Agent’s Take: 2021 NFL offseason dates to know for free agency, contract options, franchise tags and more


The Buccaneers easily defeated the Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV to end Kansas City’s quest to become the first NFL team to defend the championship since the 2004 Patriots. With the offseason officially kicking off, financial decisions begin to take center stage for all NFL teams with an expected sharp decline in the current $198.2 million salary cap. The decisions made in the early part of the offseason can have long lasting ramifications for teams.

Here’s a look at key offseason dates running through the first week of the 2021 league year, which begins on March 17. Some dates have league-wide importance. Other dates can potentially affect specific player contracts and the salary cap of individual teams because they are crucial to the timing of contract restructures, pay cuts and players being released. Notable players have been highlighted on the appropriate date with how the event is specified in their respective contracts. Less heralded players are only mentioned on dates without a lot of activity.

Feb. 8

(2021 waiver system begins)

NFL: Players with fewer than four years of service for benefit purposes are subject to waivers and their contracts can be claimed by other teams. Players with four or more years of service become free agents when released and can be immediately signed.

Feb. 10

(Day 3 of waiver period)

Raiders: Tight end Darren Waller’s $6.02 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. Waller’s base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Feb. 12

(Day 5 of waiver period/5 days after 2020 League Year Super Bowl)

Seahawks: Quarterback Russell Wilson’s $19 million 2021 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed and $5 million of linebacker Bobby Wagner’s $13.15 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $5 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Broncos: First day for the Broncos to exercise options for defensive back Kareem Jackson and linebacker Von Miller’s 2021 contract years with $1.5 of Jackson’s $10 million 2021 base salary becoming fully guaranteed with the option being exercised and $7 million of Miller’s $17.5 million 2021 base salary fully guaranteed if the option is exercised. The deadline to exercise these options is the last day of the 2020 league year, which is March 17.

Lions: Defensive end Romeo Okwara’s 2021 contract year voids. He will be an unrestricted free agent when 2021 League Year starts. The Lions will have a $901,668 cap charge because of the signing bonus proration for Okwara’s 2021 contract year.

Cardinals: Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell’s 2021-24 contract years void. Campbell becomes an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2021 League Year. The Cardinals will have a $4 million cap charge from the bonus proration relating to these contract years.

49ers: Running back Jerick McKinnon’s 2021 contract year voids. He will be an unrestricted free agent when the 2021 League Year begins on March 17. The 49ers will have a $2 million cap charge relating to the bonus proration from the 2021 contract year.

Feb. 23

(22nd day before start of 2021 League Year)

NFL: The 15-day period where teams can designate franchise or transition players begins.

Rams: Outside linebacker/defensive end Leonard Floyd’s 2021 and 2022 contract years void. Floyd becomes an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2021 League Year . The Rams will have a $3,333,334 million cap charge from the bonus proration relating to these contract years.

Jaguars: Deadline for the Jaguars to exercise an option on tight end Tyler Eifert’s 2021 contract worth $5.25 million with an additional $2 million in incentives. $1.5 million of Eifert’s $4.15 million base salary is fully guaranteed with the option being exercised. $5,437,500 of cap room will be gained from declining the option.

Chiefs: Defensive end Alex Okafor’s 2021 contract year voids. He will be an unrestricted free agent when 2021 League Year starts. The Chiefs will have a $2 million cap charge because of the signing bonus proration for Okafor’s 2021 contract year.

March 7

(10th day prior to first day of 2020 League Year)

Saints: Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins‘ 2021 and 2022 contract years void. He becomes an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2021 League Year . The Saints will have a $4 million cap charge from Rankins’ 2021 and 2022 signing bonus proration after voiding.

March 9

(8 days prior to start of 2021 League Year)

NFL: The period for designating franchise or transition players ends at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Cowboys: Dallas is expected to designated quarterback Dak Prescott as a franchise player for a second straight year if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal by this deadline. It will cost the Cowboys $37,690,800 to franchise Prescott.

March 15-17

NFL: Teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of prospective unrestricted free agents during a two-day period beginning March 15 at noon Eastern Time and ending at 4 p.m. ET on March 17. In the two-day window, prospective unrestricted free agents can’t visit teams or have direct contact with team employees, except those from their current clubs. A player’s ability to re-sign with his current club isn’t affected by the rule. The negotiating period does not apply to unsigned players receiving restricted free agent, franchise or transition tenders.

