The Super Bowl is over. The parade is in the books. Now it’s time for the New England Patriots to turn the page to 2017.
And as Patriots coach Bill Belichick famously noted in his news conference the day after Super Bowl LI, they’re five weeks behind schedule.
So what’s next for the five-time NFL champions? Here’s a look:
Feb. 28 to March 6: NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL’s annual pre-draft prospect showcase is just a few short weeks away. Expect Belichick and several members of his staff to make the trip to Indianapolis to get a better read on which rookies they’d like to add to their roster.
March 1: Deadline to designate players for franchise tag
Dont’a Hightower is a name to watch here. The Patriots could choose to franchise the soon-to-be free-agent linebacker, but that would mean paying him $15 million next season. They’d probably prefer to work out a contract extension.
March 9: League year begins; free agency opens (4 p.m. ET)
The Patriots have a whole slew of players set to hit free agency next month, including Hightower, tight end Martellus Bennett, running back LeGarrette Blount, safety Duron Harmon, defensive tackle Alan Branch, defensive ends Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, wide receiver Michael Floyd, and cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. Butler is a restricted free agent (as is offensive tackle Cameron Fleming), but he will become unrestricted if the Patriots do not submit a qualifying contract offer before 4 p.m. ET on March 9.
April 17: Patriots can begin offseason workouts
April 27 to April 29: 2017 NFL Draft
As Super Bowl champs, the Patriots will have the 32nd and final pick in the first round. Their exact seven-round draft order won’t be determined until the NFL hands out its compensatory picks. Depending on how the Patriots fare in free agency, expect tight end, linebacker and pass rusher to be high on their draft-night priority list. Cornerback could jump up this list, too, if Butler and/or Ryan signs elsewhere.
Overall, the 2016 draft turned out rather well for New England, which nabbed impact players in Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell, contributors in Vincent Valentine and Elandon Roberts, and the possible quarterback of the future in Jacoby Brissett. Top pick Cyrus Jones was a disappointment as a rookie, however, and was a healthy scratch during the postseason.
May 5 to May 8 or May 12 to May 15: Rookie minicamp
Undrafted free agents will join the Patriots’ draft picks for three days of workouts at Gillette Stadium.
Mid-May to mid-June (dates TBA): Organized team activities
June (dates TBA): Mandatory minicamp
July 15: Franchise tag deadline
If a player designated for a franchise tag does not sign a contract extension by this date, he must play the 2017 season under a one-year deal.
Mid-July (dates TBA): Training camp begins
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images