The turn of the calendar from February to March means free agency is just around the corner. Here is a quick rundown of some important dates to keep in mind as the free agency period approaches:
March 4 – Franchise tag deadline
The Lions aren’t expected to use the franchise tag this year but the deadline is still one to watch as it will take some very desirable players off the market.
March 9 – Free agent negotiations may begin
A new wrinkle to the free agency period this year is an early opening in which teams can negotiate with agents of players who will be unrestricted free agents. Nothing becomes official until free agency opens in earnest on March 12. We could be in for a wild couple days filled with rumors and posturing for competing offers before ink can be put to paper.
March 12 – Qualifying offer deadline
Teams must make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents and tender minimum salary offers to their exclusive rights free agents by 4 p.m. Qualifying offers give teams the right of first refusal (opportunity to match another team’s offer) as provides for compensation in the event the player signs with another club. Jason Fox, Amari Spievey and Willie Young are the Lions’ only restricted free agents.
March 12 – Free agency opens
At 4 p.m. all expiring contracts will be officially over and the free agency period will officially be underway. It is also at this time that all clubs’ top 51 cap hits must fit under the salary cap, which has been set at $123 million for the 2013 season.
March 12 – Trading period
Not only does free agency open, but so does the trading period. It won’t be as active of a market as free agency but it is another tool that will be at general managers’ disposal.