But for all 32 teams, today marks the day to look forward. Some will spend the next few weeks rounding out their coaching staff. Others have already had a full month to get a head start on the offseason.
The NFL has become a year-round sport. Free agency is its own season. The NFL Draft is an event that truly spans four months, with college all-star games already behind us and a couple big events still ahead.
For the Detroit Lions, their throw-away season is over. General manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell already have a head start on this offseason, and with two first-round picks and a workable salary cap, this will be a defining couple of months for the duo.
Here’s a look at the biggest offseason dates for the NFL and how they relate to the Lions.
February 22 – March 8
Teams can designated players for the franchise tag or transition tag.
Teams are permitted to use the franchise tag or transition tag on one player on an expiring contract. For the Detroit Lions, there are no great candidates for the tag. The closest is safety Tracy Walker, but the franchise tag amount (estimated to be $13.5 million for safeties) may be too pricey for Walker.
NFL Scouting Combine
The best and brightest of the 2022 NFL Draft class will go down to Indianapolis to show off their best athletic traits and meet with teams for the first time.
Legal tampering period for free agency.
Teams will have three days—starting at Monday, March 14 at noon ET—to legally negotiate with the agents of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Direct communication with players is still not permitted.
March 16— 4 p.m. ET
Beginning of 2021 league new year. Teams must be under the salary cap by this date.
Free agency begins
Signings can officially be made, as teams are permitted to build rosters of up to 90 players.
Trades become official
If the Lions were to make any unofficial trades before March 16—like they did with Matthew Stafford last year—it would become official on this date.
Annual league meeting
Owner meet in Florida to discuss new league rules, among other topics. This is often a chance for Detroit media to talk to the head coach, general manager, and owner.
Sometime between April and July
Hard Knocks team announced
The Detroit Lions are one of three teams who could be forced to do HBO’s documentary series “Hard Knocks,” and many seem to think they’d be the most attractive options (Jets, Panthers).
When can you expect the announcement? Well, it’s hard to say. Here are the dates previous Hard Knocks teams were announced:
2021: July 2
2020: April 7
2019: June 11
2018: May 17
2017: April 19
Offseason workouts begin for teams with returning head coaches
Teams with new head coaches can begin offseason workouts on April 4, but the Lions will have to wait until the 18th, because Dan Campbell is returning.
Last day to bring in draft prospects for an in-person meeting and medical examination
Last day for restricted free agents to sign their offer sheets
The Lions currently have six restricted free agents:
- QB David Blough
- FB Jason Cabinda
- OT Will Holden
- C Evan Brown
- LB Josh Woods
- S C.J. Moore
If the Lions offer any of these players an offer sheet—explained nicely here—players have until this date to either find a matching offer from another team, sign the original team’s offer sheet, or sit out the 2022 season.
April 29-May 1
2021 NFL Draft in Las Vegas, Nevada
If the pattern of the last few years hold, here’s the schedule breakdown for the draft.
- Round 1: Thursday, April 28 — 8 p.m. ET
- Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 29 — 7 p.m. ET
- Rounds 4-7: Saturday, April 30 — 12 p.m. ET
Late April/early May
2022 NFL schedule announced
There is no set day for the NFL schedule release. For the past two years, it has been done just after the NFL Draft, but back before 2020, it was typically done a week or two before the draft.
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) begin
The Lions’ OTA schedule hasn’t been announced yet—it’s usually announced in late March/early April. OTAs typically consist of 10 practices and three “mandatory minicamp” sessions. Although there is a growing trend of excusing the players early.
Late July/Early August
Training camp schedules are typically announced in late June.