Key dates for the Ravens as the NFL offseason officially begins

The Super Bowl is over and that means every NFL team, except maybe for the Philadelphia Eagles, who are awaiting their championship parade Thursday, can turn its full attention to the 2018 season. The Ravens have been in that mode for weeks.

Below are the key dates on the NFL calendar from now until the draft.

Feb. 20: First day teams can designate franchise players

Given their salary cap constraints and their current pending free-agent class, the Ravens are not expected to use the franchise tag this year. The wide receiver-needy team will be monitoring whether any of the top pending free-agent receivers, a group headed by Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry, get franchised and taken off the open market.

Feb. 27-March 5: NFL scouting combine, Indianapolis

Ravens officials will get their most extensive look at the top members of the 2018 NFL draft class in Indianapolis. Draft prospects participate in on-field workouts and physical and medical testing, and meet with NFL teams and reporters. Some nondraft business also figures to get done in Indianapolis with agents and executives from every NFL team on hand. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to have his first news conference here since it was announced that he’ll step aside at the end of the 2018 season.

March 12-14: Three-day nontampering negotiating window with free agents

During this period, teams are permitted to express interest in and engage in contract negotiations with representatives of pending free agents. However, a contract cannot be fully completed until after 4 p.m. March 14. Most of the top free agents will know where they’re signing by the end of this negotiating window.

March 14: The start of free agency and the new league year

Free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. Before that, teams have to exercise player option clauses on 2018 contracts — the Ravens will have to make a decision on cornerback Brandon Carr — and submit contract tenders to exclusive-rights free agents. Running back Alex Collins is the Ravens’ primary exclusive-rights free agent. Teams also can officially execute trades from this point forward.

March 25-28: Annual league meetings, Orlando, Fla.

Rule changes will be discussed and voted on by NFL owners this week. The event also features media availability with head coaches and, in some cases, high-ranking team officials.

April 16: Teams with returning head coaches can begin offseason workout programs

Many of the Ravens players will be back at the team facility and accelerating their preparation for training camp under the guidance of Steve Saunders, the team’s director of performance.

Mid-April: Release of NFL regular-season schedules

The league won’t announce a definitive date for the release of the 2018 schedule until much later in the offseason. However, if tradition holds, it will be at some point in mid-April before the countdown to the draft begins. The Ravens know they’ll play their eight home games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the road, they’ll play the Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans.

April 26-28: NFL draft, Dallas

The Ravens will be picking 16th in the first round April 26, and they’re expected to have eight total draft selections barring any trades. With the team lacking in offensive skill-position players and without much salary cap space, this will be one of the most important drafts for the Ravens in years.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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