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TWENTYMAN: Offseason dates to watch

With the Super Bowl now in the books, the official start of the offseason is underway for all 32 teams in the NFL. Kansas City still has a parade to worry about, but every other team has an eye on the offseason.

This is an important offseason for the Detroit Lions coming off a disappointing 3-12-1 season. They need to make the right moves that allow them to play in meaningful games come December.

Here are some important offseason dates to keep an eye on as we navigate through the NFL offseason:

February 24-March 2: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.

Important date on the pre-draft calendar for teams. It's the first time they'll get the official measurements for the underclassmen. Most draft eligible prospects will be in attendance for testing, meetings and medical evaluations. The 40-yard dash testing is typically the highlight of the week for fans.

February 25: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

The franchise tag binds the player to the team for one year. The transition tag guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team. The Lions did not use their franchise tag options last season and aren't likely to be in a position to use it in 2020.

March 10: Prior to 4 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 16-18: 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 2019 player contracts. This is also known as the 'legal tampering weekend.' The Lions have 19 free agents currently set to hit the market this offseason. A contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m., on March 18.

March 18: Prior to 4 p.m., clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation. The Lions have two restricted free agents, running back J.D. McKissic and defensive tackle Jamie Meder.

March 18: Prior to 4 p.m., clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2019 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit. The Lions have two exclusive rights free agents in cornerbacks Mike Ford and Dee Virgin. If the Lions extend contract offers to these players they can sign with the Lions only or sit out the 2019 season.

March 18: Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2020 salary cap (expected to be between $196.8 million and $201.2 million) prior to 4 p.m.

March 18: The 2020 league year and free agency period begin at 4 p.m.

March 29-April 1: Annual League Meeting, The Breakers, Palm Beach, Fla. This is when the league will adopt new rule changes or amendments for the 2020 season.

April 20: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs. With a returning head coach in Matt Patricia, this is the first date the Lions can get back to work in the offseason training program.

April 23-25: 2020 NFL Draft, Las Vegas. The Lions currently have seven picks in the draft before the announcement of compensatory picks. They have an extra pick in the fifth round and no pick in the seventh round. 

April 27: Beginning this date, NFL clubs may request permission to visit with, try out, or sign any player who was under contract to the XFL at the conclusion of the XFL season. This will be the inaugural season of the new XFL league in 2020.

May 1-4 or 8-11: Clubs can hold their three-day rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday. Last year, the Lions elected to hold their minicamp on the second weekend.

May 4: Deadline for clubs to exercise Fifth-Year Option for players selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. That's linebacker Jarrad Davis for the Lions.

July 15: At 3 p.m. (CT), deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one- year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club's last regular season game.

Mid July: Clubs are permitted to 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 (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or injured players (as defined in CBA Article 21, Section 6) may report to a club'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 may be required to report to the club's preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club's roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who rejoin the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

August 6: Back to football. Hall of Fame Game, Canton, Ohio.

August 6-9: Hall of Fame Weekend, Canton, Ohio. Lions Legend Alex Karras is among the senior inductees this year.

September 5: Prior to 4 p.m., clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players.

September 6: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at noon.

September 6: Clubs may establish a practice squad of 10 players.

September 10: The NFL regular season begins.

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