The last game of the 2016 NFL season is to be held Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Unfortunately, your Dallas Cowboys, who were heavily favorited to be here and SuperBowl LII, did not make it. While the players have probably started their vacations, this team has already kicked up their preparation for the 2017 season. It started with an evaluation of the team, both players and coaches. After that, an inventory of what they have and what they need. Last week, scouts were in Mobile, Alabama taking a look at the next crop of talent getting ready to enter the NFL. What is next for the front office and scouting department?
February 6, 2017: The day after the Superbowl marks the beginning of the NFL waiver system. Teams are listed in draft order (win/loss record and playoff position) as to how they set a claim to a player that is waived. This prevents the better teams from just poaching available talent. Again, teams have already evaluated their players and will continue to do so along with montoring who is available on the Waiver Wire.
February 11th in Seattle, Washington; February 18th in Houston, Texas; February 25th & 26th in Washington DC; March 4th in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and March 11th in Metairie, Louisiana. These are all dates for Regional Combines. Regional combines are smaller groups of players who are eligible for the upcoming NFL draft. There is a saying that if you have talent, the NFL will find you. Some of these players come from small schools that did not make a blimp on major radars, thus not getting an invite to the large combine held in Indianapolis. Most of the same drills will be held. Reminder: college teams will also have prodays.
February 15th: This is the first day an NFL can designate players who they want to keep off limits to other teams by applying a franchise (exclusive or non ezclusive) or transition tag to them. Once a player is tagged, he will be under a one year deal. How much is this worth? The franchise tag is the average of the top five salaries at a whatever position the player played at; while the transition tag is worth the average of the top 10 salaries at the player’s position. This money is a direct hit to the salary cap. Each team is granted one tag per NFL year.
March 1st: All tags must be submitted to the league by 4:00 PM. This time limit is eastern time and is the time on all league deadlines.
March 7th: Teams can talk to agents regarding players and come to terms with an tentative agreement.
March 9th: Free Agency officially begins suspending the waiver wire. The Cowboys have 18 players who will hit rhe market, and all of them are unrestricted. Teams can start not only signing players, but also trading players and picks. If a team has a restricted Free agent, that player must have already been given an offer to stay. If not, he becomes unrestricted and can be signed by any team that wants him. If a team wants to sign a RFA, they will have to compensate the current team with a draft pick. At the deadline for the day, all NFL teams must be under the NFL salary cap. The Cowboys are currently $11.3 million over the cap so they do have some work to do. Not really a big deal since they can restructure a few contracts by turning players base salary into bonuses and pushing money back into the contract.
April 5th-26th: Veteran Spring League will start its practices. Yes. There will be real football being played in the off season by real NFL talent. This league is not associated with the NFL, but will give teams a chance to look at possible free agents who were not on an NFL team last year. The league has extended invitations to players such as Johnny Manziel, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Jalen Sanders. This is an opportunity for some of these players to not only show that they are serious about changing their life but making that nezt step forward. Game times have not been set.
April 21st: This is the deadline for RFA to sign their offer sheets.
April 27th through April 29th: The 2017 NFL Draft will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
July 22nd: All players who were designated with a franchise or transistion tag can start making deals with teams. Teams have exclusive rights to players that have signed their tag offer until the 10th week of the NFL regular season. If a deal is not met and player has not signed their offer sheet, they must sitout the rest of the season. Both teams and players want to avoid this at all cost.
May and June mark the times for rookie and team mini camps. After that, training camp- where teams start to prepare on the field for the 2017 season. So Cowboys fans, just sit back and try to enjoy this off-season. Rather you stay tuned in for all the transactions and news or not, the return of football will not be too long.