What is the NFL Offseason?
The NFL offseason is the time between the Super Bowl and the beginning of the preseason of the next NFL season. The offseason is a chance for NFL teams to improve their roster by re-signing players on the team that have expiring contracts, signing free agent players whose contracts have expired from other teams, drafting college players, and conducting training camps for new and returning players. Teams also participate in joint practices with other teams and play preseason games during the offseason.
The NFL offseason is a time for heavy coverage of each NFL team by sports journalists as player movement is abundant and big-name college athletes participate in the NFL Combine before the NFL draft. Every move is watched by fans and the media as there is no football going on. General managers are under constant scrutiny from both the media and the fans during the offseason.
NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is the testing of top college players who wish to be drafted into the NFL, and it occurs near the end of the NFL offseason. The NFL Combine is divided into three portions: the mental testing and physical measurements, the physical testing, and the team interviews. In order for athletes to participate in the NFL Combine, they must first receive an invitation from the NFL. The Combine is held annually at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana from the end of February to the beginning of March.
335 players get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine by the NFL.
Parts of the Combine
The first portion of the NFL Combine is the mental testing and physical measurement portion. During this portion, athletes are quizzed on football and general knowledge to test their mental capability. This examines their Football IQ, meaning game sense, or ability to think during the game.
The second portion of the NFL Combine is the physical testing portion. During this portion of the Combine, athletes participate in multiple drills that test their physical capabilities, like the bench press or the 40-yard dash. Speed, strength, and hand-eye coordination are the most important skills, but almost every physical ability of a Combine athlete is tested in some way.
The final portion of the NFL Combine is the interview portion. During this part of the Combine, NFL teams that wish to speak with the Combine athletes can do so. This is usually the first step in the draft process for highly-coveted athletes. Seeming mature and intelligent is important during this stage. Bad interview skills can drop the player's draft stock dramatically.
Free Agency and Trading
The most followed part of the NFL offseason is free-agent signings and the trading of players amongst teams. This occurs all throughout the offseason, and can also occur during the regular season. Trading occurs all the way through the offseason until the midpoint of the NFL regular season, while free agency occurs throughout both the offseason and regular season. NFL contracts typically end at the end of the regular season, so big-name athletes who go on the free-agent market are usually signed to a team before the regular season begins. If a player is not signed to a team by the time the regular season begins, they can still be signed by a team at any time during the regular season.
The NFL Draft is often the spotlight of the NFL offseason. By the time the NFL Draft rolls around in mid-April, most of the major free-agent signings have already occurred. The young talent takes center stage as all of the NFL teams take turns drafting eligible players to join their roster for preseason training. Teams draft based on needs as well as predicted talents in hopes that their draft picks will make the final roster. After the NFL Draft, there are no major events before Preseason training begins.
Spring and Preseason Training
After the NFL Draft, teams run minicamps for new players joining the team, as well as current players on the rosters. There are two series of training: spring and preseason training. Both training camps are comprised of the same thing, the only difference being they occur at different times. Spring training is shortly after the NFL Draft and Preseason Training begins a couple of weeks before the season begins. This is a time for players to become more familiar with the playbook and to build chemistry with their teammates.
Hall of Fame Game
The Hall of Fame Game is the final segment of the NFL offseason. It's often the border between the NFL offseason and the NFL preseason. The Hall of Fame Game is played between two teams who have a major alumnus being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, one NFC team and one AFC team. The Hall of Fame Game is the first part of the NFL enshrinement week, the week former NFL players, coaches, or owners are inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. It is also the first preseason game on the NFL schedule.