For all intents and purposes, the 2021 NFL season started and ended with the Los Angeles Rams winning a Sunday night football game at So-Fi Stadium.
Grand opening, grand closing.
But now, we turn our eyes to the future.
Once again, the Chicago Bears are at a critical junction as this offseason begins. The Bears start 2022 with a clean slate after hiring Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus to replace Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy. Yes, the Bears brought in Ryan and Matt after kicking Ryan and Matt to the curb. But putting new eyes on old problems is a sensible first step away from the previous regime.
The road to Super Bowl LVII begins today. So here are the most important dates on the NFL calendar that Bears fans and the rest of the NFL should keep an eye on.
June 2 – Post-June 1 cuts become official
June 6-7, June 9 – Even more (!) OTA practices.
June 14-16 – Mandatory full-squad minicamp.
July 15 – Franchise/Transition Tag deadline.
The final day for teams to sign players who were given the Franchise or Transition Tag to long-term extensions. If no agreement is net, the two sides cannot negotiate until the end of the 2022-23 season.
August 4 – Hall of Fame Game (Jaguars vs. Raiders)
August 13 – First Bears preseason game (vs. Chiefs).
We’ll update this page as the NFL adds more important dates on its calendar.
February 14 – Waivers system opens. The Bears have the seventh priority on the wire, which is a perk of finishing among the bottom feeders.
February 19 – HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans. Another college all-star game showcasing some top draft-eligible talent.
February 22 – First day for teams to designate Franchise or Transition Players. Allen Robinson II was given the Franchise Tag last year. Will history repeat itself or is a clean breakup on the horizon?
March 1 – NFL Scouting Combine begins, runs through March 7. Get to know the 324 player who got invites here.
Of note: GM Ryan Poles and Head Coach Matt Eberflus will hold separate news conferences with the assembled media at the Combine.
March 8 – Teams must designate Franchise or Transition players by 3 p.m. CT.
College Pro Days can begin and teams can start hosting up to 30 “non-local” draft-eligible prospects for visits and physicals. This goes through April 20. Video and telephone interviews of draft eligible prospects can go through April 27.
March 14 – The “legal tampering” period for free agency begins. It’s a three-day free-for-all where teams can negotiate with the agents of players who will become free agents. Direct communication isn’t allowed, but that’s what agents are for … right?
March 16 – Happy League New Year! Here’s what you need to know:
• Player contracts from the 2021 season expire at 3 p.m..
• All teams must be under the 2022 salary cap prior to 3 p.m.
• 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. CT.
• The league’s free agency and trading periods open. Which means the conversations that went down during the first two days of the “legal tampering” period can turn into action.
March 27-30 – The annual league meeting allows owners and the commissioner to get together, chop it up, and kick around new rules initiatives (among other things) that could go to vote later in the offseason.
April 4 – The Bears (and other teams who brought in new coaches this offseason) may begin offseason workout programs.
April 18 – Teams with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
April 20 – The final date for teams to bring draft-eligible players into team facilities for a physical.
April 22 – Last day for restricted free-agents to sign offer sheets.
April 26 – Bears to announce winners of the Brian Piccolo Award.
April 27 – Final deadline for teams to interview draft-eligible players.
April 28-30 – NFL Draft in Las Vegas. Two yeas after Vegas was set to host the draft, the NFL comes to town. The Jacksonville Jaguars (once again) are on the clock with the first pick in the draft. Chicago’s football team has just five picks — currently projecting to be the 39th, 71st, 147th (via HOU), 149th, and 184th. The Bears don’t have a first-round pick because it was sent to the Giants in the Justin Fields trade. I think we can live with that.
May 2 – Deadline for teams to exercise fifth-year option on first-round picks from the 2019 NFL Draft. The Bears didn’t have a selection that season, so there is no one to worry about here,
May 6-8 – The Bears are hosting a three-day rookie minicamp.
May 16-17, May 19 – OTA practices.
May 23-24, May 26 – More OTA practices.
May 23-25 – The league’s spring meeting provides a spot for owners to vote on things that came up in April. Between issues with the hiring cycle, rules tweaks, and health/safety protocols, I imagine there will be much to discuss on these days. But pushing something through might be easier said than done.