- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's the first Sunday in a long time without football. Admit it, you're a little depressed. It's OK. I understand.
The 2014 regular season is too far away to start a countdown. If I put up how many days it was in this space, it would only add to your depression. So instead, let's use today to look ahead to things that are coming in the next few months.
Below is the list of important dates this offseason. I'll include thoughts on what it means for the St. Louis Rams where necessary.
Feb. 17 -- Teams can begin applying the franchise tag to players.
Don't expect the Rams to use the tag on anyone. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is the only "must sign" free agent they have and the team isn't going to pay the franchise tag freight to retain him. The only thing the Rams will gain from this is the free agent market will crystallize as other teams tag players and sign them to extensions.
Feb. 19-25 -- Scouting combine in Indianapolis.
This is the time for some of the most important pre-draft preparations. Teams get the chance to interview all draft prospects and, most importantly, medical information. This can also be the time where discussions about potential trades begin. That isn't to say the Rams would make a deal for the No. 2 pick here, especially since nobody knows what's going to happen with the first pick like they did in 2012. But seeds can be planted. Likewise, conversations between agents and teams for free agents also commonly start taking place in Indy.
March 3 -- The final day to use the franchise tag.
March 8-11 -- Teams can begin negotiations with players who will be unrestricted free agents. Qualifying offers to restricted free agents are made in this window.
This was a new addition to the landscape last year. In an effort to quell the tampering that goes on at the combine, this was built in to allow teams to start going after players they want. If Indy lays the groundwork, this is where the actual negotiating begins.
March 11 -- Free agency begins at 4 p.m. Teams may begin signing players and trading players. Teams also must be under the salary cap.
With the addition of the negotiating period last year, many deals were signed and delivered right after it all started. Probably reasonable to expect the same this year.
March 23-26 -- Annual league meetings in Orlando, Fla.
This is where compensatory draft picks will be awarded to teams for previous free agent losses. The Rams are likely to get a late-round pick or two out of the deal to add to the nine they already have. Also, it's probably safe to assume the Los Angeles football situation will come up a time or two here.
April 7 -- Teams with a new head coach may begin offseason workout programs.
This doesn't apply to the Rams.
April 21 -- Teams with returning coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
May 8-10 -- NFL draft.
Yes, that does say May. I know it has been talked about before but it's still bothersome to see it there in black and white. Draft speculation is one of the most popular pastimes around and it's going to go to a new level this year with an extra couple of weeks. The Rams currently have nine selections this year with the likely addition of more through the compensatory picks. It's the last thing on this calendar but it's also the one I'm sure we'll discuss the most between now and then.