Here's a look at some key NFL dates over the next few months and how they affect the Seahawks.
Poor Bill Belichick.
As he somberly noted the day after the Patriots won maybe the most memorable Super Bowl of all time, being forced to play in the Super Bowl means that New England is “five weeks behind” most other teams in preparation for the 2017 season.
Cleveland Browns’ fans weep for the Patriots’ plight.
Okay, we kid Belichick. The comment was prototypical coach-speak, especially for the prototypical coach.
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It also speaks to the fact that the NFL is now a 24-7-365 (or 366 every four years) business.
As soon as one season ends, the next one begins.
Which makes it a good time to look at key dates for the 2017 off-season now that is in in full swing.
Feb. 11 — The Seahawks will host one of five regional combines that will be held around the league between this date and March 11. The regional combines are for draft-eligible players who are NOT invited to the NFL Combine that will be held a few weeks later. Still, players from these combines often end up on rosters — the NFL notes that 76 former regional combine members were on rosters at one point this season.
Feb. 15 — This is the beginning of the period when teams can place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents. The deadline for doing so is March 1. Seattle hasn’t used a franchise tag since 2010 and would seem unlikely to do so this season. The pending unrestricted free agent making the most money a year ago is kicker Steven Hauschka, who just completed a three-year contract in which he averaged roughly $2.8 million per season. The franchise tag for kickers is projected to be roughly $4. 8 million in 2017. So it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks doing that.
Feb. 28-March 6 — Simply put, the NFL Combine. The Combine is about a week later this year than in some past seasons and the end of the combine bumps right up against the beginning of the NFL free agent period, which could mean there will be more rumors and rumblings than ever of potential moves to come.
March 7-9 — This is the period when teams can begin to talk to agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents. The official NFL statement reads “during the period beginning at 12 noon, New York time, on March 7th and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 9th, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents” (at 4 p.m. New York time on March 9).
March 9 — The new league year begins at 4 p.m. New York time (1 p.m. Seattle time) which is when contracts for players such as Hauschka and 13 other unrestricted free agents officially expire and those players can sign with other teams. It’s worth noting that teams can sign their own free agents at any time — and they can also sign so-called “street” free agents, players who were not on a roster at the end of the 2016 season, such as Seattle’s recent signing of cornerback Perrish Cox. But pending UFAs such as Hauschka, Luke Willson and Mike Morgan cannot sign with other teams until this time, nor can Seattle sign pending UFAs from other teams until this time. The official trading period also begins at this time.
March 26-29 — The annual NFL league meeting in Phoenix when items such as potential rules changes are often debated, if not necessarily voted on. Also, all coaches are required to speak to the media for an hour, so this often serves as a rare time to hear in-depth during the off-season from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
April 17 — This is when teams with returning head coaches, such as the Seahawks, can begin their official off-season program. In other words, it’s the first time the team can require players to be in the facility. Here are the rules on the varying phases of the off-season program. Other than the beginning of the program, exact dates for items such as off-season training activities (OTAs) and mini-camp are typically announced in early April. Seattle, recall, will forfeit the first week of OTAs this year for violating practice rules last year.
April 27-29 — The NFL Draft. As of today, the Seahawks should have eight picks, including two compensatory selections. Those will be announced at the league meetings as well as the 26th overall pick in the first round.
Also, there are many dates throughout the next month or so when certain provisions in players’ contracts take affect.
Joel Corry of CBSSports.com did a masterful job of breaking those down earlier this week.
Specific to the Seahawks, Corry wrote:
Feb. 11 — “The entire 2017 base salaries of several Seahawks become fully guaranteed: quarterback Russell Wilson ($12.6 million), cornerback Richard Sherman ($11.431 million), wide receiver Doug Baldwin ($7.75 million), linebacker Bobby Wagner ($4 million) and cornerback Jeremy Lane ($4 million). Defensive end Michael Bennett’s $6.5 million 2017 base salary also becomes fully guaranteed. It will reduce to $6 million if the Seahawks commit to making the necessary $500,000 payment to exercise an option for Bennett’s 2020 contract year. This can be done as early as the first day of the 2017 league year but no later than the fifth day (March 13). All of these respective salaries of the players were guaranteed for injury at signing.”
March 11 — “Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham’s $2 million roster bonus is due.”