The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
NFL takes no breaks as Chiefs’ Super Bowl revelry wanes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Kansas City Chiefs awoke Monday still reveling in the glow of their second Super Bowl title in a four-year span, while the Philadelphia Eagles were left to lament how close they came to winning another Lombardi Trophy of their own.
The rest of the league? Well, they’ve been looking toward the future for a while now.
The day after the Super Bowl represents the first day of the offseason, though that’s a bit of a misnomer — nobody around the NFL takes any time off. There are some hard business decisions to be made with current players, scouting that needs to be wrapped up and a game plan to formulate before the league holds its annual draft at the end of April.
The draft, coincidentally, will be in Kansas City this year.
Here’s a look at what comes next now that the confetti has settled on State Farm Stadium:
The first big date on the offseason calendar is Feb. 21, when teams can designate franchise or transition players. The tag can be given to one unrestricted free agent and guarantees another year under contract at a fixed contract.
The Chiefs did that last season with left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. when the two sides couldn’t agree on a long-term deal, and it’s possible Brown gets tagged a second time. Other players that could get the tag include Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Commanders defensive lineman Daron Payne. The deadline for clubs to designate players is March 7.
TIME TO STUDY
The weeklong NFL scouting combine begins Feb. 28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where NFL teams will have a chance to test dozens of prospects in a single setting. Otherwise, scouts
will fan out across the country beginning March 7, when individual colleges hold their pro days, and clubs can begin to host up to 30 draft-eligible players for visits.
The Bears have the first pick, though happy with quarterback Justin Fields, it’s possible they trade it to a team looking for one of the top QBs available. Those begin with Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Will Levis of Kentucky.
Other potential No. 1 picks are Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.
FREE AGENT FRENZY
There is a three-day window beginning March 13 in which clubs can contact and begin negotiating with free agents, and qualifying offers for restricted free agents are due by March 15. That’s also the date all clubs must be under the salary cap with the new league year — and signing of players — officially beginning at 4 p.m.
Jackson would be the most coveted player available if he’s not franchised, though that is unlikely. Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith, Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and Bengals safety Jessie Bates III are among the top free agents on defense while Giants running back Saquon Barkley could be in line for a massive deal.
The next big party after the Super Bowl is the NFL draft, taking place from April 27-29 at Union Station in Kansas City. It’s the first time the city will host the selection bonanza, and given the hometown Chiefs will still be celebrating a Lombardi Trophy, you can be sure the party downtown will last throughout the weekend.
GET TO WORK
Teams are allowed to hold a three-day rookie minicamp in early May, while voluntary offseason workouts last throughout the early summer. The teams will also hold a mandatory minicamp before taking a break ahead of training camp, which for most teams starts the last week of July — and ushers in the next season in earnest.