The 2021 NFL offseason kicked off with free agency and the draft. However, there are still roughly five months until the 2021 season begins. What are all 32 franchises doing until then? We got you covered with all the important 2021 NFL offseason dates and events.
Editor’s note — this article is accurate as of July 7 at 10:00 PM. As new information is known, this article will be updated.
Key NFL offseason dates and events to remember for 2021
The 2021 NFL Draft is over, but it is only the beginning act until the 2021 regular season is underway.
May 7-10 or May 14-17 | Rookie minicamps
Rookie minicamps will be especially important this season, with many players having opted out of the 2020 college football season. Teams have the option to begin their three-day-long camps on either May 7 or May 14.
May 24-June 18 | OTAs and mandatory minicamps
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are optional, with meetings conducted virtually. In-person and on-field practices are allowed, but CBA rules require there to be no contact. OTAs will be the first time 90-man rosters are allowed to practice together. Mandatory veteran minicamps and OTAs commence between May 24 and June 18.
July 15 at 4 PM ET | Long-term extension deadline for franchise-tagged players
Teams have until 4 PM ET on July 15 to reach a long-term extension with their franchise-tagged players. If both sides do not reach a deal by the deadline, franchise-tagged players will become free agents in 2022.
15 days before the preseason for veterans (22 days for rookies) | Training camp
15 days before a team’s first preseason game, the NFL permits veterans to attend training camp. Rookies are authorized a week earlier, reporting to training camp 22 days before their first preseason game.
August 5 | 2021 NFL Hall of Fame Game (start of preseason)
The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will be the feature teams in the 2021 NFL Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, August 5. The global situation postponed the enshrinement of the 2020 Hall of Fame class. Thus, both the 2020 and 2021 classes will be honored during the weekend.
August 17, 24, and 31 | Rosters must be reduced to 85, 80, and then 53 players
The NFL approved a new set of cut-down dates for the 2021 season. The initial cut down from 90 to 85 will take place following the first week of preseason games (August 17). A second cut-down will take place after the second round of preseason games (August 24).
Teams will then reduce their roster to the final 53 following the third preseason game (August 31).
Following final cut down | Practice squads can be assembled
Players eligible to join the practice squad include rookies, second-year players with less than nine games in their first year, up to four players per team who have been in the NFL for no more than two seasons, and up to two players per team with no limitations as to how many seasons they have been in the NFL.
However, regarding the veterans with no limitations on their NFL tenure, teams were afforded six slots in 2020 due to the pandemic. It has yet to be stated whether the league will allow six for the 2021 season or revert to the CBA-agreed two players. In total, teams are awarded 12 players for the practice squad (16 in 2020) and will bump up to 14 in 2022.
September 9 | First 2021 NFL regular-season game
The Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off the new 17-game 2021 NFL season on Thursday, September 9.
Do NFL players get paid in the offseason?
NFL players do not get paid during the offseason except when they negotiate into their contract. Many players add offseason workout bonuses into their contracts. If implemented, this would mean a player earns money each time they work out in the team’s facility.
The CBA states that all players, regardless of contract status, earn $235 for daily workouts, typically four days a week for eight to nine weeks. This means players can earn approximately $7,500 during the offseason. While that number is near meaningless for NFL stars, it can be significant for players on the edge of rosters.
The NFL has the longest offseason
The NFL is America’s most popular sport, but it is the only one to have a longer offseason than playing season. For seven months, from February to September, there is no meaningful football on our screens. Why is the NFL’s offseason so long? Football is a full-contact sport with high-impact collisions — it requires far greater physicality than basketball or baseball.
Players need a break from the physical contact, rehab injuries, take a vacation, return for training camp, and then the preseason. Although the offseason may seem long at times, from free agency, trades, and the draft, there is plenty of action to keep fans interested in their favorite teams.
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