There’s five-plus months between now and the start of 2020 training camp, but there’s more than enough for New England fans to keep an eye on. While some specific dates are still to be nailed down — mandatory minicamp sessions, for example, that usually take place in early- to mid-June — here are the most important offseason dates on the New England calendar, as viewed from a Patriots’ perspective:
February 24-March 2: The NFL scouting combine, Indianapolis. The first major event on the offseason calendar, depending on who’s present, it should give us some sort of idea not only who the Patriots are mildly interested in — even though they keep their cards close to the vest — as well as who might fill some of the empty spots on the coaching staff. Right now, there’s been no replacements named when it comes to specials teams, wide receiver, and offensive line. (Although this report of an old friend potentially returning is interesting.) At the very least, it could give us an updated version of this GIF.
February 25: The first day for teams to designate franchise or transition players. At this point, it doesn’t look like the Patriots are going to put the franchise tag on any of their looming free agents (Tom Brady’s latest deal included a provision that he won’t be tagged), but it could impact how New England might approach the free agent market when it comes to some other teams (For the record, the franchise/transition tag window goes from Feb. 25 until March 10.)
March 16-18: Tampering Weekend. Teams are eligible to flirt with potential free agents, and while nothing can be consummated, plenty of long-term relationships start on this weekend. Traditionally, the Patriots haven’t done a whole lot of business on tampering weekend, but it will be interesting to hear if they make any moves this time around.
March 18: Happy New Year! The new league year — and free agency — begins at 4 p.m. The biggest question for New England? The status of the quarterback. Multiple reports have indicated that the Patriots would love to have his status wrapped up sooner rather than later, and avoid the sort of situation that plagued them last year when Rob Gronkowski’s relatively late decision to retire left them hamstrung when it came to the free agent market at tight end. But the truth of the matter is that it’s not just Brady’s status that they’d like wrapped up — several veterans (Devin McCourty, Joe Thuney, Matthew Slater) are also heading into 2020 without a deal.
April 20: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs. While there won’t be any real football-like activities, by now, we should have some sort of idea as to which veterans will be returning to Foxborough and which are headed elsewhere.
April 23-25: NFL draft, Las Vegas. The second major team-building activity of the offseason, the Patriots have the 23rd overall pick of the first round. Two years after the Brandin Cooks trade, New England took tackle Isaiah Wynn at No. 23. The last time the Patriots had the No. 23 pick or higher without a deal involved was when they drafted Laurence Maroney at No. 21 pick in 2006. Will they go tight end — as you guys appear to hope — or will it be wide receiver? Offensive line? Quarterback? Defense? Lots of possibilities between now and then.
April 27: A new personnel pipeline? Starting on this date, teams are allowed to request permission to visit with, try out or sign players who are under contract to the XFL at the end of the XFL season. It’s a long shot, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind as you watch XFL games over the next few months.
May 1-4 or 8-11: Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Teams may hold a rookie minicamp on one of these two weekends. The first real chance for some of these first-year players to get a taste of NFL life.
June: Time to go camping. Like we said, we don’t know about specific dates as of yet, but if we don’t see them earlier in this spring, these sessions could very well provide the first look at a handful of players who finished last year on injured reserve, including David Andrews and James Develin.
Late July: Back to work. Training camps usually kick off sometime during the last week of the month.