We are now in one of the dark periods of the NFL calendar. Free agency is dying out, you still get the occasional signing like the recent inking of Rolando McClain, but these events become fewer and fewer, and tend to become of lesser significance. Everybody is waiting for the draft to start on April 30th.
But there is light coming, not only is the draft in our future, but workouts and OTAs are actually not that far away. Today the NFL confirmed some dates for all 32 teams, including the Cowboys. Of course, we knew some of this anyway if we had read OCC's post from a month ago. He was on the money.
First Day (workouts): April 20
OTA Offseason Workouts: May 26-28, June 2-4, June 8-10
Mandatory Minicamp: June 16-18
The NFL didn't announce dates for the first rookie mini-camp for after the draft, but that will likely happen in early-to-mid May. Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys are expected to host a rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft.
The offseason is now broken up into three phases thanks to the new CBA from a few years ago.
Phase One: For the first two weeks, only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed to work with players on the field, and the activities are limited to "strength and conditioning" and "physical rehabilitation." All other coaches may not attend or observe in any way
The CBA prohibits the use of footballs during Phase One. The only exception allowed is for quarterbacks to throw to receivers, but defensive backs aren't allowed to cover them, and coaches may not be present.
Phase Two: This is three weeks of individual and "perfect play" drills (no offense vs. defense), and all coaches are permitted on the field. The workouts may include individual player instructions and drills.
All of these drills are conducted without helmets. Contact work (e.g., "live" blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run), is expressly prohibited.
Phase Three: Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of "Organized Team Activities" over a period of four weeks. The fourth week is usually reserved for a three-day mandatory mini-camp.
All coaches are allowed on the field, but no live contact is permitted in phase three. Helmets may be worn, but no other pads. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted). Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs.