We are entering the dry period of the NFL, the time of year where we begin to gear up for free agency and the NFL draft. The NFL has not officially released an ‘important dates’ memo to the public but we’ve been able to cull some of these dates in order to piece together an offseason roadmap for our readers.
First off, if you’re looking for information on the 2021 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the quick answer is it’s been cancelled due to COVID-19. Instead, the league will rely on virtual interviews and evaluations and Pro Day-style workouts to be held on college campuses around the country.
As for the rest of the offseason, Darryl Slater of NJ Advance Media put together this quick timeline.
The franchise and transition tag window will open on February 23 and close on March 9. The New York Giants have two candidates for a possible tag — defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. This is unlikely since the one-year tag price for a defensive lineman will be approximately $19 million and the Giants just don’t have a lot of flexible salary cap space this year.
Free agency opens at 4:00 p.m. ET on St. Patrick’s Day with the negotiating window opening 48 hours before that. The Giants hope to have closure on either Williams or Tomlinson before March 15 rolls around, but if they don’t, they might get priced out of the market on both players.
March 17 is also significant in that the fifth-year option for both tight end Evan Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers becomes fully guaranteed. The Giants aren’t likely to touch Peppers and his $6.77 million salary but Engram’s status could be up in the air. He was a Pro Bowler in 2020 but the cap-strapped Giants may not see him as worth the $6.013 million he is scheduled to ear this year.
Other dates to keep in mind are April 19, the first day teams with returning head coaches can begin offseason workouts and April 29, the first date of three-day 2021 NFL draft. The Giants hold the 11th overall pick in the first round.
May 3 is also a key date for the Giants. It is the deadline to exercise the fifth-year option on 2018 first round draft picks. For the Giants, that means Saquon Barkley.
As per Slater:
almost certainly will pick up Barkley’s option for 2022. The new collective bargaining agreement, signed last year, means that fifth-year options — beginning with 2018 first-round picks — are now fully guaranteed at the time they are picked up, rather than at the start of the next league year.
This doesn’t mean much for the Giants and Barkley, since Gettleman will pick up the option this offseason and then — either this offseason or next offseason — work toward a long-term contract. Barkley’s fifth-year option for 2022 is projected to be worth just shy of $9 million.
That is all contingent on Barkley logging in a full and productive season in 2021. If he gets injured again and misses time, it will be the third consecutive year Barkley will have missed time and the Giants will likely let him play out his fifth year and take their chances rather than lock him up long term.