The 2011 NFL season is officially in the books so we might as well lay out a timeline for what will happen between now and the start of the 2012 season.
February 20: Franchise Tag can be applied.
Cliff Avril doesn’t want to return to the Lions just because of the franchise tag and it isn’t likely that the organization wants to go that route either. Fans shouldn’t expect the Lions to slap the tag on Avril, or anyone else, on the 20th but that right becomes an option.
February 23-28: NFL Combine
NFL personnel will once again invade downtown Indianapolis, this time to interview the next crop of NFL hopefuls and watch them run around in gym clothes. We’ll hear rumors for a quarterback or two bombing the Wonderlic and productive college football players will see their draft stock plummet because their measurables are less than desirable.
March 5: Deadline to apply Franchise Tag
The Lions will have to make a hard evaluation of where they are in negotiating with their own free agents in determining if it makes sense to use the franchise tag.
March 13: Free agency begins at 4 PM
Will Jim Schwartz be waiting in anyone’s driveway at the start of this free agency period? Likely not as the Lions will be focused on retaining their own players within the constraints of the salary cap.
March 25-28: NFL owners meetings
The owners, or a designated team representative like as is the case with the Lions (Tom Lewand), will travel to Florida for a social work gathering in which they will probably drink heavily and talk about their views of the league from their respective luxury boxes.
Mid-April: Teams begin offseason programs
NFL teams are allowed to have 10 OTAs as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams with new coaching staffs will use the time to install their systems with the veterans while teams like the Lions can work on building consistency and gaining a mastery over what they want to do.
April 26-28: The NFL Draft begins in NYC
It’s almost like the Super Bowl with every team involved and even though the Lions will be picking lower than we’ve grown accustomed to, the excitement should still be high considering the confidence the front office has earned. Maybe this will be the year the Lions actually have an opportunity to trade down.
Late July: Training Camps begin
Position battles, rookies’ performance, and unfortunately injuries will be hot topics as the Lions hit the field in preparation for the 2012 season.
Early August: Preseason begins
Real games return! The crowds tend to be sparse and half the players on the field won’t be on the opening day roster but it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new season, at least through the first two or three games. Then it’s just time to get on with the stuff that counts.
September 6: Season opener
As Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants will host the first game of the season. With the Packers, Saints, Steelers and usual crop of NFC East opponents scheduled to travel to Met Life Stadium this year, the league will have no problem creating a high profile game to start off another season.
We’ll be here through the thick and thin for what should be an exciting offseason leading up to one of the most highly anticipated Detroit Lions seasons in a very long time.