No matter the Bengals’ next head coach, NFL rules dictate he’ll turn the calendar into a whirlwind where the college all-star games, NFL scouting combine and pro day testing suddenly collide into accelerated off-season workouts.
The Bengals are offering no clues into a coaching search that has interviewed eight or more candidates, according to reports, and the team isn’t saying if the field is expanding or shrinking. But what we do know is that Great American Ball Park won’t be the only busy stadium on the riverfront during the first week of April. A new NFL head coach is allowed to start his off-season program two weeks early, making the start date April 1 instead of April 15.
He’ll also be able to hold a three-day voluntary minicamp for veterans before the April 25-27 draft. Going off what other teams have done recently, that figures to be held the three days before the draft, from April 22-24. But the Bengals still report to training camp 15 days before the pre-season opener. They are permitted to open camp for rookies and first-year players a week before the earliest mandatory reporting date for veterans.
A look at the biggest dates in the NFL offseason:
Jan. 7-13 - The Bengals are allowed to interview assistant coaches for Wild Card winners.
Jan. 22 - Practices get underway for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., a college all-star game that appears to have stocked an excellent field of prospects this year. The Bengals traditionally send their coaches and scouts to evaluate.
Jan. 27- Pro Bowl in Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. So far defensive tackle Geno Atkins, voted to his seventh all-star game, is the only Bengal but alternates could be tapped.
Jan. 27 - The last day teams can give an assistant coach whose team is in the Super Bowl a second interview.
Feb. 3 - Super Bowl in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., the 30th anniversary of the Bengals’ appearance in Super Bowl XXIII.
Feb. 19-March 5 - The window teams can affix the franchise and transition tags to their upcoming free agents. It’s not a label the Bengals hand out easily. The last one to get it was right end Michael Johnson for the 2013 season.
Feb. 26-March 4 - NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. The Bengals new head coach meets the national media for the first time at some point during the week. If he didn’t get to the Senior Bowl, this is his first look at the prospects.
March 11 - Teams can begin to negotiate with free agents but can’t sign them until March 13. The Bengals have a host of free agents, but not many starters are set to have their contracts expire on the 13th: Johnson, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, middle linebacker Preston Brown, right tackle Bobby Hart and tight end Tyler Eifert are up. Rotational players Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah are up at tight end, as is linebacker Vincent Rey.
Back-up tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are free agents and so are players the Bengals picked off the waiver wire as the year of 18 players on injured reserve rolled on: tackle Andre Smith, tight end Matt Lengel, quarterback Tom Savage and defensive end Kasim Edebali.
March 24-27 - The NFL annual meetings in Phoenix, Ariz., which is where Marvin Lewis attended his first annual meeting as Bengals head coach 16 years ago.
April 1 - The earliest day the Bengals’ new head coach can welcome his team at Paul Brown Stadium.
April 22-24 - Potential voluntary veterans minicamp
April 25-27 - NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn., with the Bengals holding the 11th pick. The last time they went there in 1986 they selected future Super Bowl linebacker Joe Kelly and the University of Washington product went on to play 156 games with five teams. No one in Bengaldom will dispute the position or production this time around.
Top images of the rookies during the 2018 campaign.