The Minnesota Vikings and all NFL teams are in full preparation mode for the 2023 season. Evaluations of what preceded in 2022 have been completed, and the clock is ticking for general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell.
In order to prepare, the NFL has key dates that must be followed in order to get the most out of the offseason plans. The first important date is Feb. 21, when teams can place franchise or transition tags on players. There are a lot of big-name candidates who might get designated — Lamar Jackson of the Ravens and Saquon Barkley of the Giants are two of the biggest.
The Scouting Combine in Indianapolis follows, as draft hopefuls gather Feb. 26 to demonstrate their physical talents, mental skills and emotional stability. It is clearly a challenging environment, as all of the players are being judged by coaches, scouts and front office types. Try being yourself under such circumstances. Good luck to all who attend.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith no longer sees any use for the Combine.
“We’re now in an era where we know exactly how fast these guys can run, how much they can lift, how far they can jump, do all of those things,” Smith said. “Why do we insist on them showing up in Indianapolis? It’s not for anything physical, right? It’s for the teams to be able to engage in intrusive employment actions that don’t exist anywhere else.”
College pro days begin March 7, and teams can also conduct video and telephone interviews with players. The pro days are often a much better environment from the players’ perspective. Coaches, scouts and general managers come to the player, and that’s a more favorable scenario than the cattle call at the Combine. Players are much more likely to put their best foot forward and impress potential employers.
The more casual atmosphere of a pro day is also beneficial for the teams. Scouts, coaches and general managers have a chance to talk to each other face-to-face and that’s how trades get started.
The legal tampering period runs from March 13-15. This is when agents and teams can begin negotiating and agreeing to new deals. Teams can officially sign free agents on March 15 at 4 p.m. ET, as that is the start of the new league year.
For a team like the Vikings with so many needs on the defensive side of the ball, this date is more important than ever. While they are $21.3 million over the cap, Adofo-Mensah must know who is going to be cut and who he is going to attempt to sign. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores will provide an upgrade over predecessor Ed Donatell, but he needs better players to be successful.
A dominant superstar or two would be nice, but players who deliver maximum effort on every play must be Minnesota’s standard.
The league will hold its annual meeting in Arizona from March 26-29. In addition to going over possible rule changes – the NFL does this far more than any other sport – head coaches and owners are on hand to lay out their plans for the upcoming season. Jerry Jones will always offer his thoughts. Other owners may not be as willing.
The biggest offseason event is the NFL Draft, a three-day show that will be held April 27-29 in Kansas City. Will Chicago trade quarterback Justin Fields and use the No. 1 pick to draft a new quarterback. Will they keep Fields and trade the pick for a boatload of other choices?
Once the draft is completed, the smartest teams will make the best signings of undrafted rookie free agents. This is a move that rarely gets mentioned, but great players can fall through the cracks. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett, Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, and Ravens placekicker Justin Turner are among the league’s stars who were undrafted.
Rookie minicamps are held in early May, and this is when first impressions are made. The teams know all about the players they have drafted or signed, but now they get to watch them show off their skills in a professional environment. They learn which players are hungry, aggressive and want to improve, and see others who may lack confidence and are somewhat timid.
It’s up to coaches like O’Connell and Flores to bring out the best in these players, as that is what coaching is all about.
And from there, training camp begins in July and the new season will be at hand.
#Vikings #Time #Offseason #Schedule #Maximize #Improvement