March 17

(2020 League Year ends at 4 p.m. Eastern Time; first day of 2021 League Year begins)

NFL: The top 51 begins. Only the top 51 salaries (i.e.; cap numbers), including unsigned franchise, transition, restricted free agent and exclusive-rights tenders on a team count against the salary cap during the offseason. All teams must be under the salary cap prior to 4 p.m. Eastern Time..

NFL: The 2021 League Year and free agency begin at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

NFL: The trading period begins at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Lions-Rams: Trade between teams involving Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff becomes official.

Cardinals: 10-day window to pick up options on safety Budda Baker and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins‘ 2024 contract years for $14.2 million and $14.915 million respectively opens. A $7.1 million payment is necessary for Baker’s 2024 contract year. His 2021 base salary reduces from a fully guaranteed $11.1 million to a fully guaranteed $4 million with the option being exercised. If the required $9 million payment for Hopkins’ 2024 season isn’t made, his 2021 base salary is a fully guaranteed $13.75 million instead of a fully guaranteed $4.75 million.

Eagles: The five-day period for the team to exercise an option for offensive tackle Lane Johnson voiding 2026 contract year begins. A $4 million payment to pick up this 2026 contract year will reduce Johnson’s fully guaranteed 2021 base salary from $13.565 million to $9.565 million.

Bills: The first day of a five-day period for the team to exercise options for offensive tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Tre’Davious White’s 2024 and 2025 contract years worth $10.3 million and. $12,535,093, respectively. Paying the required $7.5 million for Dawkins’ 2024 contract will drop his fully guaranteed $14.8 million 2021 base salary to a fully guaranteed $7.3 million. The $7.5 million for White’s 2025 contract year will take his fully guaranteed $17.95 million 2021 base salary to a fully guaranteed $10.45 million.

NFL: The salary for the 2021 option year with 2017 first-round picks, which was guaranteed for injury upon exercise, becomes fully guaranteed. Some of the players include Seahawks safety Jamal Adams ($9.86 million), Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk ($11.064 million) and Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt ($10.089 million). 

Bengals: The five-day window to pick up an option on running back Joe Mixon’s 2024 contract year ($10,383,205 salary) opens. If the required $3 million payment for Mixon’s 2024 season isn’t made, his 2021 base salary is $8 million rather than $5 million.

Dolphins: Wide receiver DeVante Parker’s $7.75 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $7.75 million was fully guaranteed at signing.

March 18

(Day 2 of 2021 League Year)

Rams: Quarterback Jared Goff’s fully guaranteed $2.5 million 2021 League Year roster bonus is due. He will be traded to the Lions when the 2021 League Year begins on March 17.

Saints: Tight end Jared Cook’s $19 million roster bonus is due.

Eagles: Defensive tackle Malik Jackson and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s $2 million 2021 and $25 million 2022 base salaries are fully guaranteed.

March 19

(Day 3 of 2021 League Year)

Chiefs: Multiple players have salary guarantees activated. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ $5.5 million 2023 base salary and $34.4 million third day of the 2023 League Year roster bonus are fully guaranteed. Both were guaranteed for injury at signing. Defensive tackle Chris Jones‘ injury guaranteed $18.124 million third day of the 2022 League Year roster bonus is fully guaranteed. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s $2,135,500 2021 reporting bonus and $9.75 million of 53-man/injured reserve/physically unable to perform 2021 per game roster bonuses are fully guaranteed. $835,000 of his $990,000 2021 base salary is also completely secure. The $12,720,500 was guaranteed for injury at signing. $2 million of offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz’s $5.905 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. $1 million of kicker Harrison Butker’s $3.09 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. A separate $1.61 of this base salary was fully guaranteed last March. The $2.61 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz’s fully guaranteed $10 million roster bonus is due. $15 million of his injury guaranteed $22 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. $7 million of teammate Lane Johnson’s $13.045 million 2022 base salary, which is guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed.

Falcons: $2 million of wide receiver Julio Jones‘ $11.513 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $2 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Cardinals: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ $6.65 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. It was guaranteed for injury when he signed his deal. Safety Budda Baker’s $11 million 2022 base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing. $2 million of the $11 million becomes fully guaranteed.

