A point-by-point look at the NFL calendar, as released by the league Tuesday, with a few thoughts:
Monday, July 25
Free agency list published. The league will make available a list featuring players eligible to become free agents beginning Friday at 6 p.m. ET.
Tuesday, July 26
The trading period opens at 10 a.m. ET. Holding the trading period before free agency works well for teams such as the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. There’s time for the quarterback trade market to shake out before fallback options sign elsewhere in free agency. Stacking the trading period atop free agency would have thrown teams into a higher-pressure situation.
Team facilities open at 10 a.m. ET. Players can report for physicals/voluntary conditioning.
Roster limits expand to 90. Limits were at 80 for years. The extra players will help teams get through exhibitions without exposing key players to injuries, particularly when those players haven’t had time to get into hitting shape.
Period for signing rookies opens at 10 a.m. ET. Draft choices and undrafted rookie free agents can begin negotiating and signing with teams. Teams can ask players to visit their facilities for physical exams. Any contracts signed will go into effect once the players ratify the labor agreement by vote. This is a tough situation for undrafted rookies. They could sign with a team with an opening at their position, only to have that team change the dynamics of the position dramatically in free agency. Signed rookies can participate fully with their teams during training camps.
Period for negotiating with free agents opens at 10 a.m. ET. Teams can negotiate with and even reach agreements with their own free agents and free agents from other teams. They can also negotiate with franchise players. This could be a nerve-wracking period for teams. What’s to stop a team or agent from announcing a $20 million deal with one team, only to have another team swoop in with a sweeter offer before the signing period opens? Agreements are only agreements. Nothing can be signed until later in the week. Free agents cannot yet make visits or submit to tryouts.
Wednesday, July 27
Ten teams can open camp. The league followed long-established guidelines for determining camp dates. Arizona, Seattle, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, New England, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Diego can open training camps. Whether some or all teams actually open camps remains unclear. Teams can do so no earlier than 15 days before their first exhibitions. These teams have openers Aug. 11.
Thursday, July 28
Ten more teams can open camp. Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington open their exhibition seasons Aug. 12. Each can open camp Thursday under the 15-day rule.
Waiver period opens at 4:01 p.m. ET. Teams can begin releasing players at this time. Doing so before the signing period opens Friday spares teams from paying full workout bonuses in some cases.
Friday, July 29
Ten more teams can open camp. Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tennessee and the New York Giants open their exhibition seasons Aug. 13. They can open camp Friday under the 15-day rule. This means the Rams have less time than their division rivals to prepare for the regular season. A day or two wouldn’t matter much in a normal season, and it might not matter much in another month. Every day counts in the short term.
Free-agency signing period opens at 6 p.m. ET. Teams reaching agreements earlier in the week will begin finding out whether those agreements lead to signed contracts. Teams can also start bringing in free agents for visits and tryouts. Players signed during this period and before formal ratification of the labor agreement must report to their teams for meetings and such, but they cannot practice or work out with their teams until the new league year begins Aug. 4. The first exhibitions are Aug. 11. It’s tough to envision newly signed players getting onto the field one week after joining their teams, but this is an unusual year. We shouldn’t rule out anything at this point. The way I read these rules, players with existing contracts — including contracts acquired by trade, presumably — would be able to practice with their teams immediately. Any team acquiring Kevin Kolb could, in theory, have him on the field quickly. But if the Seattle Seahawks signed Tarvaris Jackson or re-signed Matt Hasselbeck, or if the San Francisco 49ers re-signed Alex Smith, those players might not be able to join their teammates on the field before Aug. 4. Of course, any trade involving Kolb would be contingent on a new deal for him. How would a new deal affect his ability to practice? I’ll let you know when I find out. Please do the same if you see more on this. Update: The NFL says a player could not practice before Aug. 4 if he renegotiated his contract following a trade.
Sunday, July 31
Two remaining teams open camp. Houston and the New York Jets do not open their exhibition seasons until Aug. 15. They become the final two teams to report.
Thursday, Aug. 4
New league year begins at 4:01 p.m. ET. Teams must be in compliance with salary-cap restriction at this time, assuming players have formally ratified the agreement. All contracts signed July 26 or later take effect at this time.
Saturday, Aug. 9
Reporting date to get accrued season. Moving up this date should dissuade some players from holding out deep into the season. Previously, players could report deep into the regular season and still qualify with an accrued season. Players need four accrued seasons to reach unrestricted free agency.
These are the key dates heading into the first exhibition weekend. Teams must reduce to 75 players Aug. 30 and to 53 players by Sept. 3.
How calendar could affect trades, signings – NFC West Blog – ESPN.