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Key dates as the NFL’s 2022 league year begins for the Falcons

Atlanta’s clearing cap space, and they’ll soon have a chance to use it.

NFL: FEB 08 Super Bowl LVI - Super Bowl Experience Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Believe it or not, we’re almost ready to kick off free agency in earnest. You can tell because there are wild trades being agreed to and the Falcons are making moves to free up cap space, and as of the time I write this they should have north of $16 million owing to the Calvin Ridley suspension and the Matt Ryan restructure.

Here are the dates you need to mark down (if you haven’t already) as we get ready for the Falcons do big things* in free agency.

Monday, March 14: Legal tampering

Always a good time. Teams can start talking to agents of players about to hit the open market, and can essentially agree to contracts in principle. You’ll see a raft of signings announced before the market even opens from big name NFL insiders like Adam Schefter who essentially are ventriloquist dummies for enthusiastic agents, which makes it a lively day.

That begins at 12 p.m., so you may want to perk your ears up on your lunch break. If the Falcons are going to make any kind of real splash, you’ll likely hear about it over the two days before free agency actually opens.

Wednesday, March 16: New league year begins

Negotiated contracts can be made official at 4 p.m., and NFL teams have to pick up any option years in contracts by that time. The Falcons will also need to make offers to restricted free agents like Olamide Zaccheaus if they’re interested in keeping them around.

In addition, the top 51 rule goes into effect for 2022 and all teams have to be under the salary cap by then. Fortunately for the Falcons, they’ve already gotten there and won’t have to sweat bullets carving out enough space before the deadline this year. They still need to create more space to do anything of note in free agency, however.

Sunday, March 27: League meetings

The league will discuss rule changes, bylaws, and so forth at this meeting. Without Sean Payton in the league, it’s not clear whether they’ll find a way to shoehorn in any new and ill-advised rules the Saints whined about, but it is tradition.

Monday, April 18: Offseason programs begin

The Falcons don’t have a new head coach this year and won’t get the early start that brings with it, so they can start their offseason workouts and the like in mid-April.

Thursday, April 28: NFL Draft

The Falcons are expected to have eight selections for the draft this year, including three picks in the first two round, and will need to nail this class to drastically improve both now and in the future. No pressure, though!

May 2: Exercise fifth year options for 2019 draft picks

This would be the deadline for Chris Lindstrom’s fifth-year option (a no-brainer) and Kaleb McGary’s fifth-year option (which probably won’t happen). We’ll likely get Atlanta’s decision well before then, however.

There’ll be plenty to follow, but that covers key dates for the next couple of months. Let’s hope the Falcons look a lot better by May 2 than they do right now on March 13.

*Things may in fact be small. No batteries included.