As the first week of the Saints’ offseason nears completion, below is a list of key dates looming in the short-term future:
Tuesday — Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will brief the media for the first time since his team went 7-9 during the 2014 season and missed the playoffs. Loomis had been originally scheduled to have this gathering on Monday, but the Saints notified media on Saturday that it was being pushed back a day.
Jan. 24 — The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In the days leading up to it, coaches will be interviewing college players invited to participate in the game and watching them practice. The Saints typically attend in full force, making the relatively short drive from New Orleans to Mobile.
Jan. 25 — The Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Two Saints had been invited as of Saturday: tight end Jimmy Graham and right guard Jahri Evans. Graham is a three-time Pro Bowler, and Evans is a seven-time Pro Bowler.
Feb. 16 to March 2 — NFL teams have this window to designate franchise or transition players. The Saints have used franchise tags recently on Jimmy Graham (2014), Drew Brees (2012) and Charles Grant (2007) to prevent the players from becoming unrestricted free agents while the team negotiated long-term contract extensions with them. None among Graham, Brees or Grant actually played under the terms of the franchise tag because they all signed long-term deals before the tag kicked into effect.
Feb. 17 to Feb. 23 — The NFL Scouting Combine will be held in Indianapolis. All teams will evaluate and interview numerous draft prospects coming out of college, including the most highly-rated ones.
March 7 to 10 — During this window, clubs can contact and begin negotiating with representatives of players who are due to become unrestricted free agents at 3 p.m. on March 10.
March 10 — Teams can begin signing unrestricted free agents at 3 p.m. They have until 3 p.m. this day to make qualifying offers to any restricted free agents, which would give them a period of five days to match any contract offers that might be made to a restricted free agent. And teams have until 3 p.m. to be under the 2015 salary cap, which is estimated to be between $141 million and $144 million as opposed to $133 million in 2014.
March 22-25 — The NFL will hold its annual meeting in Phoenix. Top brass of all league teams attend: Saints coach Sean Payton, owner Tom Benson and General Manager Mickey Loomis went to the 2014 meeting in Orlando.
April 6 — Any teams that hired new head coaches at the end of the 2014 regular season can start their offseason workout programs.
April 20 — Teams with returning head coaches can begin their offseason workout program. Unless something extremely unexpected happens, this is when the Saints will begin their offseason workouts.
April 24 — This is the deadline for restricted free agents to sign any qualifying offers extended to them.
April 29 — This is the deadline teams have to match any offers made to their restricted free agents by other clubs.
April 30 to May 2 — The NFL draft will be held in Chicago.
May 8 to 11; May 15 to 18 — Teams can have their three-day, post-draft rookie minicamp on these dates. They must be either Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.
June 1 — For any players removed from teams’ roster or acquired via waivers or trades, their unamortized bonus signing amounts won’t be fully included in a team’s salary until the start of the 2016 league year. It was after this date in 2014 that the Saints brought back veteran center Jonathan Goodwin, who was in New Orleans from 2006-10 and San Francisco from 2011-13. Goodwin’s return had been strongly rumored very early in the preseason, but it wasn’t until the beginning of June that a deal bringing him back was cemented.
June 21-27 — The NFL will hold its rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio.
July 15 — This is the deadline for any player who was given a franchise tag to sign a long-term deal that would nullify the tag. After this, to play in the 2015 season, the player’s only option is to play under the terms of the franchise tag, which amounts to a one-year contract, albeit a lucrative one.
Mid-July — Teams begin holding their preseason training camps. Rookies and first-year players can begin reporting to camps seven days before a team’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veterans, which can be no earlier than either July 15 or 15 days before a team’s preseason opener, whichever is later.
Compiled by staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas