Key NFL dates ahead for 2012

Here are some key NFL dates ahead:

Feb. 20 -- First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players.

Feb. 22-28 -- NFL Combine (media access Feb. 23-Feb. 26).

March 1 -- Clubs no longer required to grant permission to another club to discuss position of head coach with an assistant coach.

March 5 -- Deadline to designate franchise or transition tag players (prior to 4 p.m. ET).

March 13 -- Free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET, marking start of 2012 league year (trading begins).

March 26-28 -- NFL annual meeting (Palm Beach, Fla) -- compensatory draft picks awarded etc.

April 2 -- Clubs that hired a new head coach at end of '11 regular season may begin offseason programs.

April 16 -- Clubs with a returning head coach may begin offseason workout programs.

April 20 -- Deadline for signing of offer sheets by restricted free agents.

April 26-28 -- NFL Draft.

May 16 -- Except for a three-day minicamp held within 15 days of the draft, this is the first day that players eligible for the 2012 draft are permitted to participate in minicamps or meetings. If final examinations at a player’s school conclude after this date, the player is prohibited from participating in any activities until after the player’s final day of examinations. If the player has left or leaves school, he is prohibited from participating in any club activities until after the final day of examinations at his school.

May 21-23 -- NFL Spring Meeting.