 -- New League Year: New league year begins. Free agency officially begins. Trades can be accepted.

April 29 - May 1 -- NFL Draft: Washington holds the 19th overall pick, while the Ravens will pick 27th. There are plenty of directions either franchise can go, including draft day trades.

Early May -- (Dates TBD): The three-day period teams are allowed to have organized activities with their newest draftees and undrafted free agents.

Late May (Dates TBD): Both Washington and Baltimore will hold Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the first time the 90-man roster will practice together. OTAs are technically optional, and it remains to be seen how they will be impacted by the pandemic.

July 15 -- Franchise Tag Deadline: At 4 p.m. EST, teams must either come to a long-term contract agreement with their franchise-tagged player, or the player can only sign a one-year contract with the team.

Mid-July (Dates TBD) -- Training Camp begins: Veteran players can report no earlier than 15 days prior to the team's first preseason game. Rookies can report up to a week earlier than veterans.

August 5 -- NFL preseason begins: The Hall of Fame game typically kicks off the NFL preseason calendar, and 2021's version is scheduled between the Cowboys and Steelers. Last season the entire slate was canceled, so this is pending the status of the coronavirus.

September 9 -- NFL regular season kicks off: The NFL will begin its 2021 regular season on Thursday, September 9 with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely hosting the first game of the season.

Next season may seem far away for now, but these dates will start popping up before you know it.