The new league year begins on March 14, at 1 p.m. PT. At that point, teams can agree to contracts with free agents who were not released by their teams. But before that is the NFL’s “legal tampering” period, which as I described a few days back, is a dumb name for a dumb thing that doesn’t make sense.
Beginning at 9 a.m. PT today, the legal tampering period allows teams to meet with agents — not players — to enter into negotiations. Under the rules, an actual deal cannot be signed and agreed to between an impending free agent and a new team. Theoretically, it’s to allow agents to get a feel of where things standing going into free agency.
But it’s a rule that’s often broken, especially when considering the absolute biggest names. Guys like Ndamukong Suh — they just break the rules and don’t worry about it. Punishment is rare and, to be fair, tampering has been going on since the NFL Combine anyway.
Below is a list of key offseason dates.
March 12-14: Legal tampering period — Agents for players scheduled to hit free agency on March 14th may enter into contract negotiations with other teams
March 14: The deadline for all teams to exercise option clauses and submit offers & tenders to their 2017 RFAs & ERFAs occurs at 1 p.m. PST. After 1 p.m. the new league year begins. Player contracts ending in 2017 expire and free agency begins. All teams must be under the salary cap with their top 51 players. The 2018 trading period also begins at 1 p.m. EST.
March 25-28: Annual league meeting — Orlando, Fla.
April 2: Offseason workout programs can begin for teams who hired a new head coach.
April 16: Offseason workout programs can begin for all other teams. — First time since 2014 the 49ers will start the program in the later period
April 20: The deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.
April 26-28: 2018 NFL Draft — Arlington, Texas — Full list of 49ers picks
May 4-7 OR 11-14: Teams may hold three-day rookie mini camp.
May 14: Rookie Football Development Programs begin.
May 17-20: NFLPA Rookie Premiere — Los Angeles, CA
May 21-23: Spring League Meeting — Atlanta, Georgia.
June 1: Last day for teams to put a “June 1 Tender” on their unsigned RFAs who they sent a qualifying offer to. A player must have a “June 1 Tender” put on them in order to qualify for a “June 15 Tender.”
June 15: The deadline for teams to cancel their offers to Restricted Free Agents while still retaining exclusive negotiating rights by substituting a “June 15 Tender.”
Late June: Rookies must attend their team’s Rookie Transition Program.
July 16: Teams have until 1 p.m. PT to sign their franchise tagged player to a multi-year deal. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract and the contract cannot be extended until after the team’s final regular season game
Mid-July: Teams may open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players a week before it opens for returning veterans. Veteran players may report to preseason training camp on whichever date is later: they may either report on July 15 or they may report 15 days prior to the team’s first preseason game. Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may report five days earlier than other veteran players.
July 23: The deadline for teams to sign their transition tagged player. If the tender is not signed, the team retains exclusive negotiating rights until after Week 10 of the regular season.
August 2: Hall of Fame Game — Canton, Ohio
August 7: Players under contract must report to their clubs by this date to earn an accrued season for free agency purposes. Unsigned draft picks cannot be traded in 2018 after this date and may sign only with the team that drafted them until the 2019 NFL Draft begins.
September 1: Teams cut their preseason rosters down to 53. 1 p.m. PST deadline. Teams must set the regular season status for players on the preseason PUP and NFI lists.
September 2: Waiver claims for players cut in the cut to 53 end at 9 a.m. PST. Teams may establish their 10-player practice squads starting at 10 a.m. PST.
September 5: The Top 51 Rule expires for all NFL teams at 9 p.m. PST. All teams must be under the cap limit with their full 53 player rosters.
September 6, 9-10: 2018 regular season begins!