Agent's Take: NFL key dates and what they mean for your team

Will Detroit be able to keep Ndamukong Suh?  (Getty Images)
Will Detroit be able to keep Ndamukong Suh? (Getty Images)

The NFL offseason is officially here and decisions made in these next two months will have lasting effects on NFL teams.

Here's a look at key offseason dates running through the NFL's Annual Meeting from March 22-25 in Phoenix, Ariz. 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.

February 1

The waiver system begins for 2015. Players with fewer than four years of service toward free agency are subject to waivers and their contracts can be claimed by other teams. Players with four or more years of service become free agents when released.

February 3

Defensive end Lamarr Houston's $5.9 million 2015 base salary in his contract with the Chicago Bears, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed. He tore the ACL in his right knee during an October 26 game against the Patriots while celebrating a sack.

February 4

1. The $18.75 million 2015 base salary of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees becomes fully guaranteed.

2. New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's $2.9 million 2015 base salary and $5 million 2015 third day of the 2015 league year roster bonus are fully guaranteed. Each one was guaranteed for injury at signing.

3. Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden's $8.3 million 2015 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

4. Tampa Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's $5 million 2015 base salary, $6.5 million third day of the 2015 league year roster bonus (March 12) and $6 million 2016 base salary become fully guaranteed. Each one was guaranteed for injury upon McCoy's signing of his contract.

February 6

1. The 2015 contract years for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions), defensive end Jason-Pierre Paul (New York Giants) and running back C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills) void. Absent a franchise or transition tag, the players will become unrestricted free agents when the 2015 league year starts on March 10. Their respective teams will have a salary cap charge (or dead money) from the bonus proration attributed to their 2015 contract years. The Lions are going to have a $9,737,500 cap charge for Suh regardless of whether he is franchised, re-signs or goes elsewhere in 2015.

2. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's $4.75 million 2015 base salary and $250,000 2015 workout bonus, which were guaranteed for injury at signing, become fully guaranteed.

3. Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson's $11,619,114 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

4. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's $1 million 2015 base salary and $9.5 million fifth day of the 2015 league year roster bonus (March 12) become fully guaranteed. Each one was guaranteed for injury at signing. Palmer tore the ACL in his left knee on November 9 against the St. Louis Rams, a day after signing a three-year contract extension.

5. Arguments in the NFLPA's lawsuit on behalf of running back Adrian Peterson against the NFL asking for immediate reinstatement from his suspension will be heard by U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty. Peterson is eligible for reinstatement on April 15. There isn't a set timetable for Doty to make a ruling.

February 7

1. Several Seattle Seahawks have their entire 2015 base salaries become fully guaranteed. The players are cornerback Richard Sherman ($10 million), safety Earl Thomas ($5.5 million), defensive end Michael Bennett ($6 million), linebacker K.J. Wright ($3.75 million) and defensive end Cliff Avril ($7.5 million). Also, $4.45 million of safety Kam Chancellor's $4.55 million 2015 base salary and $2.3 million of wide receiver Doug Baldwin's $2.8 million 2015 base salary is fully guaranteed. All of these respective salaries of the players were guaranteed for injury at signing.

2. $3.35 million of Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Michael Oher's $4 million salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

February 15

1. This is the deadline for the Dallas Cowboys to pick up the option on defensive tackle Henry Melton's contract for an additional three years worth $24 million. If the option is exercised, Melton's $9 million 2015 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2015 league year (March 10), which would make him a candidate to lower his $9,308,843 cap number through a restructure. $8,382,311 of cap room will be gained if Dallas passes on the option.

2. The 2015 and 2016 contract years of Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free void. He will become an unrestricted free agent when the 2015 league year starts. Dallas is going to have a $3.98 million salary cap charge from the bonus proration associated with Free's 2015 and 2016 contract years. February 16 (22nd Day Before the Start of the 2015 League Year)

February 16

1. This is the first day of a two-week period where teams can designate franchise or transition players. It's practically a certainty that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston and Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will be franchised if they don't sign new deals with their respective clubs before the end of the designation period. Houston's franchise tag number should be $13.077 million if the 2015 salary cap is set at $142 million. It should be $12.708 million for Bryant and Thomas. The Detroit Lions haven't ruled out franchising defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. His franchise tag number is $26.87 million, which is based off of 120 percent of his 2014 cap number.

Will Dez Bryant get his long-term deal? Or will he get the tag?  (Getty Images)
Will Dez Bryant get his long-term deal? Or will he get the tag? (Getty Images)

2. This is the deadline for the New York Jets to pick up running back Chris Johnson's 2015 contract year containing a $3.5 million base salary by making a $500,000 payment (option bonus) to him.

February 17-February 23

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.

February 24

Teams must inform the NFL in writing with how much of their unused 2014 cap room they would like to carry over to the 2015 league year. The amount will be adjusted downward with any changes with year end reconciliation.

The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement allowing teams to carry over cap room is responsible for some teams having an abundance of cap space in recent years. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles are the current leaders with $21.768 million, $18.908 million and $15.716 million respectively of carry over room.

March 2

The period for designating franchise or transition players ends at 4 p.m. ET. If the Dallas Cowboys or Denver Broncos can re-sign Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas to long-term deals beforehand, running DeMarco Murray or tight end Julius Thomas could receive a designation.

