With 2015 season finished, key NFL dates for 2016 offseason

The Redskins and every other NFL team are truly looking toward 2016. Here are the key dates on the road to Week 1.

With the Super Bowl in the books and the start of the 2016 league year just one month away, these are the key offseason dates you need to know.

 

Feb. 8: NFL waiver system begins. The chances of the Redskins making headlines on the waiver wire are slim to none, but who knows? They may place a bid on somebody.



Feb. 13–March 12: NFL scouting combines take place with the main event featuring the country’s top players occurring Feb. 23-29 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The league will also hold five regional combines--including one on Feb. 27 at the Baltimore Ravens Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mill, Md.--for select players that weren’t invited to the primary combine during this timeframe.


Feb. 16: Teams can now assign franchise or transition tags. For the Redskins, the player to watch is Kirk Cousins



March 1: The deadline to place a franchise/transition tag is at 4:00 p.m. ET. The most likely scenario in which the Redskins use a tag would occur if the deadline draws near and negotiations on a long-term deal with Cousins have stagnated.



March 7-9: Teams are permitted to begin talks with any free agent and vice-versa. Only a free agent’s former team is able to sign him before 4:00 p.m. on March 9, which marks the beginning of the 2016 league year. 

 

March 9The official start of the 2016 league year at 4:00 p.m. marks the deadline for a number of front office procedures, including exercising player options, submitting qualifying offers to restricted free agents and offering minimum salary tenders to retain rights to exclusive-rights free agents. Additionally, all teams must be under the 2016 salary cap by the start of the league year.

 

Washington's long list of free agents includes just a handful of restricted free agents, namely safety Duke Ihenacho and punter Tress Way. 

 

The Redskins’ excusive-rights free agents--veterans with fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit--are linebacker Will Compton, running back Chris Thompson and offensive lineman Tom Compton.

 

Once the 4:00 p.m. deadline passes, unrestricted free agents are permitted to sign with any team, and the trade period begins.

March 9 is also the deadline for releasing QB Robert Griffin III.


April 18: The Redskins--and other teams with returning head coaches--can begin offseason workout programs and organized team activities. Last season, Washington held its OTA’s in late May and early June.



April 28-30: The 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Teams can sign undrafted free agents on April 30, once the final pick of the draft has been made. After winning the NFC East division title last season, the Redskins hold the 21st overall pick in the upcoming draft.



May 6-9: First timeframe in which teams can opt to hold one of two three-day rookie minicamps.


May 13-16: Second timeframe in which teams can hold a three-day rookie minicamp. 



June 1: Deadline for teams to submit a tender offer to restricted free agents in order to retain right of first refusal in contract negotiations.

 

Clubs usually wait until on or after this date to cut veterans because it grants them flexibility in managing how the money still owed to that player affects their cap space.

 

July 15: If the Redskins were to franchise tag Cousins, they could still work out a multi-year deal until 4:00 p.m. on this date. Otherwise, the team must sign him to a one-year deal worth the average salary of the five highest paid quarterbacks in 2016. The official number has yet to be determined, but it projects to be over $19 million. 

Mid (probably closer to late) July: Training camps open. Last year, the Redskins held training camp from July 30 to Aug. 16. The exact dates for this year’s camp have yet to be determined. Veterans can report to camp no more than 15 days before the team’s first preseason game. Rookies, meanwhile, can report seven days before the mandatory reporting date for veterans.

Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.

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