The 2018 NFL season mercifully came to an end on Sunday and it’s time to turn our attention to the future. Things are looking better for the Bears now than they did at the same time last year. And while the team doesn’t have the type of heavy lifting ahead of it as they did in 2018, this is still an important offseason and could prove to be one that lifts the Bears to another level.
Here are the most important dates on the NFL calendar that Bears fans and the rest of the NFL should keep an eye on.
Feb. 4 – Waiver system opens up.
February 12 – Starting at 11 a.m., teams can sign players whose Canadian Football League contracts have expired. (Note: Players under contract to a CFL team for 2019 or have an option for the 2019 season are not eligible.)
February 19 – First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players. (This could be an important date with regards to free agent kicker Robbie Gould’s future in San Francisco).
February 26 to March 4 – NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
March 5 – Deadline for teams to designate Franchise or Transition players is 3 p.m. (Based on San Francisco’s decision, Robbie Gould Watch could come to an end or start anew.)
March 11 to March 13 – Starting at 11 a.m. CT, teams can begin to contact and enter contract negotiations with certified player agents whose players will become unrestricted free agents upon their deals expiring on March 13. It’s the “legal tampering” period! (Note: Contracts cannot be signed with a new club until 3 p.m. on March 14).
March 13 – Happy League New Year! Teams must submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents with expiring contracts, and to whom they want to retain compensation/right of first refusal by 3 p.m.
- All teams must be under the 2019 salary cap prior to 3 p.m.
- Teams must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to players with expiring 2018 contracts and who have accrued fewer than three seasons of free agency credit before 3 p.m.
- All 2018 player contracts expire at 3 p.m. and free agency begins
- The official NFL trading period begins at 3 p.m.
The Bears don’t have much cap flexibility, but GM Ryan Pace has been known to be creative to get his guy..
March 24-27 – Annual League Meeting in Phoenix.
April 1 – Teams that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2018 regular season may begin offseason workout programs. That means the Packers, Cardinals, Browns, Broncos, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jets, and Bengals will get a head start in 2019.
April 15 – The Bears and the other NFL teams with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
April 19 – Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
April 25 to April 27 – NFL Draft in Nashville. The Arizona Cardinals own the first overall selection and are on the clock. As for the Bears, they aren’t scheduled to pick until Round 3.
May 3-5 – Bears host their three-day post-Draft rookie mini-camp.
May 7 – Deadline for teams to send “May 7 Tender” to its own unsigned unrestricted free agents. If that player hasn’t a contract with the team by July 22 (or the first day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later), the player can negotiate or sign the contract until the Tuesday after the Week 10 … but only with their prior club.
May 13 – Rookie Football Development Programs can begin.
May 16-19 – NFLPA Rookie Premiere. Rookies who are typically first and/or second-round picks must be permitted by their respective clubs to attend. These players are unavailable for offseason workouts, OTA days and mini-camps during this period.
May 20-22 – Spring League Meeting in Biscayne, Fla.
May 21-23 – First week of OTAs
May 29-31 – Second week of OTAs
June 4-7 – Third week of OTAs
June 3 – Deadline for teams to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned restricted free agents who received a qualifying offer.
June 7-9 – Bears 100 Celebration Weekend at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont
June 11-13 – Veteran minicamp
June 15 – Deadline for teams to withdraw qualifying offer to restricted free agents and retain exclusive negotiating rights.
June, TBA – Mandatory attendance for all rookies at individual teams Rookie Transition Program.
July 16 – Deadline for a franchise player to sign a multi-year contract or extension is set for 3 p.m. After this date, the player may only sign a one-year contract for 2019.
July, TBA – Teams can open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.
- Veteran players (other than quarterbacks or injured players) with at least one pension-credited season can report to a team’s preseason training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the club’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.
- Veteran quarterbacks and injured players can be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately before the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players.
July 22 – Signing period for transition tagged players ends.
Signing period for unrestricted free agents who were offered “May 7 Tender” ends.
August 1 – Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, which featured the Bears last year!
August 1-4 – Pro Football Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton, Ohio.
August 6 – If a drafted rookie hasn’t been signed by his team, he can’t be traded to another team in 2018.
August 31 – All teams must trim their active rosters to 53 by 3 p.m.
September 1 – The claiming period for players placed on waivers on August 31 expires at 11 a.m.
Teams may create a 10-player practice squad starting on this date.
September 5 – Regular season football begins again (and Bears-Packers could be the lid-lifter)!