On Monday morning, the NFL released upcoming dates for the league year. Here are some key dates for the 2012 season. -

Feb. 20 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players.
Feb. 22-28 — NFL Combine.
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 — This is the first day players eligible for the 2012 draft are allowed to participate in minicamps or team meetings. Within 15 days of the draft, teams are able to hold a three-day minicamp. If players have not finished their final examinations at their respective schools, they are not permitted to participate in any club activities until after the final day of of school.
May 21-23 — NFL Spring Meeting.

Notes:

- The Patriots are now less than a week away from when they are able to slap wide receiver Wes Welker with the franchise tag. Should be an interesting couple of days around the league and will give people a better idea on the free agent pool this off-season.

- The NFL Combine will be a great chance for everyone to get a good look at the nation’s top college athletes. Be sure to keep your eye out, we will have some great content during the pre-draft process.

- Still about a month away from free agency, but there should be a pretty deep talent pool this year. It is not often an NFL team can add true playmakers to their club. I will have some thoughts on who I believe the Patriots should target shortly, but for a few thoughts on New England’s own free agents, click here.

- April 26 – 28 will be the NFL Draft. This is always one of my favorite times of the NFL off-season and I am very curious who the Patriots will target this year.

- Just last year the NFL lockout was looming, a stressful time for the league and the fans. It will definitely be refreshing to not only focus on the team’s off-season activities, but also not have to worry if we will be able to watch league action on Sunday’s next year.

-       Like what you have read on the site? Stay in touch with me on Twitter @PatriotsHaven!Whether you want Patriots updates in an instant or just talk about the team, be sure to look me up!