The NFL does not sleep, and while the Kansas City Chiefs celebrate another Super Bowl triumph the league turns its attention to an enthralling offseason as we build up to the 2023 season.
From free agency to the 2023 NFL Draft, here are some of the offseason dates to keep track of over the coming months…
Franchise tag period – February 21-March 7
From Tuesday February 21 teams can begin to designate the Franchise and Transition Tags to players through until 4pm New York time on March 7.
NFL teams are allowed to apply the franchise tag once every offseason, with the one-year contract enabling an organisation to keep a player set to become an unrestricted free agent on a guaranteed deal.
The exclusive franchise tag guarantees the player a salary based on the average top five salaries at his position or 120 per cent of his pervious year’s salary, whichever of the two are higher. It also prevents the player in question from negotiating with another team.
The non-exclusive franchise tag, meanwhile, gives players the opportunity to negotiate with another team. Should they agree to a deal with a new team the original team has the chance to match it and agree to the new contract or elect against doing so and receiving two first-round picks as compensation from the new team.
The transition tag sees the player receive the average annual salary of the top-10 highest-paid players at his position, though the player is also permitted to negotiate a long-term deal with other teams. The original team can again match the offer, however no compensation is given if they choose not to.
Franchise tagged players will have until mid-July to negotiate a long-term deal with teams or to sign with another team.
NFL Scouting Combine – February 28-March 6
One of the highlights of the pre-Draft process sees Indianapolis play host to the NFL Scouting Combine as the country’s top prospects showcase their athleticism in a series of physical drills in front of team head coaches, general managers, scouts and officials.
Famously dubbed the ‘Underwear Olympics’ by fans, the Combine is the nationally-televised shop window in which prospects can exhibit their speed and strength in the hope of pushing their way up Draft boards. Among the notable drills is the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-tone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle, with players split up into their respective position groups throughout the week. John Ross holds the official record for the fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine after running a 4.22 in 2017.
Aside from the on-field activities, one of the most important components to Combine week is the opportunity for prospects to meet with coaches and general managers in interviews as teams seek to find out more about their character and personality.
The NFL has invited 319 college prospects to participate at this year’s Combine, after which official College Pro Days will commence on March 7 as players get the chance to work out in front of scouts at their respective school facilities.
Free Agency begins – March 15
The NFL’s legal tampering period begins on March 13 until the official start of the new league year on March 15, during which time teams are permitted to enter contract negotiations with the agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents when their 2022 contracts expire upon 4pm EST on March 15, which marks the beginning of the free agency period.
Only upon the start of free agency can players and teams finalise contracts, though much of the heavy lifting tends to take place in the two-day ‘legal tampering’ window.
2023 NFL Draft – April 27-April 29
The biggest date in the offseason calendar arrives on April 27 this year, as Kansas City hosts the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Chicago Bears closed out the 2022 season in possession of the No 1 overall pick after finishing a league-worst 3-14, followed by quarterback-needy teams in the Houston Texans (No 2 overall) and Indianapolis Colts (No 4 overall) either side of the No 3 pick Arizona Cardinals.
Alabama’s Bryce Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud are positioned at the front of the quarterback pool, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter stands to be this year’s undisputed star, Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr looms as the chief pass rush option and there are cornerbacks galore.
The Draft spectacle only continues to grow in enormity and opulence, helped by drama within the drama in the form of mid-Draft trades, with last year’s opening day featuring the Philadelphia Eagles’ blockbuster trade to acquire AJ Brown from the Tennessee Titans.
Rookie minicamps are then due to take place from either May 5-8 or May 12-15.
NFL Schedule release – Mid-May
The 2023 NFL schedule will be released sometime around the middle of May as fans find out where their teams will begin their season as well as who will be playing on Thanksgiving and around Christmas.
It should also provide confirmation of dates for the NFL’s International Games as the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans prepare to host games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while the Jacksonville Jaguars return to Wembley and the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots gear up for their Germany debuts.
NFL Training Camps – Late-July
Training camp is where it all begins to feel real. The scrimmages return, the pads come on, the offseason planning is put into motion, the weight training is ramped up and the preseason games get under way as players on the roster bubble fight for a place in the final squad, while others engage in position battles.
Hall of Fame Game – August 3
The Pro Football Hall of Fame game marks the traditional curtain-raiser to four weeks of preseason, held each year in Canton, Ohio. The annual exhibition contributes as part of the Hall of Fame enshrinement celebrations, with the two teams yet to be confirmed.
The class of 2023 was announced at NFL Honors prior to Super Bowl LVII and includes the following:
- Ronde Barber
- Darrelle Revis
- Joe Thomas
- Zach Thomas
- DeMarcus Ware
- Don Coryell (coach/contributor)
- Chuck Howley (senior)
- Joe Klecko (senior)
- Ken Riley (senior)
2023 Regular Season starts – September 7
The new NFL season is set to get under way on September 7, and as is tradition the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will host the Thursday night kick-off after beating the Philadelphia Eagles to claim their second ring in four years.
While the matchup is yet to be officially confirmed, Kansas City’s home opponents for 2023 include the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and the Eagles.
Sky Sports coverage of the NFL will continue through the offseason as we track the player moves and the storylines in the build-up to the 2023 season – and we will have all three days of the NFL Draft covered in April.