FLOWERY BRANCH — Now, that there is clarity in the front office, the Falcons’ focus turns to the offseason, where they will try to make strides to catch the Carolina Panthers, the three-time winners of the NFC South.
The Falcons improved by two games in Dan Quinn’s first season as head coach, but the team and his staff will need to make dramatic improvements, across the board, to catch the Panthers and return to the playoffs in 2016.
Here are 10 key offseason dates for the Falcons:
Jan. 30: The Senior Bowl. The Cowboys and Jaguars coaching staffs will coach the game in Mobile, Ala. The list of early invitees is pretty impressive.
Feb. 23-29: The NFL scouting combine will be held in Indianapolis. The Falcons will be mostly interested at the offensive and defensive linemen and any quick-twitch linebackers, who can stop the run, rush the passer and cover running backs or tight ends.
March 1: This is the deadline for teams to use their franchise or transition tag. The Falcons don’t have any obvious candidates for either tag this year.
March 7-9: Teams and start negotiating with agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the league business year.
March 9: The new league year begins at 4 p.m. and the Falcons can sign free agents (Bruce Irvin, hint, hint) and trade players. Teams must also be under the salary cap.
March 20-23: The league meetings will be held in Boca Raton, Fla.
April 18: The Falcons and other NFL teams without first-year coaches are permitted to begin offseason workout programs.
Late April: The NFL will release its 2016 regular season schedule. Last season it was released on Tuesday, April 21.
April 28-30: The NFL draft will be held in Chicago for the second straight year. Remember the Falcons traded their sixth round pick and lost their fifth pick in the noise-gate scandal. The Falcons slated to pick 17th overall in the first round.
May 3: This is the deadline for teams to exercise their fifth-year options for 2013 first-round picks.
FALCONS END OF SEASON STORIES