The offseason is underway for general manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings, who after a disappointing 8-8 season will spend the next several months reshaping their roster through free agency and the draft in the hopes of positioning themselves to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.
Here are some important offseason dates to circle on your calendar:
January 28: The Vikings will send a large contingent of scouts and coaches to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl, the premier collegiate all-star game. Running back Jerick McKinnon, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and offensive linemen T.J. Clemmings and Willie Beavers are among the Senior Bowl participants the Vikings have drafted in recent years.
January 29: Six Vikings are slated to play in this year’s Pro Bowl down in Orlando. They are defenders Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffen and returner Cordarrelle Patterson.
February 5: Tom Brady’s Patriots and Matt Ryan’s Falcons will vie for the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl LI, held at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
February 15: This is the first day for NFL teams to designate franchise or transition players. They have until March 1 to do so. The Vikings are not expected to use either tag on any of their pending free agents.
February 28-March 6: The NFL heads to Indianapolis for the meat market that is the annual scouting combine. The Vikings will watch prospects work out in spandex then conduct interviews with dozens of them.
March 7-9: Starting at 11 a.m. CT, NFL teams are allowed to enter into contract negotiations with the agents of pending free agents from other teams in what has unofficially been called the “tampering period.” But no contracts can actually be signed during this two-day negotiating window.
March 9: If the Vikings want to pick up the 2017 option for running back Adrian Peterson, they must inform him in writing before 3 p.m. CT. The Vikings are not expected to pick up his option or pay him his $6 million roster bonus later in the week. But they are open to bringing him back next season for much less than the $18 million he is slated to earn.
March 9: The 2017 league year begins at 3 p.m. CT, marking the official start of free agency. Teams are now allowed to make trades again, too. Last year, the Vikings were relatively busy on the first day of free agency, signing Alex Boone, Michael Griffin and Emmanuel Lamur to deals.
March 26-29: The league will hold its annual owners meetings in Phoenix. The highlight will be coach Mike Zimmer being forced to have breakfast with reporters as they pepper him about free agency and the draft.
April 17: Zimmer and the Vikings are permitted to start their offseason workout program. Teams with new coaches start two weeks earlier.
April 21: This is the last day that restricted free agents can sign offer sheets. Wide receiver Adam Thielen is the Vikings’ most notable RFA.
April 27-29: The NFL draft happens in Philadelphia. With no first-rounder, the Vikings might be quiet that first night. But they have eight picks the final two days, including two in both the third and fourth rounds.
May 5-8: The Vikings will likely hold their rookie minicamp this weekend, though they have the option to hold it the following weekend instead.
Late June: Sometime during the second half of this month the Vikings will hold at Winter Park their three-day mandatory minicamp, which wraps up their offseason workout program. Then the players and coaches get a few weeks of downtime before reporting to Mankato at the end of July.
August 3: The 2017 preseason officially kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. The real season will be here before we know it.