March 7-March 10

NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of prospective unrestricted free agents during a three day period ending at 3:59:59 PM ET on March 10. During the three-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. Teams also can't set up visits with prospective unrestricted free agents until the start of the 2014 league year at 4 p.m. ET on March 10. 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 9 (Last day of the 2014 league year)

1. The $19 million base salary ($21.5 million cap number) of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is contemplating retirement, becomes fully guaranteed. He is expected to make a decision within the next two weeks. If Manning decides to end his career, the Broncos will pick up $16.5 million of cap room.

2. This is the deadline for the New England Patriots to exercise options in the contracts of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Revis has a 2015 contract year with a $20 million salary ($25 million cap number), which includes a $12 million first day of the 2015 league year roster bonus. If the option isn't exercised, the Patriots are prohibited from using their franchise or transition tag on him. Wilfork's option is for 2015 and 2016 contract years. He has an $8,933,333 2015 cap number, which includes a $4 million first day of the league year roster bonus.

Darrelle Revis could become a free agent again if the Patriots can't work out new deal with a lower cap number.  (Getty Images)
Darrelle Revis could hit the open market again if the Patriots can't get him to lower his cap number. (Getty Images)

March 10 (Day 1 of the 2015 league year)

1. 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.

2. The 2015 league year and free agency begin at 4 p.m. ET.

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

4. The salary for the 2015 option year with 2011 first round picks, which was guaranteed for injury upon exercise, becomes fully guaranteed. Some of the players include Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ($14.666 million), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green ($10.176 million), Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones ($10.176 million), Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller ($9.754 million), San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith ($9.754 million), Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus ($8.06 million) and New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson ($6.969 million).

5. $2 million of New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman's $2.25 million 2015 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

March 11

$1 million of Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate's $3.75 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $2.75 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

March 12

1. $10 million of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's $16 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing. Cutler's $15.5 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed.

2. $7.5 million of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's $17 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. An additional $7.5 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

3. St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn's $10,233,201 third day of the 2015 league year roster bonus and $2,424,242 third day of the 2016 league year roster bonus become fully guaranteed. Each one was guaranteed for injury upon Quinn's signing of his contract. Two days later (March 14), his $5,555,555 2015 base salary, which was also guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

4. $11 million of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith's 11.9 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $900,000 and his $14.1 million 2016 base salary are fully guaranteed. Each was guaranteed for injury at signing.

5. $3 million of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Michael Johnson's $5 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $2 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed. His $4 million third day of the 2015 league roster is already fully guaranteed. $5 million of Johnson's $7.75 million 2016 base salary, which was fully guaranteed at signing, is also fully guaranteed.

6. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a $4 million roster bonus payable.

7. Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall's $7.5 million 2015 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

8. Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib's $5.5 million 2015 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury at signing.

March 14

1. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has an $8 million roster bonus payable. If Fitzgerald is unwilling to lower his $23.6 million 2015 cap number in a pay cut, he could be a cap casualty. The Cardinals would pick up $9.2 million of cap space by releasing him.

Will Larry Fitzgerald wind up a cap casualty in Arizona?  (Getty Images)
Will Larry Fitzgerald wind up a cap casualty in Arizona? (Getty Images)

2. Multiple Denver Broncos have their 2015 base salaries or roster bonuses become fully guaranteed. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady's $8.5 million 2015 base salary and $1.5 million 2015 fifth day of the league year roster bonus, which were guaranteed for injury at signing, are fully guaranteed. Safety T.J. Ward's $4 million base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed. His injury guaranteed $2.5 million roster bonus is payable. $3.5 million of defensive end DeMarcus Ware's $7 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $3.5 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

3. A few Pittsburgh Steelers have roster bonuses payable. The players are center Maurkice Pouncey ($3.75 million), offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert ($3.5 million), cornerback Cortez Allen ($3 million) and safety Mike Mitchell ($2 million).

4. $4 million of St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jake Long's $9.25 million base salary ($10.5 million cap number) is fully guaranteed. He is expected to be a cap casualty since 2014 first-round pick Greg Robinson (second overall) assumed Long's left tackle position after he tore the ACL in his right knee for a second time in Week 8's contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Rams would pick up $8 million of cap room by parting ways with Long before this guarantee date.

5. $3 million of Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake's $8.95 million 2015 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. The $3 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

6. $4 million of Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters' $7.3 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. An additional $2.8 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.

7. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee's $2.5 million 2015 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed. The $2.5 million was guaranteed for injury at signing. He missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

March 19

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali has a $2 million roster bonus payable. He has an $11,964, 705 2015 cap number in final year of his contract. The Chiefs would gain $9 million of cap space by releasing him. Hali seems receptive to taking pay cut.

March 24

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt's $10 million roster bonus, which is already fully guaranteed, is payable. After this date, the Texans lose the ability to lower Watt's $21.969 million 2015 cap number with a conversion of his roster bonus to signing bonus. For example, $15.36 million of cap space could be created by converting $9.2 million of his $9.969 million 2015 base salary and the $10 million roster bonus before March 24.


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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