Key dates for Ravens as NFL offseason begins

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh, left, and owner Steve Bisciotti talk before the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, the countdown to the new league year, which starts March 10, can begin.

On the immediate horizon for the Ravens' top decision-makers is a trip to Florida for their annual offseason planning meeting at the home of team owner Steve Bisciotti. With several key free agents, a couple of potential high-profile salary cap casualties and a few obvious holes on the roster, there is plenty to discuss.


The Ravens do have time on their side. Here's a look at key NFL offseason dates:

Monday: Waiver system begins and teams can officially release players -- Ravens have already announced plans to release defensive tackle Terrence Cody, who is the subject of an animal cruelty probe. However, Cody is a pending free agent, and he wasn't expected back anyway. The Ravens do have decisions to make on several established veterans who could be in jeopardy as the team looks to gain more flexibility under the salary cap. That group includes defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Lardarius Webb and wide receiver-kick returner Jacoby Jones. Those decisions, though, likely won't be made until later in the offseason.


Feb. 17-23: NFL scouting combine, Indianapolis -- Ravens officials get their most extensive look at the top prospects from the 2015 draft class. Prospects get put through various drills and tests, along with interviews from teams and the media. Agents also descend on Indianapolis, giving organizations an opportunity to accelerate contract negotiations with their own pending free agents.

Feb. 28: Regional combine, Owings Mills -- The Ravens host one of several regional combines before the draft. This one is primarily for local prospects who weren't invited to the scouting combine.

March 2: Deadline to put franchise or transition tag on players -- Teams have until 4 p.m. to officially place the franchise or transition tags on pending unrestricted free agents, thus keeping them from the open market. The Ravens have used the franchise tags in past years to retain players like Ngata and Ray Rice. But there is no obvious candidate for the tag this year.

March 7: Contact with pending free agents can begin during three-day window -- Teams can officially start calling the representatives of free agents to express interest in the player and begin to discuss the framework of a contract offer. But deals cannot be reached until the official start of free agency three days later.

March 10: Start of the new league year and free agency -- At 4 p.m. Eastern Time, teams officially can sign unrestricted free agents. The Ravens could have as many as 15, a list headed by running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Owen Daniels and outside linebacker-defensive end Pernell McPhee. Also on this day, trades can officially be consummated and teams need to extend contract offers to exclusive-rights free agents and submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

March 22-25: Owner's meetings, Phoenix --This annual event features meetings and votes on potential rule changes, the awarding of compensatory draft picks and interviews with all 32 head coaches.Bisciotti also traditionally sits down for a question-and-answer session with select members of the local media in attendance.

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April 20: Start of offseason workout programs -- Players officially can be back at the Under Armour Performance Center for the start of organized workouts. This period is especially key for players who are rehabbing injuries.

April 24: Deadline for restricted free agents -- This marks the final day for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with teams. The Ravens' two primary restricted free agents are safety Will Hill and kicker Justin Tucker. One of the game's top kickers, Tucker could attract interest from other teams, but the Ravens would have the right to match any offer sheet or they would receive draft pick compensation.


April 30-May 2: The NFL draft -- The Ravens could have as many as nine picks in the three-day draft. They currently have one selection in the first, second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds, and they also are expected to get as many as three compensatory selections due to their free-agent losses last offseason. The Ravens' first pick will be at No. 26 overall.

May 8-11: First allowable dates for rookie minicamps -- Members of the team's draft class, along with undrafted rookie free agents and players getting tryouts, will get their first exposure to the NFL lifestyle with practices and meetings.

Mid-July: Start of training camp -- The Ravens haven't officially announced the reporting dates but training camps for all 32 teams will open at various times during the middle of the month.