Bears brass has these dates circled on NFL offseason calendar


Bears brass has these dates circled on NFL offseason calendar

On your mark ... set ... your calendars!

Earlier this week, the Bears and the NFL released the official offseason schedule of formal dates and deadlines for their things to do and periods in which some key decisions can and will be made. It will likely be another month before we hear from general manager Ryan Pace and/or head coach John Fox for the first time since Jan. 4, when they addressed the media after the season finale. The team announced they won't be available to reporters at next week's Senior Bowl, but both spoke at last year's Scouting Combine. After that, odds are we won't hear another word until after their first major move in free agency, unless an agreement is reached with one of their 18 current unrestricted free agents. But a combination of Pace, Fox and members of their scouting department are already in Florida looking at the first group of NFL wanna-be's ahead of Saturday's first of back-to-back college all-star games. They'll then move on to Alabama for workouts and practices leading up to the final piece of game action they'll witness from prospective talent. Roster moves can then begin to be made two weeks from Monday.

[MORE BEARS: Bears' options widen with 96 underclassmen entering NFL Draft]

Jan. 23: East-West Shrine Game (St. Petersburg, Fla.)

Jan. 30: Senior Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)

Feb. 8: Waiver process can begin for teams with their current players

Feb. 16 through March 1: Two-week window in which teams can place franchise or transition tags on their own free agents (3 p.m. deadline)

Feb. 23 through 29: Scouting Combine (Indianapolis)

March 6 through 9: 64-hour window begins in which teams can enter into contract negotiations with representatives for free agents; in the Bears' case, they have from 11 p.m. on March 6 through 3 p.m. on March 9

March 9: Free agent signing and trading begins the new league year at 3 p.m.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

April 18: Offseason, off-the-field supervised workouts can begin for teams with returning coaches

April 22: Deadline for designated restricted free agents to sign offer sheets from other teams

April 28 through 30: NFL Draft (Chicago)

July 15: Deadline for free agents with a franchise tag to sign a multi-year extension with their team

The Bears have not yet publicly announced their dates for organized team activities and mandatory veteran minicamp. They normally hold a rookie minicamp the weekend following the draft (which in this case would be May 6 through 8).

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season,'s Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.