The NFL Schedule Between Now and Opening Weekend
The NFL Draft, the league’s biggest off-season event, is in the books, and the league now moves on to the rest of its schedule before the regular season kicks off in September.
Up first is a three-day, post-draft rookie minicamp that can be held on one of two weekends, May 5-8 or May 12-15. Each team gets to hold the camp either Friday through Saturday, or Saturday through Monday on their chosen weekend.
All drafted players and undrafted free agent rookie signings are invited. Technically, attendance at the camp is voluntary, although almost all rookies attend, even the injured players. The camps include film sessions with the coaching staff and practice on the field.
Regular Season Schedule Release
Also to come in the middle of May is the regular season schedule release. The NFL hasn’t officially announced when the schedule will drop, but ESPN has reported that it will be on Thursday, May 11. This will be the fourth straight year that the schedule is released in May, and a Thursday release makes it a nationally televised affair clear from weekend sports.
On May 22, the league’s owners will begin the three days of the Spring League Meeting, where a number of important items will be decided. The league owners are expected to vote on final approval of the sale of the Washington Commanders to Josh Harris. They will also decide which city will host the 2025 NFL Draft.
The 2024 Draft is scheduled for Detroit, and the favorite to be awarded the 2025 NFL Draft is Green Bay. Kansas City’s draft last weekend drew 312,000 fans, and TV and digital viewership for the weekend topped 54 million. That is a 12% increase from last year.
OTAs and Minicamps
Also rolling out at the end of May and extending into June are Organized Team Activities, known as OTAs. Players are welcome to get together and work out anytime they want. But this is the only time they are allowed to get together at the team facility and with coaches.
OTAs are restricted to 10 total days, which are broken up into three phases – four days in one phase, and two phases of three days. There can’t be any live contact during OTAs, and there are no one-on-one drills allowed. Teams instead must focus on drills for offense, defense, and special teams.
Teams cannot require players to attend OTAs, but there is a three-day mandatory minicamp that follows the OTAs on the summer schedule.
Following the franchise tag deadline, which is July 17 and is the last day that tagged players can sign long-term contracts, the NFL opens its training camps. Exact dates haven’t been released by each team. But all 32 teams will have rookies report in late July, with veterans reporting a few days later.
The two teams that are playing at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, the first weekend of August often report a few days earlier than everyone else.
The preseason will begin with the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, August 3 between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. That kicks off three full weeks of preseason play that ends on the final weekend of August.
The periodic roster cut-downs throughout the season have been changed this year. There will be just a single cut-down day from 90 players to the final roster of 53 on August 29.
Regular Season Kickoff
On Thursday, September 7, the NFL will kick off the regular season, and traditionally the game is hosted by the current Super Bowl champion. That means in all likelihood we will see the Kansas City Chiefs on that opening Thursday, with an opponent yet to be determined.
The NFL does have a number of potential matchups to choose from, including a Super Bowl rematch with the Eagles, or an AFC Championship rematch with the Bengals. Both Philadelphia and Cincinnati are playing in Kansas City at some point this season.
BetUs.com has the Chiefs as the +650 favorites to win Super Bowl LVIII next February in Las Vegas. The Eagles are tied with the Buffalo Bills at +800 with the second-shortest odds.