They say there’s no such thing as an off season in the NFL. Here’s a list of key dates coming up in the next few months:
Jan. 15: Deadline for underclassmen to declare for 2015 NFL Draft
Players with at least one year of eligibility remaining must reach their decision by this point. It will be a quick turnaround for Ohio State and Oregon players, who will play their final game Jan. 12. Last year, a record 98 underclassmen declared for the draft.
Jan. 17: East-West Shrine Game
The annual college all-star game in St. Petersburg, Florida, pits draft-eligible prospects against each other in an exhibition that serves as the endpoint of a highly scrutinized week of practice. This year’s teams are coached by former NFL coaches Mike Singletary and Jim Zorn.
Jan. 24: Senior Bowl
Similar to the East-West Shrine Game but loaded with a number of potential first-round picks. The practices for this game draw hundreds of coaches, general managers and scouts to Mobile, Alabama, for a game that is treated as the city’s Super Bowl.
Jan. 25: Pro Bowl
The game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, which is also the site for Super Bowl XLIX.
Feb. 1: Super Bowl XLIX
Feb. 7: First of five NFL Regional Combines opens for draft-eligible prospects
Designed for players who are not invited to the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, the events provide a showcase for some potential diamonds in the rough. This year’s will be held in Davie, Florida; Houston (Feb. 14); Dove Valley, Colorado (Feb. 21); Owings Mills, Maryland (Feb. 28) and Lake Forest, Illinois (March 7).
Feb. 16: Teams can start designating Franchise and Transition players
Teams can designate one of their unrestricted free agents with each one of these tags. The franchise tag, which is used much more frequently than the transition tag, provides a player with a guaranteed, one-year deal that pays commensurate to the top five players at his respective position. The deadline to lock up players with these tags is March 2.
Feb. 17-23: NFL Scouting Combine
The main event in terms of evaluating draft-eligible prospects will once again be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
March 1: College Pro Days begins
Coaches will cross the country to watch college prospects go through drills and exercises similar to what they performed at the Combine, but in the comfortable environments of their respective college campuses.
March 7-10: Teams can enter into contract negotiations with unrestricted free agents
This allows teams to talk through and even finalize deals with players, but nothing is official until 9pm (GMT) on March 10.
March 10 (before 9 p.m. GMT): Teams must be under 2015 salary cap, exercise options with restricted free agents
It’s unknown yet what the salary cap will be for each of the NFL’s 32 teams, but it’s anticipated to be higher than last year’s total of $133 million.
March 10 (9 pm GMT): 2015 league year and free agency officially begins
March 22-25: Annual league meetings
Owners and NFL officials head to Phoenix, Arizona, for their annual three-day meetings to discuss a variety of issues.
April 20: Clubs with returning head coaches can begin off season workout programs
Teams with new head coaches can begin two weeks earlier.
April 30-May 2: 2015 NFL Draft
Starting with the first round on a primetime Thursday, the three-day event will be held in Chicago for the first time since 1964.
May 8-11: Post-draft rookie minicamps
Teams can opt to hold them from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday. They can also conduct them on the following weekend.