Important upcoming dates during the Broncos’ 2017 offseason

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The Denver Broncos can now put 2016 behind them. After going 9-7 in a season filled with multiple injuries, a few heartbreaking losses and the retirement of their coach, the Broncos can start looking ahead to next year.

While this team may have just missed the postseason, there are plenty of reasons to believe that they can bounce back and be back in contention in 2017. As we begin the long offseason there are a few upcoming dates that Broncos fans should definitely keep in mind. These dates can shape the future of this team, and you will no doubt want to mark these on your calendar.

Here are five dates that are going to have a huge impact on the Denver Broncos:

1. Feb. 15-March 1: Designation period for franchise or transition players

This Wednesday opens the window for teams to designate their franchise or transition players.

A franchise player must be paid at least the average of the top five players at his position. This allows a team to re-sign their own players for one season, and buys time to try to get them signed to a longterm contract. A transition player can be designated once a year, and grants a team the first right of refusal, should one of their players be offered a deal from another team.

In recent history, the Broncos have tagged Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Clady and Matt Prater with the franchise designation. For the first time in three seasons, Denver doesn’t really have anyone to designate with the franchise tag, but there are a few players to around the league to watch. The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely choose to tag running back Le’Veon Bell, and the Kansas City Chiefs have a decision to make in regards safety Eric Berry and nose tackle Dontari Poe.

2. Feb. 28-March 6: NFL Scouting Combine

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine will begin in Indianapolis. A week-long event that allows teams to measure, time and perform a host of various physical and mental tests, the combine allows NFL teams to take a better look at draft prospects. Not sure how big a coveted offensive lineman really is? Worried that a prospective wide receiver isn’t as fast as advertised? Or maybe you just want to verify that a player’s previous injury has fully healed.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a chance for clubs to do a little more homework on their prospective draft picks, and make sure that they are getting their money’s worth. With the football season now over, the “underwear Olympics” are now televised, and will give you something to watch. You just might spot a standout or two, that could end up being selected to come to Denver.

3. March 9: 2016 player contracts expire

While teams are permitted to begin contacting players that will become unrestricted free agents on Mar. 7, nothing is official until Thursday, Mar. 9. That is the day that all existing 2016 contracts will expire and players are able to begin signing new deals.

For the Denver Broncos, that means that DeMarcus Ware, Vance Walker, Sylvester Williams, Justin Forsett, Jordan Norwood, Billy Winn, Dekoda Watson and Kayvon Webster will become unrestricted free agents. They will be free to re-sign with the Broncos, or sign a new contract with another club.

March 9 could prove to be a very interesting day.

4. April 21: Restricted free agent deadline

After restricted free agents receive a qualifying offer from their current team, they can negotiate with other teams to try to find the best offer, but their current team can match any offer. They can also choose not match the offer and possibly receive compensatory draft picks, if they lose the player to a competing franchise.

The Broncos have a few restricted free agents that will need new deals. The biggest name on this list is probably kicker Brandon McManus, who looks like he should be a long-term kicker in Denver. Linebacker Todd Davis will also be a restricted free agent, and the Broncos will need to make a decision on his future.

April 21 is the deadline for these offers to be signed. So the Broncos will either have these players signed to a new deal, or they could possibly pick up a few more late picks in the NFL Draft.

5. April 27-29: 2017 NFL Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft will take place this year in Philadelphia, as NFL teams will select eligible college players over the three-day event. Now that the Super Bowl is complete, the draft order has been set. The Broncos will select 20th out of the 32 teams, and they are expected to have 10 selections in the draft overall.

Will John Elway and company look at grabbing a new offensive tackle with their top pick? Could they try to trade up and get into the top-10 where they might be able to grab a top-rated defensive tackle?

This NFL Draft could prove to be vital to the upcoming season.

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