Browns: $6,453,875 of Browns defensive end Myles Garrett’s $19 million 2022 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $12,546,125 is secure. The entire amount was guaranteed for injury at signing. $12.791 million of  wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.’s $14.5 million 2021 base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing. The $12.791 million is completely secure.  

Packers: Safety Adrian Amos, offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, kicker Mason Crosby, linebacker Christian Kirskey, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Preston Smith, linebacker Za’Darius Smith, offensive tackle Billy Turner and offensive tackle Rick Wagner are due $1.5 million, $11.072,059, $1.25 million, $1.5 million, $6.8 million, $4 million, $5 million $1 million, and $1 million roster bonuses. Rodgers’ roster bonus is already fully guaranteed. The others don’t contain any type of guarantees.

Vikings: The base salaries of a few players become secure. Most notably, quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ injury guaranteed $35 million in 2022 is fully guaranteed. $1.8 million of kicker Dan Bailey’s $2.7 million 2021 base salary, $7.15 million of linebacker Anthony Barr’s $12.3 million 2021 base salary, running back Dalvin Cook’s $1.5 million 2021 base salary, $1.1 million of fullback C.J. Ham’s $2.15 million 2021 base salary, $3.3 million of defensive end Danielle Hunter’s $12.15 million 2021 base salary, and $9.095 million of wide receiver Adam Thielen’s $11.1 million 2021 base salary are fully guaranteed. All of the amounts that can become fully guaranteed were guaranteed for injury when these contracts were signed. Additionally, offensive tackle Riley Reiff’s unsecured $5 million roster bonus is due.

Dolphins: $6 million of cornerback Byron Jones‘ $14.375 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $14.375 million was guaranteed for injury at signing. Teammate Kyle Van Noy’s $12.75 million 2021 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. The linebacker’s $12.75 million was guaranteed for injury at signing. $2.5 million of cornerback Xavien Howard’s $12.075 million 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $9.575 million becomes fully guaranteed. The entire $12.075 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Saints: Key players have salary guarantees vest. $3 million of wide receiver Michael Thomas‘ $12.6 million 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $9.6 million becomes fully guaranteed. Defensive end Cameron Jordan’s $11.9 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. Running back Alvin Kamara’s $5.5 million 2022 base salary and $6 million fifth day of the 2022 League Year roster bonus are fully guaranteed. Offensive guard Andrus Peat’s $10.85 million 2022 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. $3 million of defensive tackle David Onyemata’s $7 million 2021 base salary is fully guaranteed. $4 million was fully guaranteed at signing. These amounts were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Steelers: Roster bonuses to defensive lineman Cameron Heyward ($6 million) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ($15 million) are payable. $7.5 of Roethlisberger’s $10 million is guaranteed for injury. Roethlisberger has 2021’s largest cap number at $41.25 million.

Lions: The remaining $4.375 million of Lions defensive end Trey Flowers‘ $14.375 million 2021 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed. $10 million was fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 League Year (last March 20). Additionally, the $1.625 million of Flowers’ $16 million 2022 base salary guaranteed for injury at signing becomes completely secure.

Patriots: $4 million of Patriots safety Devin McCourty’s $8 million $2021 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Bears: Quarterback Nick Foles‘ $4 million fully guaranteed roster bonus is payable.

March 20

(Day 4 of 2021 League Year)

Browns: This is the first day of a 12-day window for the team to pick up options for tight end Austin Hooper’s voiding 2024 contract year and defensive end Myles Garrett’s 2025 contract year worth $19,796,125. A $7 million payment is required for Hooper’s option year. Hooper’s $11.5 million injury guaranteed 2021 base salary, of which $4.5 million was fully guaranteed at signing, becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 League Year. The 2021 base salary reduces to a fully guaranteed $4.5 million if the option year is picked up. The Browns must pay Garrett $20,665,600 for his fully guaranteed $21.864 million 2021 base salary to decrease to a fully guaranteed $1,018,400.

Bills: $4.975 million of cornerback Tre’Davious White’s $9.95 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. The entire amount was guaranteed for injury at signing.

