The NFC and AFC Championship games are right around the corner, which means the offseason is about to take total hold over the NFL. Super Bowl XLVII will be on Feb. 3, and after that, there's more than a month before anything really interesting in the NFL gets going.
Of course, there's the Scouting Combine from Feb. 20 to 26, but other than that, March 12 is the next date to pay attention to. At 4 p.m. ET on that day, all 2012 player contracts will expire, which is a fancy way of saying that free agency will truly begin around the league.
Prior to 4 p.m., plenty of things need to happen. Teams have to exercise their player options for those that qualify, they have to submit offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts, they must submit salary offers to exclusive-rights players, and all clubs have to get things started off by being under the proper salary cap (first one, then the other).
The NFL Draft is from April 25 to 27, and after that, there's nothing at all until Sept. 5. It's going to be a long, long offseason, so make sure you get in your NFL watching this weekend when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens.