The NFL 2022 offseason is officially underway now that the Super Bowl is in the rearview mirror. One would think that means it's time to kick back and relax, but we all know there really isn't an offseason in the NFL.
Since there's so much on the calendar, we thought we would lay out some key dates to know and key topics to keep an eye on in the coming months.
1. What's next on the NFL calendar?
There's always something going on and plenty to look forward to during the offseason. Here are some important dates to keep an eye on over the next few months.
- March 1-7: NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
- March 16: The 2022 League Year and Free Agency period begins at 4:00 p.m. ET (negotiating window opens on March 14)
- March 27-30: Annual League Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.
- April 18: Offseason workout programs begin for teams with returning head coaches
- April 22: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offers
- April 28-30: The 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas, Nev.
2. Will Buffalo open the 2022 regular season in Los Angeles?
This will be the seventh season in a row that Buffalo plays against the defending Super Bowl champs. They have the Rams on their schedule in 2022. So that begs the question, could the Bills have the opening night stage?
They certainly have a shot.
Here are some of the Rams' notable home opponents for the 2022 season – San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Dallas Cowboys.
It'll be at least a couple months till we know who gets to play on opening night.
Scroll to view the best feature and practice photos from the 2021 season as chosen by Bills Team Photographers Bill Wippert and Ben Green.
3. How will new coaches impact the AFC East?
From the front office to the coaching staff, Buffalo has seen a lot of shifting and moving in several positions. With the success the Bills have had over the last few seasons, we all saw the writing on the walls that the coaching staff would not remain the same forever.
Former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll joined former Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen as the new head coach of the Giants. Ken Dorsey was promoted to offensive coordinator after coaching Buffalo's quarterbacks since 2019. Former Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is the new quarterbacks coach.
Matthew Smiley was also promoted to the special teams coordinator after Heath Farwell joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as their new special teams coordinator.
It's obvious to see the Bills believe they have enough talent on the coaching staff to promote from within. Bills head coach said Sean McDermott likes to do that as much as he can.
"You want to be able to promote from within, just like in any business, that's where you get your return on investment," McDermott said during his end of season press conference. "That's where you try and foster morale and camaraderie again and again, just continue to invest in the people we have in our building."
It's not just Buffalo that's dealing with coaching shakeup in the AFC East. Miami has a new head coach and the Patriots are without a key piece on offense.
The Dolphins parted ways with former head coach Brian Flores and brought in Mike McDaniel to take over as the new head coach. McDaniel was the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers last season. He has also coached with the Falcons, Browns, Commanders and Texans.
The Patriots must figure out what life looks like without former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels spent close to 10 seasons as the offensive coordinator for New England. Whoever the Patriots hire as their new offensive coordinator, it'll be an important hire for the development of young quarterback Mac Jones.
Scroll to view the best game action photos from the 2021 season as chosen by Bills Team Photographers Bill Wippert and Ben Green, and our additional Contributing Photographers Craig Melvin, Jeff Romance, David Le, Brett Carlsen, and Jeffrey T. Barnes.
4. Which Bills are hitting free agency?
One of the next dates on the NFL calendar is the start of the 2022 league year and free agency, which is about a month away and begins Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET.
Here are the Bills unrestricted free agents – DE Jerry Hughes, DT Harrison Phillips, DE Mario Addison, DT Vernon Butler, WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitchell Trubisky, OL Ike Boettger, CB Levi Wallace, RB Taiwan Jones, DE Efe Obada, WR Isaiah McKenzie, RB Matt Breida, S Siran Neal, OL Bobby Hart, WR Jake Kumerow
Here are the Bills restricted free agents – DT Justin Zimmer, OL Ryan Bates
Some of this group will be a part of the Bills roster next season, and some will join new teams. In terms of what the Bills are looking for this year, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said he wants to bring some pieces back but will also look outside of the team to help improve the roster for 2022.
"We'll have to make some moves, but I wouldn't see us being big spenders or anything like that," Beane said during the end of season press conference. "But we'll definitely look to fill some spots from the outside as well as retain some of our guys."
Several players on our current roster spend the offseason training with other NFL players. If they think they're a fit for Buffalo, here's their pitch to the free agents out there.
"As we approach free agency, it's definitely a place to be," wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. "It's a football town. We've got some great things happening as far as like with the season and the players that we have. That's evident. Everybody knows that. Hopefully they want to join more than you have to get them to join."
5. Where will Buffalo draft?
The Bills have the 25th overall pick in the first round and nine total picks (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th from Carolina, 6th, 7th from Atlanta, 7th) in the 2022 NFL Draft. The draft is set to begin on Thursday, April 28 in Las Vegas. Many enticing prospects will test their strengths at the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts on Tuesday, March 1 and lasts until Sunday, March 6.
We will be tracking mock drafts up until the week of the NFL Draft. You can see this year's first mock draft watch right here.
When it comes to pick No. 25 and beyond, what are the Bills looking for?
"I want to get better everywhere, I really do," general manager Brandon Beane said. "I'm going to look hard. I'm going to look back at the pass rush, too. And see what pieces will be leaving, and what do we have to fill in there. I'm going to start there on the defense."
As for the offense, Beane has his eye on how to help Josh Allen improve.
"First thing, I'm going to try and protect him," Beane said of Allen. "As I said earlier, I have to make sure the o-line is set and that we're confident in them. But beyond that, always looking for the various pieces."
Many offseason events are moving back to a "normal" setting after two years of existing with Covid-19. Last year's scouting combine was a lot smaller and this year it will return to what it has looked like for many years before Covid. Beane said he is happy to ditch Zoom and be in person to interview prospects and watch many of them compete in several events.
6. What does it mean to start all over again?
I know a lot of us are still hanging onto the sadness of how this season ended and the thoughts of what could have been. But just as the players are moving onto preparing for next season, you can too…whenever you're ready.
The offseason means there's a new slate, a fresh start and the mindset that every team is 0-0.
There's also a lot of excitement ahead for this group. You've got stars like Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Tre'Davious White, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde and more returning.
"The standard doesn't change," Beane said after making it to the playoffs in four out of his five seasons in Buffalo. "We have to start it over again, 0-0 and we're going to have to work our tails off because we know it starts with winning our division--New England, Miami, the Jets. In various ways the Jets have a lot of picks, Miami's got a lot of picks and both those teams have money. New England was very aggressive last year in free agency. I'm sure they're going to do the same.
"It all starts with winning the division and we've got to know that we have a target on our back and we got to hold those three teams off."
When all our players begin training for next season, they'll be motivated by what it will take to get back to the playoffs by winning the AFC East for the third season in a row.