LIONS INSIDER

Important upcoming dates for the Detroit Lions

Posted Jan 27, 2014

Free agency, the offseason training program and the draft are all upcoming for the Detroit Lions

Now that most of the coaching staff is in place, the Detroit Lions can turn their focus to the 2014 season and some important dates on the horizon.

February 19-25 -- NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

The front office, coaching staff and scouting department spent last week in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl evaluating some of the best talent that will be available in May’s NFL Draft. They got a chance to look at some players in a practice setting and to sit down and do some interviews.

The Combine is valuable because it’s where the measurables and times get recorded officially for the first time and each player goes through an extensive medical evaluation. It’s the medical work that’s the most beneficial for teams at the Combine.

It will also be the first time the 98 underclassman – who will make up most of the top 10 picks in the draft – will all be together to be evaluated.

As soon as the Lions got back from the Senior Bowl they went to work on getting to know these underclassmen a lot better.

They'll get to know them a lot better at the Combine.

February 17 -- First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players

Speaking to beat reporters at the Senior Bowl last week, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew didn’t rule out the possibility of the Lions using their franchise tag this season. He didn’t say it was in their plan, either. Basically, Mayhew is leaving that option open.

When he spoke to reporters after last season he told them he didn’t envision using the franchise tag. The Lions didn’t use it this season.

Brandon PettigrewTE Brandon Pettigrew (Photo: Gavin Smith)

The only player that really fits into the franchise tag conversation for the Lions is tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The former first-round pick is an unrestricted free agent and the Lions will have to decide if he’s in their future plans, either with a long-term deal or the franchise tag.

Pettigrew is the best all-around tight end on the roster and has averaged 57 receptions, 566 yards and three touchdowns each season over his first five years in the league.

He's also battled some inconsistencies as a receiver, but Detroit doesn't have another player like him at the position. Joseph Fauria had a good rookie season (seven touchdowns), but was mostly a red-zone weapon. Michael Williams, whom the Lions drafted in the seventh round last year, missed his rookie year due to injury, but he’s more of a blocking tight end.

The franchise tag for tight ends last year was a little over $5.1 million. That was the next lowest tag next to punters/kickers ($2.7 million).

March 8 -- 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 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11

The Lions were pretty big players in free agency last year, snagging Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones when free agency opened.

If the Lions are able to get a contract extension done with Ndamukong Suh before free agency opens they’ll have more flexibility. Mayhew told reporters last week the team would have a plan either way, though.

The Lions will also have to make decisions on players like Dominic Raiola, Rashean Mathis and some of their own free agents.

Raiola is coming off his best season as a professional and the Lions don’t have another center on the roster at this point that can step in a play to his level.

Mathis proved to be the most consistent cornerback on the roster last year, but young players like Darius Slay and Chris Greenwood could be ready to contribute.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Shaun Hill will be another interesting decision for Mayhew and Co. Hill is considered one of the best backups in the league, but can the team continue to pay a backup upwards of $3 million? Do they promote Kellen Moore or looking for another young signal caller to come in?

April 7 -- Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2013 regular season may begin off-season workout programs

The Lions have had the benefit the last four offseasons of being able to come into Allen Park in April and hit the ground running with the coaching staff and scheme in place. There were clear expectations on what the players had to do in the offseason to better tailor their games to the scheme.

This offseason will be different.

Jim Caldwell and his staff will be implementing new offensive and defensive systems at the same time they're trying to learn what their players do best. They get a two-week jump on the process, but there’s still a learning curve there.

The training program, OTAs (organized team activities) and mini camps this offseason will be so important for the coaches and players to be able hit the ground running when training camp begins in late July.

May 8-10 -- 2014 NFL Draft, New York City, New York

The Lions are coming off their most successful draft in recent memory with players like Ziggy Ansah, Larry Warford, Devin Taylor, Sam Martin, Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle make huge contributions as rookies.

It takes multiple successful drafts, stacked on top of each other, to build a consistently winning football team. They own the No. 10 pick in the draft and will be looking for that player, and at least two or three other picks, to be able to step in right away and help this team become a playoff contender.

Here’s a look at the complete offseason schedule:

DateEvent
February 2 Super Bowl XLVIII, MetLife Stadium, New York-New Jersey.
February 3 Waiver system begins for 2014.
February 17 First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
February 19-25 NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
March 1 NFL Regional Combine, One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Florida.
March 3 Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
March 8-11 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 2013 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 11.
March 11 Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the 2014 Salary Cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 11 All 2013 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 11 The 2014 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 11 Trading period for 2014 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2013 contracts.
March 23-26 Owners meeting, Orlando, Fla.
April 7 Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2013 regular season may begin off-season workout programs.
April 21 Offseason workout program begins.
May 2 Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign Offer Sheets.
May 7 Deadline for Prior Club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.
May 8-10 2014 NFL Draft, New York City, New York.
June 22-28 Rookie Symposium.
July 15 At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any Club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his Prior Club for the 2014 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the Club’s last regular season game.
July Teams report to training camp no sooner than 15 days prior to the team's first preseason game.
September 4, 7-8 Kickoff Weekend 2014