The confetti has dropped, the champions have been crowned and for 31, maybe 32 NFL teams the attention now turns to the 2015 season.
The new league year doesn’t officially start until March, but the Vikings are already back in business with some key dates coming up on the calendar, including the NFL scouting combine at the end of this month. Tough decisions must be made on players like Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway in the coming weeks. And the team will add new players in free agency and April’s draft.
Here is a quick rundown of key offseasons dates for the Vikings to keep an eye on going forward:
February 2: Yes, that was yesterday. The league’s waiver system is already up and running again and teams can now officially begin releasing players. For example, the Vikings are expected to have discussions with Greenway’s representatives about restructuring his contract. If they are unable to find middle ground on a pay cut, the Vikings can now release him (or any other player) whenever.
February 16: This is the first day that teams can use the franchise or transition tags on players. We won’t have to worry about that this year, as the Vikings don’t have any marquee free agents. NFL teams have until March 2 to designate any franchise or transition players.
February 17-23: The NFL scouting combine takes place in Indianapolis. Not only will the Vikings be inspecting the goods at the league’s annual pre-draft meat market, free-agency chatter will pick up with execs, coaches and agents descending on Indianapolis for the event. The Vikings will have discussions — many of them “informal” — about upcoming free agents, including some of their own.
March 7-10: The league’s so-called “legal tampering” window is open. NFL teams are permitted to talk with the agents of unrestricted free agents and enter into contract negotiations. No deals can be finalized until the start of free agency on March 10, but many of the biggest deals will be done during this window.
March 10: Happy new league year! Prior to 3 p.m. CDT, teams must exercise 2015 options on applicable players, submit qualifying offers for restricted free agents (the Vikings have two in running back Matt Asiata and offensive tackle Mike Harris), and extend minimum salary tenders to free agents with fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit. Teams must also be cap compliant by 3 p.m. CDT, when free agency officially begins with Adam Schefter announcing where about 80 percent of the top free agents are heading in a span of about three minutes, all without looking away from his cell phones.
March 10: Teams can start making trades again. But no, the Vikings aren’t trading Matt Kalil to the Seahawks for Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and several first-round picks.
March 22: The NFL will hold its inaugural veteran combine, a new event that is essentially a league-wide tryout for 100 select veterans who are looking to get back into the league.
March 22-25: The league will hold its annual owners meetings in Phoenix. Owners will vote on proposed NFL rule changes and teams will be awarded compensatory picks (the league doesn’t make its comp-pick formula public, but I don’t expect the Vikings to receive any this year).
April 15: This is a big one. This is the day Peterson will be eligible for reinstatement from his NFL suspension. Should he be reinstated, as is expected, the Vikings will then have to figure out what to do with him. Head coach Mike Zimmer recently said that the Vikings will have multiple plans in place for the offseason depending on how things shake down with Peterson (and his massive contract).
April 20: The Vikings and all the other teams with returning head coaches can begin their offseason workout programs.
April 24: Restricted free agents such as Asiata must sign their offer sheets by today.
April 30-May 2: The start of the NFL draft is back in April, but it takes place in Chicago this year.
May 3: Teams must exercise their fifth-year options (for 2016) on 2012 first-round draft picks. The Vikings have two decisions to make. Picking up a fifth year for safety Harrison Smith is a no-brainer. It will be a tougher call for Kalil, who has regressed since his promising rookie season.
May 8-11: Teams can hold their three-day rookie minicamp this weekend, or, if they prefer, they can wait until the following weekend (May 15-18) to do so.
May 18-20: The league’s spring meetings take place in San Francisco.
Mid-to-late June: The Vikings will hold their three-day mandatory minicamp before players depart for a few weeks of R&R. Dates have not been announced, but last year’s minicamp began June 17.
Mid-to-late July: The Vikings take over Mankato for the start of training camp. Dates have not been announced for this either. After all, it is early February, isn’t it?