Agent's Take: 18 key NFL offseason dates and notable contract deadlines

March 11 is an important deadline for Newton and the Panthers. (USATSI)
March 11 is an important deadline for Newton and the Panthers. (USATSI)

After the final whistle of the Super Bowl, all teams turn their attention to the offseason. Decisions made in the early part of the offseason can have long-lasting ramifications for teams.

Here's a look at key offseason dates running through the NFL's Annual Meeting from March 20-23 in Boca Raton, Fla. Some dates have league-wide importance. Other dates can potentially affect specific player contracts and the salary cap of individual teams because they are crucial to the timing of contract restructures, pay cuts and players being released. Notable players have been highlighted on the appropriate date with how the event is specified in their respective contracts.

Feb. 8

The waiver system begins for 2016. Players with fewer than four years of service for benefit purposes are subject to waivers and their contracts can be claimed by other teams. Players with four or more years of service time become free agents when released.

Feb. 9
Second day of waiver period

San Diego Chargers : Quarterback Philip Rivers ' $16.5 million 2016 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

Feb. 10
Third day of waiver period

New Orleans Saints : The $10.85 million of quarterback Drew Brees ’ $19.75 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed without an offset. This means the Saints wouldn’t be able to reduce the guaranteed money owed to Brees in the extremely unlikely event he is released by the amount of his new deal with another team. In other words, Brees would receive the $10.85 million from the Saints as well as the full salary from his new contract with another club. ... Safety Jairus Byrd 's $7.4 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $6 million was guaranteed for injury at signing. ... Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe ’s $4.1 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury as a part of his trade to the Saints from the Miami Dolphins last March. New Orleans will get $4.5 million of cap space if Ellerbe is released before the guarantee vests.

Cleveland Browns : Cornerback Joe Haden 's $10.1 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Oakland Raiders : $3.5 million of linebacker Curtis Lofton 's $5.35 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $3.5 million was guaranteed for injury at signing ... linebacker Nate Allen 's $4.9 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. Allen's base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Drew Brees led the league in passing yards in 2015. (USATSI)
Drew Brees led the league in passing yards in 2015. (USATSI)

Feb. 11
Fourth day of waiver period

Panthers: Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and safety Roman Harper 's 2016 through 2018 contract years void to make them unrestricted free agents when the 2016 league year starts on March 9. There will be $1.35 million and $900,000 salary cap charges for the Panthers from the bonus proration relating to Cotchery and Harper's three contract years.

Feb. 12
Fifth day of waiver period

Broncos: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas ' $8.5 million 2017 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed without an offset.

Arizona Cardinals : Cornerback Patrick Peterson 's $9.75 million base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing ... Quarterback Carson Palmer 's $7.15 million 2016 base salary, which increased by $800,000 from $6.35 million because of an earned salary escalator, and $6.35 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2016 league year (March 13) become fully guaranteed. Each one was guaranteed for injury at signing.

San Francisco 49ers : The 2016 through 2018 contract years for wide receiver Anquan Boldin void. He will become an unrestricted free agent when the 2016 league year starts. The 49ers will have a $2.727 million salary cap charge from the bonus proration associated with these contract years.

Buffalo Bills : Wide receiver Percy Harvin 's 2016 and 2017 contract years void to make him an unrestricted free agent when the 2016 league year starts. There will be a $2 million salary cap charge for the Bills because of the bonus proration from these two contract years.

Feb. 13
Sixth day of waiver period

Seattle Seahawks : Several Seattle players have their entire 2016 base salaries become fully guaranteed, including cornerback Richard Sherman ($12.569 million), quarterback Russell Wilson ($12.342 million), defensive end Cliff Avril ($6 million) and linebacker K.J. Wright ($5.25 million) ... Linebacker Bobby Wagner 's $7 million 2016 base salary also becomes fully guaranteed. It will reduce to $3 million if the Seahawks commit to making the necessary $4 million payment to exercise an option for Wagner's 2019 contract year. This can be done as early as the first day of the 2016 league year but no later than the fifth day (March 13) ... $6 million of safety Earl Thomas ' $8 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. All of these respective salaries of the players were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Feb. 16
22 days before the start of the 2016 league year

This is the first day of a two-week period where teams can designate franchise or transition players. Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery , Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller , Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson are the players most likely to be franchised. Miller's franchise tag number should be $14.076 million if the 2016 salary cap is set at $153.4 million. It should be $15.434 million, $14.471 million and $13.784 million for Wilkerson, Jeffery and Norman, respectively.

Josh Norman was one of the league's top cornerbacks in 2015. (USATSI)
Josh Norman was one of the league's top cornerbacks in 2015. (USATSI)

Feb. 23-29

The NFL Scouting Combine takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana. Meetings between agents of impending free agents and teams routinely occur at the Combine, although these types of discussions are prohibited by NFL rules. Teams are rarely penalized for tampering with players from other teams when those players are scheduled to become free agents.

March 1

The period for designating franchise or transition players ends at 4 p.m. ET. The Washington Redskins could franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins for $19.671 million (assumes $153.4 million 2016 salary cap) if a long-term deal isn't in place before this deadline.

March 3

Patriots: Deflategate grabs the spotlight once again as the NFL's appeal of Brady's vacated four-game suspension is scheduled to be heard in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.

March 4
Five days before the start of the 2016 league year

Chiefs: The 2016 through 2019 contract years for linebacker Tamba Hali void. He will become an unrestricted free agent when the 2016 league year starts. Kansas City is going to have a $4 million salary cap charge from the bonus proration associated these contract years unless Hali signs a contract extension before this voiding date.

Browns: This is the deadline for center Alex Mack to give the team written notice to void the final three years (through 2018) of his five-year, $42 million deal, which are worth $24 million.

March 7-9

NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of prospective unrestricted free agents during a two-day period ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on March 9. During the two day window, prospective unrestricted free agents can't visit teams or have direct contact with team employees, except those from their current clubs. A player's ability to re-sign with his current club isn't affected by the rule. The negotiating period does not apply to unsigned players receiving restricted free agent, franchise or transition tenders. Players who don't have an agent are also prohibited from having discussions with teams during this period.

March 8
Last day of the 2015 league year

Broncos: The $19 million base salary ($21.5 million cap number) of quarterback Peyton Manning becomes fully guaranteed. If Manning decides to retire or is released, the Broncos will gain $19 million of cap room.

Patriots: This is the deadline for the team to exercise options in the contracts of tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Jerod Mayo . A $6 million payment is required to pick up Gronkowski's contract years through 2019. Mayo's option is for his 2016 contract year. He has an $11.4 million 2016 cap number, which includes a $4 million roster bonus due on the first day of the league year. The Patriots would pick up $7 million of cap room by declining Mayo's option.

Rob Gronkowski led all tight ends in 2015 with 1,176 receiving yards. (USATSI)
Rob Gronkowski led all tight ends in 2015 with 1,176 receiving yards. (USATSI)

March 9
First day of the 2016 league year

The top 51 begins. Only the top 51 salaries (i.e., cap numbers), including unsigned franchise, transition, restricted free agent and exclusive rights tenders, on a team count against the salary cap during the offseason. All teams must be under the salary cap prior to 4 p.m. ET.

The 2016 league year and free agency begin at 4 p.m. ET.

The trading period begins at 4 p.m. ET.

The salary for the 2016 option year with 2012 first-round picks, which was guaranteed for injury upon exercise, becomes fully guaranteed. Some of the players include Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck ($16.155 million), Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin ($16.155 million), Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe ($6.146 million), Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox ($7.799 million), New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones ($7.799 million), Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower ($7.751 million) and Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith ($5.278 million).

Bills: $2.5 million of running back LeSean McCoy 's $4.8 million 2016 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $2.3 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

March 10
Second day of the 2016 league year

Dolphins: Tight end Jordan Cameron 's $7.5 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. He has a $9.5 million 2016 cap number. Miami would pick $7.5 million of cap room by parting ways with Cameron before his salary is fully guaranteed.

March 11
Third day of 2016 league year

Panthers: Quarterback Cam Newton 's $13 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing. Additionally, this is the deadline for the Panthers to pick up their option for Newton's 2020 contract year, which requires a $10 million payment. If Newton's 2020 option year is declined, the Panthers will still owe him the $10 million provided he is a member of the team on March 12 (the fourth day of the league year).

Vikings: Running back Adrian Peterson 's $7 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. His base salary was guaranteed for injury when the deal was signed. Peterson's $4 million roster bonus is payable.

