There are five-plus months between now and the start of Patriots 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 ones on the team’s calendar.
Feb. 24-March 2: The NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Depending on who’s present, it should give us some sort of idea not only about the players the Patriots are interested in — even though they keep their cards close to the vest — but also who might fill some of the empty spots on the coaching staff. Right now, there have been no replacements named for specials teams, wide receiver, and offensive line. At the very least, it could give us an updated version of this GIF.
Feb. 25: The first day for teams to designate franchise or transition players. At this point, it doesn’t look as if 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 approaches 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 allowed 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 see whether 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 Brady’s status determined 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 at tight end.
But it’s not just Brady; several other veterans (Devin McCourty, Joe Thuney, Matthew Slater) are 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. In the second major team-building activity of the offseason, the Patriots have the 23rd overall pick. Two years after the Brandin Cooks trade, New England took tackle Isaiah Wynn at No. 23 in 2018. 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 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.
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. It’s the first real chance for some of these first-year players to get a taste of NFL life.
June: Time to go camping. As we said, we don’t know about specific dates 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.
Follow Christopher Price @cpriceglobe.