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2021 NFL League Calendar: Important dates including Free Agency and the Draft

A look at the important dates for the 2021 offseason.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Now that we are in offseason mode in the NFL, it is appropriate to look at the important dates coming up on the league calendar, including dates related to the combine, free agency, and the NFL Draft.

NFL Scouting Combine

Due to the pandemic, the NFL Combine as we know it has been cancelled for 2021. Players will mostly due their workouts from their Pro Days at college campuses, and meetings will take place virtually. However, it was just announced that there will be an “unofficial” scouting combine taking place from February 26-27 in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. See here for details on that.

Franchise Tag, Free Agency, and NFL Draft Dates

Here are some other important upcoming league dates (for the year 2020) to be aware of:

  • February 23rd: Teams can begin applying the franchise or transition tag to players on their team.
  • March 9th: The final day to declare a franchise player, before 4:00 PM ET.
  • March 15th - March 17th: Teams can begin entering contract negotiations with players who will be unrestricted free agents. Qualifying offers to restricted free agents and offers to unrestricted free agents who the team wants to retain should also be made during this stretch. This is otherwise known as the “legal tampering period.”
  • March 17th: At 4:00 PM ET, free agency officially begins, and teams may begin signing players or trading players who are still under contract. Additionally, all teams must be under the salary cap at this time.
  • April 19th: Teams with returning coaches can begin their offseason programs. This includes the Browns. Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2020 regular season may begin offseason workout programs on April 5th.
  • April 23rd: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
  • April 29th - May 1st: NFL Draft, Cleveland, OH

Missing from this year’s calendar are the Annual League Meeting, which usually takes place at the end of March or beginning of April, and the NFL Spring League Meeting, which usually takes place in mid-May. Those meetings will probably still happen in some capacity, but remotely.