If you haven’t been living under a rock, you will have heard about this year’s all-time great NFL Super Bowl. Aside from the Rihanna performance, the Kansas City Chiefs played out a famously close win to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles to record audiences in the Arizona desert.
But… you’re probably asking, what happens now the season is over? What do teams even do in the offseason? How come some teams make it to the SuperBowl year on year when others seem to never make it? (sorry Jets fans).
Well in this step by step guide you can navigate all of these intricacies of the NFL offseason. Before a single ball is kicked, you’ll be well equipped to talk to anyone about the NFL.
Franchise Tag Window
21st February – 7th March
The ‘franchise tag’ is one of those intimidating sports jargon terms that always trip people up. But in fact it’s rather simple, it’s just when a team ‘tags’ a player going out of contract to keep them on the team for an extra year. Generally speaking, teams use their franchise tag on star players with their contract expiring. The tag then gives them more time to negotiate a deal or simply avoid losing them to free agency.
However, this is not always received well by players, as it stops them from signing long term lucrative deals. One example is Le’Veon Bell, who after being franchise tagged by the Steelers, responded by sitting out the whole season! Obviously not everyone does this, but it’s interesting how differently the franchise tag can be viewed.
28th February – 6th March
Hosted in Indianapolis, this is where college players likely to be drafted show their physical prowess to teams in a number of physical tests. From long jump to bench press to 40 yard dashes, potential draft prospects are tested on every physical characteristic aside from throwing them into a live NFL game, you can look at it like an NFL version of the Olympics almost.
Free Agency Tampering Period
13th March – 15th March
This is basically the start of free agency and applies to unrestricted free agents who are not signed to any team going into the league’s new year (starting 15th March). Put it simply, this is where most of the best players who aren’t on teams get signed to new ones for the big bucks.
Pro days & draft workouts
7th March – 27th April
Essentially their own mini combines, various colleges host pro days to showcase their best draft eligible talents to NFL teams in the hopes to impress them enough to draft them (as it looks good on the school for future recruits to have as many players drafted as high as possible to the pros).
Alongside this, teams can also workout and interview college players in their own NFL team facilities up to the 19th and then have up to the 27th April to interview/workout these players anywhere – so first impressions count if you want to get drafted as high as you can!
The Main Event: The NFL Draft
This is essentially what the entire offseason is leading up towards, the grand, annual NFL Draft. Hosted in Kansas this year, it will run from the 27th to 29th April.
As you might know from other leagues, the NFL draft has multiple rounds where players can be selected. Aside from trades, each team usually gets a pick in each round. The higher you pick, generally the more choice you have to pick the best player available. As a player, the higher you get picked determines how much you initially earn on your rookie contract. Therefore, every pick counts if you want to build the best roster possible!
Normally the best players go towards the top of the first round, see Joe Burrow a couple seasons ago who has since changed the Cincinnati Bengals’ fortunes around almost single handedly. However, this is not always the case. Brock Purdy, 2022’s last pick, ended up leading the 49ers one game away from the SuperBowl as a rookie!
There’s a famous adage that first round picks end up being great 33% of the time, average 33% of the time and complete busts the other 33% of the time. What separates potential hall of fame talent from complete busts is not an exact science. Good teams do draft badly, and bad teams can draft well, it is both logic and potluck!
Some notable names to look out in this year’s NFL Draft
Quarterbacks CJ Stroud (Ohio State) and Bryce Young (Alabama)
Likely to go number 1 and 2 overall, these are the two best QBs in the draft. Especially interesting is which order they will go, as the Panthers just traded a whole lot of picks to select at number 1 overall.
Quarterbacks Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky)
Likely to get drafted highly based on their physical potential rather than their performances in college. Both have huge potential to be great if they are drafted to the right place but also huge bust potential too. Levis in particular is an interesting watch as he reportedly puts mayo in his coffee… Unfortunately I am not joking.
Running Back Bijan Robinson (University of Texas)
A fantastic player however could drop down draft boards as RBs are losing value more and more. Not his fault at all, but where he is drafted will show how valued RBs are in today’s NFL.
Defensive Tackle Jalen Carter (Georgia)
A star of Georgia’s recent NCAA championship run and certainly a top 5 talent. Recent turmoil with the police could see him fall down the draft board unfortunately.
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
a bonus one as the 2019 NFL MVP has not yet signed a contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens. Where Jackson ends up could massively affect the draft as he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league. His contract demands may be heavy but he could fix a franchise’s offence almost immediately.
May 11th approximately
Approximately two weeks after the mayhem of the NFL draft here is where the NFL releases the schedule of games for the upcoming season. Unlike football/soccer, the NFL has a strikingly limited amount of games played by each team per season due to the physical nature of the sport.
Each team alternates 8 or 9 games at home a season (now it is 17 games in total) but always play each of their division rivals twice, so for example in the NFC East: the Philadelphia Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Commanders twice every year.
In terms of international games, such as the ones in Wembley & Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the ‘home’ teams are already announced, Next year’s London-bound teams are the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, however stay tuned to find out who their opponents are.
NFL Regular Season Kick Off
Although there are preseason games in August, the offseason is over by this point. Play kicks off 7th September, and the countdown begins for the SuperBowl 58!