Greetings to all you WCG faithful. The NFL season for the beloved Chicago Bears has ended (much sooner than we would all have liked) and now we move on to the part of the calendar which many fans believe to be a barren wasteland of inactivity and longing for the new season to start. I'm hear to provide some solace in the fact that even though we won't get to witness the Bears dominate *crosses fingers* on the field, we do get to watch them dominate *crosses toes* in the front office. The MVP of the next few months won't even be on the field during the games. He'll be the guy wearing the suit and glasses sitting in the war room and making the decisions. So, without further ado, here is my guide to the "non-playing" season of the NFL in 2013. I hope you enjoy, feel free to comment, and as always BEAR DOWN!
February 2 -- Texas vs. Nation College All-Star Game, Eagle Stadium, Allen, Texas.
If nothing else, this will provide us with the opportunity to see some future stars on the field one last time before the draft. Also, it reminds me of when Texas tried to secede from the union. Good times.
February 3 -- Super Bowl XLVII, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Here it is. The big game. Bears Vs. Colts.......wait........what happened? Where am I?????..............It's ok everyone, I just blacked out and thought I was back in a time when the Bears were still playing at this time of year....sigh.
February 9-10 -- Regional Combine, Orange Coast College-Lebard Stadium, Los Angeles, California
February 16 -- Regional Combine, Methodist Training Center (Texans), Houston, Texas
February 17 -- Regional Combine, Cleveland Browns Training Facility, Cleveland, Ohio
These three events are pretty much the actual combine, except, as the title might suggest, it's regional. Moving on.
February 20-26 -- Combine Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The "Underwear Olympics" as it has been dubbed by some, is the main event of pre-draft evaluation. Pretty much every player with a chance to be drafted is gonna be there showing their stuff. They'll attempt to run, jump, and lift their way to a higher draft pick in front of virtually every single team decision-maker and scout. Plus, Rich Eisen runs the 40 in a suit, then they super-impose him running onto the fastest and slowest players running, so that's kinda funny.
March 2-3 -- Regional Combine, Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility, New York/New Jersey
March 9 -- Regional Combine, One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Florida
March 10 -- Regional Combine, Halas Hall (Bears), Chicago, Illinois
Hooray for more regional combines! Oh and look! One of them is at Halas Hall! That must be where the guys from Abeline Christian go. It's the only possible explanation.
March 9-11 -- Clubs are permitted to enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the current League Year.
Here we get an early chance to negotiate with players such as Brian Urlacher, Henry Melton, and Lance Louis before anyone else can steal them away. I'm hoping the Bears re-sign those three along with Geno Hayes, Nick Roach, Amobi Okoye, and maybe a few others. The rest should be able to test the open market later in the Month.
March 12 -- Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2013 on all players who have option clauses in their 2012 contracts.
March 12 -- Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit Qualifying Offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
March 12 -- Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2012 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.
The Bears don't have many RFAs, and the only one that I would say they try hard to retain is Nate Collins.
March 12 -- All 2012 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 12 -- Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the Salary Cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.
Ah, yes. The ever-looming Salary Cap. It has been estimated that the Bears have about $13M in cap space as of right now. That's not a ton, but I think it should be enough to resign some of our guys as well as land a couple Free Agents from other teams.
March 12 -- The 2013 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
And so begins the Free Agency Frenzy. Look for the Bears to target offensive linemen and/or tight ends. Possible players include Brandon Albert, Jake Long, Andy Levitre, Dustin Keller, and Dennis Pitta.
March 12 -- Trading period begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, for 2013 after expiration of all 2012 contracts.
This day also marks the beginning of the trading period, which provides a new pool of available players for the Bears to target as well as trade away.
March 16-17 -- Regional Combine, Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Atlanta, Georgia
Goodness gracious, there sure are a lot of regional combines. Ugh.
March 17-20 -- Annual League Meeting, The Biltmore, Phoenix, Arizona.
League leaders meet here and discuss rule changes, safety tips, etc. Big events don't usually happen here, but occasionally they change the spot of the kickoff or something like that.
March 23-24 -- Regional Combine, Virginia Mason Athletic Center (Seahawks), Seattle, Washington
March 23-24 -- Regional Combine, Baltimore Ravens Training Facility, Baltimore, Maryland
OK I'm gonna go ahead and say it. I officially hate regional combines. There are far too many of them.
April 7-8 -- Super Regional Combine, Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, Texas
Ooooooh look who thinks they're all fancy with their Super regional combine. Jerry gets more and more full of himself by the day.
April 25-27 -- NFL Draft, New York City, New York.
It's here! It's here! This is the day when every team and their fans look to the future and hope to come away with at least one new superstar. Some may become such stars, but others will most certainly become Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, or Mark "Butt-fumble" Sanchez. That is to say, disappointments of epic and unmatched proportions.
May 20-22 -- NFL Spring League Meeting, Hyatt-Harborside, Boston, Massachusetts.
Another meeting of the league brass where they again discuss the rules, regulations, and practices of the league and it's players. Fun stuff.
September 5, 8-9 -- NFL Kickoff 2013
Holy Ditka it has come! The day when all is right in the world again! The time of year when every team (except the Lions) have Super Bowl aspirations and every team has the same record. So begins the dramatic race to the top of the league, and to the ever-cherished Lombardi Trophy.
So that about wraps it up. I look forward to the next few months of discussing and debating all of these events with you all and cheering on our Bears during the off season.