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With Super Bowl LV in the rearview mirror as the Buccaneers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, all 32 teams in the NFL will begin the process of looking toward Super Bowl LVI.
The Bills (13-3) will hope to continue their 2020 successes into a sustained run that leads them to the 56th Super Bowl… But let’s be honest, we’re a long ways away from that…
Actually, we’ve got a haul until the start of the 2021 regular season. Still, this is the NFL. The year-round sport that has dates on the calendar for everyone to be aware of even when actual real football is months away.
Here are all those that Bills fans should mark down as the 2021 offseason begins:
Feb. 23-March 9: Franchise/transition player designation period begins
Matt Milano #58 of the Bills. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
This is the first date the Bills can designate a player with the franchise or transition tag and the period lasts through March 9, just before the start of free agency. Buffalo had around 20 pending free agents heading into the offseason, including another five on the practice squad. Considering the questions surrounding exactly where the salary cap will fall, it appears unlikely that the Bills would tag any players as of now. The last time the Bills used a franchise tag was in 2016 on offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. Here's a full rundown Buffalo's free agents: https://billswire.usatoday.com/lists/position-list-buffalo-bills-2021-free-agents-matt-milano-josh-norman-kenny-stills/
March 15-17: Legal tampering period begins
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Everyone just kind of assumes that teams and free agents have conversations all throughout the offseason on the down low... but pretending they don't for a second, there is a time period where this is allowed and that begins on March 15. The "legal tampering" time for the NFL is March 15 until March 17. The Bills and general manager Brandon Beane are allowed to talk to pending free agents from other clubs prior to the start of free agency during this time. Teams around the league can also chat with pending free agents the Bills have yet to re-sign as well. Top pending free agents this offseason for the Bills include linebacker Matt Milano and offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano.
March 17: Free agency begins (4 p.m.)
Bills tackle Daryl Williams. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
At 4 p.m. EST on the third day of "tampering" is when players can officially be signed by new teams. Deals are usually reported prior to this, though. This exact time is the start of a new "league year" as well... which is essentially a fancy way of saying contracts expire... hence why free agents can join new teams. Trades also become "official" in this moment ... so a guy like Matthew Stafford was recently traded to the the Rams... but technically he's on the Lions still until this time.
April 19: Offseason workouts can begin for teams with returning head coaches
Head coach Sean McDermott of the Bills. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Teams with new head coaches are allowed to get after it for 2021 on April 5. If you have a returning one, like most teams do... such as the Bills with Sean McDermott... you wait a little longer. Spring workouts for the Bills can begin to take place on April 19.
April 23: Last day for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets
Levi Wallace #39 of the Bills. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Restricted free agents who signed tenders can also entertain offers from other teams. April 23 will mark the last day for RFAs to sign offer sheets from other teams. The top RFA for the Bills is likely cornerback Levi Wallace, but there's also offensive lineman Ike Boettger to consider. If the Bills lose a player this is a RFA, they are subject to receive a draft pick depending on which tender Buffalo places on them.
April 28: Deadline to match offer sheets for RFAs
Bills offensive guard Ike Boettger. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
If a Bills RFA signs an offer sheet from another team, the Bills have until April 28 to match it in order to retain that player's services. On the flip side, the Bills can sign another team's RFA to an offer sheet and said team has until this date to re-sign them to that same offer as well.
April 29-May 1: 2021 NFL draft
Bills first-round draft pick Ed Oliver. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
The marquee event of every offseason: The draft. In 2021, the NFL Draft will go down from April 29-May 1. This year will be a bit more fun (as of now) since the Bills do have a first-round pick, No. 30 overall. The NFL hasn’t yet said what shape the 2021 draft will take after it was held virtually last year. In the event that it is held in person, Cleveland will be the host city this year.