Every-Thing Sports

2019 NFL offseason key dates

NFL.com

Super Bowl 53 has come and gone. No matter how bad, or good, we all thought of the game (and the halftime show as well), it's over and so is the 2018-19 NFL season. However, fear not football junkies, there are still points of interest for you to pay attention to when it comes to getting your football fix.

The slates have been wiped clean and the offseason is upon us. If your team has any chance of making a run in the 2019-20 season, here are several key dates to pay attention to:

February 26-March 4 The Scouting Combine:Affectionately known as "The Underwear Olympics," this is where future prospects can either mak, or lose themselves money. Whether it's through medicals examinations, interviews, or drills, draft prospects can lose draft positioning due to the results of things that occur off the field of play.

March 5 Franchise/transition Tag Deadline:This is the last date in which teams can apply either of these tags to players. Typically, players with these tags stay with their teams. However, if they move via trade, it means the team losing the player gets compensation.

March 13 Free Agency and trading period begins:This is the first day teams can sign unrestricted and/or restricted free agents to contracts and trade for players under contracts with other teams. Free agency is often done in waves. The first few days are when the bulk of the bigger deals are done.

April 25-27 The Draft:The NFL Draft is one of the biggest events of any professional sports offseasons. It startswith primetime airing of the first round, then the second and third rounds air the following day with the fourth through seventh rounds the day after. This is often times seen as the crown jewel of the offseason.

July 15 Franchise Tag Signing Deadline: If a team has given a player the Franchise Tag, this is the last date in which said player can sign a long-term deal with that team. If a long-term deal isn't signed by this date, the player can only sign a one year deal under franchise tag label with said team.

Mid to Late July Reporting for Training Camp: While the dates vary per team, most will report somewhere between July 22-31. The date typically corresponds with the first preseason game. This is why teams playing in the Hall of Fame Game report earlier since they have a fifth preseason game scheduled earlier than other teams.

August 31 Cut Down to 53-Man Roster: Teams must cut their preseason rosters down to 53 by 4pm Eastern Time. The interesting part here is that some good veteran players will be cut in favor of younger, and often cheaper, players. This allows the roster to be reshaped last-minute in some rare cases.

September 5 Thursday Night Opener:The date that most football fans are dying to get to is the kickoff special. This is the date in which the New England Patriots will host an opponent to start the new regular season schedule. All other teams will play on September 8 and 9.

There are other key dates that some of the more hardcore fans may want to pay attention to and here's a link to the NFL Operations page that lists the key offseason dates in greater detail. I know most fans are casual and won't give a damn about any of this. But there are a special bunch of us that need to feed our insatiable appetites for all things football until we get the real deal to return. This was a great season. While it may not have ended like many of us wanted it to, it was a season that was thoroughly enjoyed by most fans. This is the time of year when nearly every team's fanbase can claim to have a shot next season. Here's to renewed hope and the thought of having bragging rights for at least one season.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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