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2013 NFL offseason dates: Combine, Free Agency, Draft

NFL fans are now entering the long, lonely off season. Sure there are other sports and plenty of NFL events to hold your attention, but nobody will be strapping on pads or donning your favorite team colors for nearly seven months. But what are the important dates leading up to then?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

With the Super Bowl behind us, football fans enter the gloom of the off season. While there is the distraction of baseball, basketball and hockey, most hardcore football fans are turning their sights to NFL free agency and the draft.

There are only 80 days until the draft, according to a countdown I saw over on the World Wide Leader. On the NFL stage, the next big deal is the Scouting Combine, which begins in just 16 days in Indianapolis.

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With a tip of the helmet to boydvv54, who put together a similar post this week, here is a look at some key dates to keep in mind as we enter the off season:

February 20-26 - NFL Scouting Combine, Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

March 9-11 - Teams may enter into contract talks with players who will be unrestricted free agents.

March 12 -There is a lot that goes on here so lets break down one-by-one:

4 p.m. deadline for teams to exercise 2013 contract options on all players with club options.

Prior to 4 p.m. teams must have submitted qualifying offers to restricted free agents they wish to keep right of first refusal for. They also must submit a salary offer to exclusive rights free agent players.

All 2012 player contracts will expire at 4 p.m. Teams must be under the 2013 salary cap at this time.

At 4 p.m. the 2013 League Year begins; trades are allowed and free agency begins.

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March 17-20 - League meetings in Phoenix, Ariz.

April 25-27 - NFL Draft in New York City, NY.

May 20-22 - Spring league meeting, Boston, Mass.

September 5, 8-9 - 2013 season kickoff weekend

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It's going to be a long road between now and the Ravens kicking off the season on Sept. 5 but it's going to fun. Make sure you stick with WCG for all the latest Bears news and analyst all off season.

Click here for the official statement from the NFL listing their important dates.