Offseason dates, events to watch for Seahawks fans

It’s never too early to start getting ready for next year, especially after a painful playoff exit.

By Bob Condotta

The Seattle Times

The Seahawks are now more than a week into a too-early offseason.

But that doesn’t mean that everything stops for Seattle and any other NFL team out of the playoffs.

Here is a look at some key offseason dates and what they could mean for the Seahawks.

Jan. 26 — Senior Bowl: Two things happen here — one, all NFL teams get their first really serious look at some of the top 2019 draft picks since the end of the college season as the draft season begins to really heat up; two, team execs often meet with the agents of their own free agents to begin talking about contracts.

Feb. 12 — Date when teams can begin signing players from the Canadian Football League who will be free agents: Often there is a signing or two immediately after this date of CFL players that the Seahawks and other NFL teams will want to bring to camp.

Feb. 19 — Beginning of the period when NFL teams can use the franchise or transition tags: Seattle has not used a franchise tag since 2010 on kicker Olindo Mare. But it could well do so this year on impending free agent defensive end Frank Clark. The period to use the franchise tag runs through March 5 and a tag means the player will be under contract for one year at a fully guaranteed salary once it is signed. In Clark’s case that likely means a salary of more than $17 million (salary figures will be set later). It’s worth remembering teams can continue to negotiate with players once tagged. The deadline for a tagged player to reach agreement on a long-term contract is July 15, after which the player can only play under the terms of the tag. Teams can use just one tag per season.

Feb. 26-March 4 — NFL combine: Again held in Indianapolis, teams get a chance to interview, measure and time more than 300 draft-eligible players (each team can have formal 15-minute interviews with 60 players and informal talks with many more). But with the free-agency period less than two weeks away, teams also have many conversations with agents of veteran players, which can begin to set in motion the moves the team will make then. It was at the combine a year ago when rumors broke that the Seahawks were talking to teams about trading Michael Bennett. A few days later, it happened.

March 11-13 — Free agency begins to begin: Starting at 1 p.m. Seattle time on March 11, as the NFL words it, “clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2018 player contracts” at 1 p.m. Seattle time on March 13. Or, as it’s become known, this is the “illegal tampering” period when many deals are “unofficially” struck.

March 13 — Beginning of free-agent signing period: At 1 p.m. Seattle time on this date the new league year begins and teams can begin to sign free agents from other teams whose contracts have run out (teams can always re-sign their own unrestricted free agents, meaning Seattle can at any time re-sign Clark or K.J. Wright, to name two).

March 13 — Deadline to submit offers to restricted and exclusive-rights free agents: Yep, this is a big date as this is also when teams have to have given offers to their RFAs and ERFAs. If not, then they, too, become free agents on this date and can sign with anyone. A few key RFAs for Seattle include OL George Fant, RB J.D. McKissic, OL Joey Hunt and cornerbacks Akeem King and Kalan Reed. You’ll likely hear a week or two ahead of this date of the players Seattle plans to offer.

March 24-27 — Annual NFL league meeting in Phoenix: Rules changes and lots of other league business happens during these four days. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider also typically meet the media here, as they do at the combine.

April 15 — Beginning of offseason program: Teams such as the Seahawks who have an existing head coach can begin their official offseason program on this date (teams with new coaches can start April 1).

Late April — Release of the NFL schedule: Of late, the NFL has taken to releasing its schedule on the Thursday before the NFL draft. If that form holds this year, then expect the schedule to be released April 18.

April 25-27 — NFL draft: This year’s draft will be held in Nashville. As of today, Seattle has just four picks, in the first, third, fourth and fifth rounds, having traded the others. But expect that to change by the time the draft rolls around as you’d expect the Seahawks will make moves to add a few more.

May 3-6, or May 10-13 — NFL rookie minicamps: Teams can hold their four-day minicamps on either of these two weekends.

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