March 21

(Day 5 of 2021 League Year)

Buccaneers: Quarterback Tom Brady’s fully guaranteed $10 million roster bonus is due.

Ravens: Deadline for the Ravens to exercise options on offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s respective 2025 and 2026 contract years worth $20 million and $19.25 million. A $16.25 million payment is required with Stanley, which will reduce his 2021 salary from a fully guaranteed $23.75 million to a fully guaranteed $7.5 million. It’s $15 million with Humphrey. His 2021 base salary is a fully guaranteed $3.244 million instead of a fully guaranteed $18.244 million if the 2026 contract year is picked up. $5 million of Humphrey’s $10 million 2022 base salary, which is guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed.

Rams: The guarantees for several prominent Rams are triggered. $7.5 million of cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s $15 million 2022 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed. $7.5 million of wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s $14.5 million 2022 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers‘ $6.5 million 2021 base salary and wide receiver Robert Woods‘ $3.5 million roster bonus are fully guaranteed. Both were guaranteed for injury at signing.

Panthers: $8.1 million of Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s $8.4 million 2022 base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing. The $8.1 million becomes completely secure.

Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s $10 million roster bonus is payable. He is being traded to the Rams when the 2021 League Year begins on March 17. This is the final day of a five-day period for the team to pick up an option on offensive tackle Taylor Decker’s 2025 contract year, which will eventually void. A $12 million payment is required to exercise the option. If the option year is declined, Decker’s fully guaranteed 2021 base salary is $13 million rather than $1 million. An additional $6 million of Decker’s $14.75 million 2022 base salary become fully guaranteed. $1.65 million was previously fully guaranteed. The $7.65 million was guaranteed for injury at signing. Also, the $2.6 million of Decker’s $13.7 million 2023 base salary, which was fully guaranteed at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.  

Bills: $11 million of wide receiver Stefon Diggs‘ $12,708,333 2021 base salary becomes fully guaranteed. The $11 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

49ers: This is the last day for the team to exercise an option for tight end George Kittle’s 2025 contract year worth $15 million. A $2.25 million payment is necessary to pick up the option. If the option year is declined, Kittle’s fully guaranteed 2021 base salary is $3.5 million instead of $1.25 million.

Texans: $10 million of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s $17.85 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $10 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Chargers: Wide receiver Keenan Allen’s $16.5 million 2022 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed.

Cowboys: Offensive tackle La’el Collins and linebacker Jaylon Smith’s $8.55 million and $7.2 million 2021 base salaries are completely secure. Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s $12.4 million 2022 base salary is also completely secure. This money for the three players was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Titans: A couple of key players have salary guaranteed. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s $29 million 2022 base salary, which is guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed. Half of safety Kevin Byard’s $11.2 million 2021 base salary is already secure. The other half is fully guaranteed.

Colts: Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner’s $5 million fifth day of 2022 League Year roster bonus guaranteed for injury at signing is fully guaranteed. Teammate Ryan Kelly’s $4.65 million injury guaranteed roster bonus is due. The center’s $4 million injury guaranteed 2022 fifth day of 2022 league year roster bonus becomes fully guaranteed.

Broncos: Offensive tackle Garret Bolles’ $17 million 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed. The $17 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Bears: Safety Eddie Jackson’s $11 million 2022 base salary was guaranteed for injury at signing. $5 million is fully guaranteed. $2.5 million of teammate Cody Whitehair’s $6.5 million 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed. The center’s other $4.5 million becomes fully guaranteed. The entire $6.5 million was guaranteed for injury at signing.

Washington: $5 million of Washington Football Team safety Landon Collins‘ $12.5 million 2021 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury when he signed, is already fully guaranteed. The remaining $7.5 million becomes fully guaranteed.

Saints: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders‘ fully guaranteed $2 million roster bonus is due. Fellow Saint Cameron Jordan’s $1.9 million injury guaranteed roster bonus is also due.

Falcons: The remaining $7 million of defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.’s $13 million 2021 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, is fully guaranteed. $6 million of the $13 million was fully guaranteed when Fowler signed his contract.

Bengals: Cornerback Trae Waynes‘ and defensive tackle D.J Reader’s respective $2 million and $5 million roster bonuses are due.





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