The Super Bowl is behind us but teams are already gearing up for another year. Let's take a look at the upcoming key dates before September rolls around and get a jump on our NFL picks for next season.
Feb. 16 - First day for NFL teams to designate franchise or transition players. This is a critical date for NFL clubs as teams have until March 2nd to designate a player of their choice. Traditionally the designation is applied to players that have reached a contractual impasse with the club and the team is allowed to pay the average salary for a top five player at his position. This contract is guaranteed for only one year and the player is again a free agent at the end of the term.
Feb. 17-23 - NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. This is the time and place for the vast majority of college players who have declared themselves eligible for the draft attend workouts to demonstrate their speed, strength and agility. NFL scouts from each team eagerly watch, record and verify every athlete's workout.
March 2 - Deadline (before 4 p.m. ET) for clubs to designate franchise or transition players. Here we have the deadline for NFL teams to apply the franchise tag to the player of their choice. If contractual agreements are reached prior to this date then no designation is needed but if a team wishes to retain control of a special player but have not been able to reach an agreement then the franchise tag is a viable option.
March 10 - 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4 PM ET. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap before 4 PM ET. In order to sign eligible free agents teams must be under the salary cap. March 10th is the day when teams can legally begin negotiations.
March 22-25 - NFL annual meeting, Phoenix, AZ. Coaches, GM's, owners and NFL officials convene for three days to enact new rules, discuss current rules and talk all things football. Don't be surprised if the meetings this season culminate in a report announcing the expansion of the NFL playoffs.
April 24 - Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets. Restricted free agents are those players who may explore the free agent market but their prior team has the opportunity to match any offer and bring them back.
April 29 - Deadline for prior club to exercise right of first refusal to restricted free agents. This is the deadline that teams who have control of restricted free agents may exercise their right to sign that player at the same terms of the contract he signed with another team.
April 30-May 2 - The NFL draft, Chicago, IL. The made-for-primetime event that will not only affect teams' futures but also their NFL odds for the upcoming season. Rounds one through seven in reverse order of where the teams finished the previous season determine where each team drafts, barring trades of course.
May 8-11 or May 15-18 - NFL clubs hold their three-day post-draft rookie mini-camp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday. Here the teams can evaluate the players drafted and get them acclimated to the offensive or defensive system employed by the club.
May 18-20 - NFL spring league meeting, San Francisco, CA. Many of the topics discussed are acted or voted upon as well as rule changes or playoff constructs for the following year.
July - Training camp opens one week early for the rookies and then the veterans must attend unless excused due to injury or personal reasons.
August - Preseason games gets underway and the four games each team must play last throughout the month. Watching the games and how the anticipated starters perform can give bettors an edge in their NFL picks when the games begin for real in September.
September - Week 1 begins as a total of 17 weeks constitutes an NFL season with each team getting one bye week. Playoffs begin in January culminating with the Super Bowl 50 on February 7th, 2016 at Santa Clara, CA. the home of the San Francisco 49'ers.