With Super Bowl LVII behind us and the NFL’s 2022 season in the books, all of the 32 teams in the league are now officially in offseason mode. For the New England Patriots, who finished with an 8-9 record without qualifying for the playoffs, it will be an interesting one: free agents need to be re-signed, holes in all three phases addressed, and the process of building around quarterback Mac Jones continued.
We do not know what the coming weeks and months will bring for the organization, but we can tell when the major developments are schedule to take place. Let’s set the 2023 offseason calendar for the Patriots.
- February 21: Franchise/Transition player designation period begins.
With the NFL setting its salary cap for the 2023 season at $224.8 million, franchise and transition numbers have been finalized as well. The Patriots have ample resources — their current cap space stands at $34.07 million, per Miguel Benzan — but them using either tag still seems unlikely: they have few high-profile players on the list of free agents, and it appears none of them are truly worth an investment of that kind.
- February 28-March 6: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis IN.
Despite some speculation it might move elsewhere, the Scouting Combine will again take place in Indianapolis this year. The event, which will feature more than 300 players hoping to get drafted, will once again be held at Lucas Oil Stadium and simultaneously serve as the unofficial kickoff for free agency and the NFL trade period.
- March 7: Franchise/Transition player designation period ends at 4 p.m. ET.
As mentioned above, the franchise designation window will likely not be relevant for the Patriots and their free agency planning this year. The team last used the tag in 2020 to keep guard Joe Thuney from hitting the open market; Thuney left a year later and just recently won his first Super Bowl ring away from New England and third overall.
- March 7: College Pro Days, Top-30 visits begin.
While most of the eyes during the Pro Day cycle will be on measurements and on-field workouts, teams are also permitted to get to know players on a more personal level. Those include interviews, meetings, and private dinners. Additionally, clubs are permitted to host up to 30 non-local players and to hold one-hour video or phone interviews.
- March 13-15: Clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with players who will become unrestricted free agents at the start of free agency.
The so-called legal tampering window will be open in the two days before the start of free agency. While deals cannot officially be signed at this point, the basic framework of contracts can already be discussed. Of course, there has always been some wiggle room teams were able to exploit. Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown agreeing to a contract within nine minutes of the window opening back in 2019 is a good example for how the tampering rules are treated in the NFL.
- March 15: The 2023 league year and free agency period begin at 4 p.m. ET.
Once the clock strikes 4 p.m. on March 15, free agency officially opens and teams have to be under the salary cap. The Patriots have numerous players headed for free agency, including several starters: wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, running back Damien Harris, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, cornerback Jonathan Jones, and special teamer Matthew Slater.
- March 15: Prior to 4 p.m. ET clubs must exercise all relevant contract options for 2023.
While the Patriots have no option clauses in their contracts for 2023, the 4 p.m. deadline is relevant for the safety Devin McCourty: his contract will void that day — the same procedure as lats year. This means that he will become a free agent if not re-signed at that point. In 2022, New England did in fact end up re-signing McCourty.
- March 15: Prior to 4 p.m. ET clubs must submit offers to their restricted free agents.
New England has two players qualifying as restricted free agents this year: offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste and cornerback Myles Bryant. Neither of the two is guaranteed to see an offer sheet come his way.
- March 15: Prior to 4 p.m. ET clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive-rights free agents.
The Patriots one free agent falling into this category this offseason: wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson. However, him receiving a tender offer is not guaranteed after he missed all of 2022 on injured reserve and was only a limited contributor the year prior.
- April 3: Clubs that hired a new head coach after the 2022 regular season can begin offseason workout programs.
- April 18: Clubs with returning head coaches can begin offseason workout programs.
With Bill Belichick set to return for a 24th season as New England’s head coach, his team is scheduled to start its offseason workout program that day.
- April 21: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
As noted above, two New England players fall in this category. Until that day, outside teams are allowed to sign them to offer sheets — sheets the Patriots can only match if they previously tendered the RFA in question (if not he would already be an unrestricted free agent at that point).
- April 27: Deadline to time, test, visit, and interview draft-eligible players.
The first day of the 2023 draft is also when teams have their last chance to take a close look at prospects. As noted above, teams can conduct up to 30 in-house visits as part of their evaluation process.
- April 27-29: 2023 NFL Draft, Kansas City MO.
The Patriots are currently projected to own 11 selections in the 2023 draft, including their first at No. 14 overall. As opposed to last year, the team will have some stability in its scouting department and front office this time around: director of player personnel Matt Groh has been Bill Belichick’s right-hand man throughout the process, being supported by college scouting director Camren Williams and scouting director Eliot Wolf.
- May 1: Deadline for clubs to exercise the fifth-fear option for players selected in the first round of the 2020 draft.
The Patriots traded out of the first round in 2020, with second-round selection Kyle Dugger their first pick that year. Accordingly, this deadline has only minor relevance for the club. However, New England will still keep a close eye on it to identify potential trade targets whose current teams do not pick up the option.
- May 5-8 or May 12-15: Rookie minicamp.
NFL teams can conduct a three-day rookie minicamp on one of these two dates. All drafted and undrafted players acquired are mandated to participate. Furthermore, clubs can use this opportunity to invite unsigned players on a workout basis.