New York Giants : $1 million of quarterback Eli Manning 's $17.5 million 2016 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $16.5 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

Chiefs: $11 million of linebacker Justin Houston 's $14.9 million 2016 base salary is already fully guaranteed. An additional $3.75 million and $6.75 of his $16.35 million 2017 base salary are fully guaranteed. The entire 2016 and 2017 base salaries were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Bears: $10 million of quarterback Jay Cutler 's $16 million 2016 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $6 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy 's $13.25 million 2017 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury upon McCoy's signing of his contract. 7.

Arizona Cardinals : Wide receiver Julio Jones ' $11.5 million 2017 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Cincinnati Bengals : Wide receiver A.J. Green has a $6 million roster bonus payable.

St. Louis Rams : Defensive end Chris Long has a $2 million roster bonus payable. If Long is unwilling to lower his $14.25 million 2016 cap number in a pay cut, he could be a cap casualty. The Rams would pick up $11.75 million of cap space by releasing him.

Bills: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus ' $9.75 million 2017 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Broncos: Cornerback Aqib Talib 's $8.5 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Jets: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall 's $9.5 million 2016 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Detroit Lions : Linebacker DeAndre Levy 's $5.25 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $5.25 million was guaranteed for injury the deal was signed.

Cardinals: $2.25 million of offensive tackle Mike Iupati 's $4.5 million 2016 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The other half becomes completely secure. $2 million of Iupati's $8 million 2017 base salary also becomes fully guaranteed. These amounts were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Raiders: Center Rodney Hudson 's $7.35 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $7.35 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Adrian Peterson returned in 2015 to lead the league in rushing. (USATSI)
Adrian Peterson returned in 2015 to lead the league in rushing. (USATSI)

March 13
Fifth day of 2016 league year

Houston Texans : Defensive end J.J. Watt 's $10.5 million 2016 base salary and $10.5 million 2017 base salary become fully guaranteed. Both were guaranteed for injury upon Watt's signing of his contract in 2014.

Dallas Cowboys : Wide receiver Dez Bryant and offensive tackle Tyron Smith have money fully guaranteed. It's Bryant's $13 million 2017 base salary and Smith's $10 million 2016 base salary. These salaries were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Panthers: This is the last day of the team's five-day period to pick up their option for Luke Kuechly 's 2021 contract year, which requires a $6 million payment. If the Panthers pass on Kuechly's 2021 contact year, he will still be owed the $6 million provided he is on their roster on March 14 (the sixth day of the league year). Kuechly's $1 million 2016 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, became fully guaranteed on March 11.

Dolphins: Center Mike Pouncey 's $9 million 2016 base salary and $2 million of his $7.95 million 2017 base salary become fully guaranteed ... $6 million of offensive tackle Branden Albert 's $8.425 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed ... Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has $3.5 million of his $17.975 million 2017 base salary fully guaranteed. All of these amounts were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Broncos: Linebacker DeMarcus Ware has a $5 million roster bonus payable. His 2016 cap number is $11,666,668. Releasing Ware or him retiring would free up $10 million of cap space for the Broncos. ... Cornerback Chris Harris ' $6.9 million 2016 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Colts: Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton have their $2.5 million and $3 million 2016 base salaries, respectively, fully guaranteed. The base salaries were guaranteed for injury at signing. Castonzo and Hilton's respective $4.5 million and $6 million roster bonuses guaranteed for injury are payable.

Rams: Defensive end Robert Quinn 's $7,777,777 2016 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Buccaneers: Linebacker Lavonte David 's $5 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury when David signed his deal.

Pittsburgh Steelers : Center Maurkice Pouncey ($3.5 million) and defensive end Cameron Heyward ($5 million) have roster bonuses payable.

March 15
Seventh day of 2016 league year

Bills: Defensive end Jerry Hughes ' $4.525 million 2016 base salary is fully guaranteed, provided the team picked up the option for his 2019 contract year with a $6 million payment by the March 13 deadline or pay the same amount on this date for him still being on the roster after the option is declined. His 2016 base salary was guaranteed for injury when he signed his contract.


Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Before his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott.

You can follow him on Twitter: @corryjoel | You can email him at jccorry@gmail.com

Former Sports Agent

Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Before his tenure at Premier, Joel worked... Full Bio

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