It's no secret the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire 2020 NFL offseason, with the exception of a truncated training camp, but the league is hoping for better luck in 2021. It may feel at the moment that they may not when considering the current spike in new cases across the U.S., but things could potentially change between now and someone being crowned champion of Super Bowl LV. That's exactly what the NFL and NFLPA are banking on in agreeing on the schedule for the coming offseason, doing their best to both manage the pandemic while also planning for the future -- as much as is possible.
To that end, the following dates were sent to agents, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, with the caveat they could change because of the aforementioned reason(s). As it stands though, there's at least some semblance of normalcy for the 2021 calendar.
It goes as follows (all deadlines subject to the traditional 4 p.m. EST time marker):
- Feb. 23 - March 9: Franchise/Transition Player Designation Period
- March 17: 2021 league year begins
- April 5: Start of offseason workouts for teams with new head coaches
- April 19: Start of offseason workouts for teams with incumbent coaches
- April 23: Last day of restricted free agent signing period
- April 28: Last day to match offer sheets for RFAs
- April 29 - May 1: 2021 NFL Draft
There are several notable dates to circle here, headlined by the 2021 NFL Draft, which will be held in Cleveland, OH. The in-person event was scrapped for 2020 and rewarded to Las Vegas for 2022, having gone full-on virtual this past offseason. Before teams get to the task of selecting talented incoming prospects, however, they must first get their business in order regarding incumbent players and free agents -- two things that often make or break the success of a club.
For teams like the Dallas Cowboys, for example, they now know a tentative date in which they'll have to get a deal done with Dak Prescott before being forced to apply a second franchise tag to buy themselves more time to negotiate. The same goes for any team looking to utilize their franchise and/or transition tags to worthy players, giving themselves the power to control their rights before legal tampering for free agency begins in March.
While nothing's written in stone just yet, it's at least promising to see the NFL and NFLPA agree on a 2021 calendar.