You'll have to continue waiting for the 2021 NFL preseason, regular season and ultimately the playoffs, but you won't have to twiddle your thumbs any longer as it relates to getting important dates for next offseason, such as the start of free agency. The entire NFL offseason calendar was upheaved in 2020 -- by the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic -- to the point of near-full cancellation. And while the league was able to successfully complete its regular season and postseason (and despite a slew of scheduling hiccups caused by the very same pandemic), the calendar for 2021 also remained uncertain as vaccines were still being finalized and distributed.
Now, as teams wrap minicamp after having also undergone OTAs that followed the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, OH, things are mostly chugging along around the league and that's led to an early agreement with the NFLPA on what the offseason will look like one year from now.
To that point, the NFLPA reportedly sent the following calendar to agents, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, presumably locking in operational deadlines from January through April:
- February 22 through March 8: Franchise/Transition Player designation period
- March 16: 2021 NFL league year ends at 3:59 p.m. ET
- March 16: 2022 NFL league year/free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET
- April 4: Start of offseason workouts for teams with new head coaches
- April 18: Start of offseason workouts for teams with no head coaching change
- April 22: Last day of restricted free agent signing period
- April 27: Last day to match offer sheets to restricted free agents
- April 28 through April 30: 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas, NV
Dates for OTAs, minicamp and training camp will be determined at a later time.
This information gives teams both the ability to begin planning now but, and more importantly, a sense of security that things are truly getting back to normalcy -- even if it's not the former iteration of it. As vaccination rates continue increasing around the NFL, the league and the NFLPA are showing their confidence for an absence of any hurdles for 2022 that would be gargantuan enough to derail the offseason to the degree they both witnessed in 2020. Additional signs are evidenced in teams, and commissioner Roger Goodell granting permission for clubs to leave their home state for training camp, e.g., the Dallas Cowboys returning to Oxnard, CA.
So grab your pen and pad and be sure to jot down the above dates, because being ready for 2022 before 2021 truly gets underway simply means you're ready for more [normal] football.