March 17th is the big deadline. The 2021 NFL league year begins at 4:00 PM Eastern Time on that date, which is when free agents can begin officially signing contracts and when teams must be under the salary cap (when totaling their top 51 players).
However, the Green Bay Packers and the NFL as a whole will be making plenty of news in the 14 days between now and then. With free agent tenders to assign, contracts to restructure, and probably players to cut to get below the salary cap, the Packers will have plenty of headlines coming. The league does as well, with the final cap number and compensatory draft pick announcements set to be released before St. Patrick’s Day.
Therefore, Acme Packing Company has looked back at the last few years’ trends to help prepare you for when to expect the various important bits of news to drop. Some of these items are highly predictable — for example, the Packers like to issue their exclusive rights free agent tenders within 24 hours of the new league year beginning — while others are less so for various reasons. Thus, keep this as a primer for when to monitor APC and your Twitter feed for news about the offseason’s changes.
Additionally, keep in mind that unrestricted free agents and teams can begin negotiating new contracts starting on March 15th, and many deals get agreed to in principle in the 48 hours before the start of the league year.
Finally, as we look back at past years, note that the league year has started on the following days in the past three seasons:
- 2020: Wednesday, March 18
- 2019: Wednesday, March 13
- 2018: Wednesday, March 14