NFL offseason dates to watch

The Detroit Lions are in offseason mode, so let's take a look at some important offseason dates:

January 2

Beginning January 2, NFL clubs were permitted to begin signing free-agent players for 2017, including practice squad players with expiring contracts and street free agents. Clubs also could begin renegotiating or extending contracts of their 2014 draft class, and the period for clubs to exercise the fifth-year option for first-round selections from the 2014 draft (Jan. 2-May 2) begins.

Players signed to reserve/futures deals with Lions:

WR Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin)

TE Kennard Backman (Alabama-Birmingham)

RB Mike James (Miami (Fla.))

TE Khari Lee (Bowie State)

LB Steve Longa (Rutgers)

OL Matt Rotheram (Pittsburgh)

OL Brandon Thomas (Clemson)

WR Andrew Turzilli (Rutgers)

DB Charles Washington (Fresno State)

Players selected by the Lions in the 2014 draft (*1st rounder):

TE Eric Ebron*

C Travis Swanson

CB Nevin Lawson

WR TJ Jones

**Feb. 15-March 1 – Period for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players

**

The values for each position’s tag will be determined when the 2017 salary cap is announced at a later date.

March 1-6 – Combine timing and testing (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN)

The Lions will be sending writers Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara, and multimedia journalist Tori Petry, to Indianapolis once again this year to provide complete coverage of the Combine.

March 7-9 – Free agent contact

During this period beginning at noon (ET) on March 7 and ending at 3:59:59 on March 9, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents. However, contracts can’t be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. March 9.

March 9 – First day of the 2017 league year and free agency period

This is the official start of the 2017 football season. It also marks the beginning of free agency.

Also on this date:

Clubs must exercise options for 2017 on all players who have option clauses in their 2016 contracts.

Clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring 2016 contracts to retain a right of first refusal/compensation.

Clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2016 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

Top-51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2017 Salary Cap.

The trading period for 2017 begins at 4 p.m. (ET)

Lions with expiring contracts on March 9, 2017:

RB Joique Bell

WR Anquan Boldin

LB Jon Bostic

DE Armonty Bryant

S Rafael Bush

CB Crezdon Butler

LB Josh Bynes

DT Stefan Charles

LB Brandon Copeland (exclusive rights)

TE Clay Harbor

DE Kerry Hyder (exclusive rights)

CB Asa Jackson

WR TJ Jones (exclusive rights)

T Cornelius Lucas (restricted)

LS Don Muhlbach

TE Matthew Mulligan

QB Dan Orlovsky

T Riley Reiff

T Garrett Reynolds

WR Andre Roberts

DE Devin Taylor

DT Khyri Thornton (restricted)

DT Tyrunn Walker

G Larry Warford

TE Tim Wright

A restricted free agent is a player whose contract has expired and has fewer than four tenured years in the league. He may sign an "offer sheet" with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team.

An exclusive rights free agent is a player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league-imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

March 26-29 – Annual League Meeting

Tim Twentyman, Mike O’Hara and Tori Petry will be in Phoenix to cover all league and Lions news at the annual meetings.

April 17 – Lions may begin offseason program

The team has not announced when the offseason program will begin, but this is the earliest date it can kick off for teams with returning head coaches. Teams with new head coaches are permitted to begin their offseason program on April 3.

April 27-29 – 2017 NFL Draft, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Lions currently have seven selections in the 2017 NFL Draft. They have an extra sixth-round pick because of the trade with New England that sent Kyle Van Noy to the Patriots as the teams swapped sixth- and seventh-round picks.

Here is a list of the Lions selections:

1st round (21)

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

6th round

May 5-8 / May 12-15 – Clubs may hold rookie minicamp

The rookie minicamp is three days, and is either a Friday-Sunday or Saturday-Monday format.

May 15 – Rookies may report to offseason program

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