What to expect at the NFL combine: Workouts, free agent chatter and trade whispers

What to expect at the NFL combine: Workouts, free agent chatter and trade whispers

The NFL world will descend this week on Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine. Team officials and coaches, medical personnel, notable draft prospects and their representatives and support staffers will all convene for what amounts to another big step toward the NFL Draft in late April.

But combine week is much more than a giant job fair. There’s a lot of action on other league-related fronts, and these developments will help shape the remainder of the offseason and the upcoming season.

Here are five storylines to follow in Indianapolis.


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1. State of the franchise updates and introductions

While the players arrive and get settled for the job interviews of their lives, we’ll hear from the coaches and general managers of many NFL teams.

Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, 23 general managers and 20 head coaches will address the media. First-time head coaches (Jonathan Gannon of the Arizona Cardinals, Shane Steichen of the Indianapolis Colts, DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans) will conduct their first national news conferences, and we’ll welcome Sean Payton back to the combine as he returns to coaching with the Denver Broncos after a year off. Meanwhile, the other coaches and general managers who have agreed to speak to the media will offer updates on their teams and veiled insights about their offseason plans.

This time of year is described by some around the league as “lying season,” so take every update with a grain of salt. Don’t expect anyone to outright share their game plans for free agency and the draft. But many will drop a few breadcrumbs here and there while also discussing decisions on franchise tag designations, key re-signings or roster cuts and needs.

2. Prospects at the podium

Each day at the combine, various position groups come to the interview room and discuss their journeys to this point, what they’re hearing from teams and how they’re readying themselves for the next chapter of their careers. Linebackers and defensive linemen speak on Wednesday, kickers and defensive backs on Thursday, quarterbacks, tight ends and wide receivers on Friday and offensive linemen and running backs on Saturday.

3. Dark horse workout warriors

Look for quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson to command the spotlight. Top edge rushers like Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter also are likely to impress. But every combine features a handful of players who post jaw-dropping 40-yard dash times or bench-press statistics. These prospects use these performances to catch the eyes of talent evaluators, follow them up with strong interviews and then climb draft boards.



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4. Free agent chatter

Free agency doesn’t officially begin until March 13. That’s the first day of the “legal tampering window,” when teams are permitted to negotiate with the representatives of target players in advance of the March 15 start to the league year and official signing period. But don’t be fooled: Plenty of preliminary temperature checks, flirtations and discussions will go down in Indianapolis. Each night, in dimly lit dining establishments and watering holes, agents and team representatives will have quiet business discussions — some about their own free agents they intend to retain, and some about those set to hit the market. These talks will lay the groundwork for that March 13-15 window when negotiations take place in earnest. Teams likely will come away from Indianapolis with improved clarity on some of the biggest stars and their levels of availability, and if we’re lucky, maybe we will too.

5. Trade whispers

Indianapolis often also affords officials from competing teams a chance to meet and gauge interest on trading draft picks and/or veteran players. The Chicago Bears hold the first pick of the draft, but since they appear to have their franchise quarterback while other teams remain desperate to find theirs, Chicago could shop that No. 1 pick in an attempt to bolster its roster with a bevy of premium selections. The Texans, Colts and Raiders rank among teams that seemingly could look to move up in the draft. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers, Cameron Jordan, Zach Wilson and Brandin Cooks also could become the center of trade discussions in the coming weeks.

(Photo: Justin Casterline / Getty Images)

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