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NFL calendar 2015: franchise tag deadline looms for Jerry Hughes, Bills

In a little more than three days, the Buffalo Bills will have to decide whether or not to tag Jerry Hughes - and if they can't sign him long-term by this time next week, he'll be able to start negotiating with other teams.

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At least for a while, this will be the last weekend for you to enjoy the peace and calm of life without offseason football. Starting next week, important events will take place and act as precursors to the start of the 2015 NFL league year, which begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 10.

Eight days prior to that - this coming Monday, March 2, at 4:00 p.m. ET - is the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag (or the transition tag) on key free agents. For the Buffalo Bills, the only real possibility for either one of those tags is pending free agent pass rusher Jerry Hughes - but given that GM Doug Whaley recently said that he's "highly optimistic" that the team will be able to re-sign Hughes to a long-term deal, it does not seem at all likely that the Bills will choose to use the tag this year.

A week from today, on Saturday, March 7 (again, starting at 4:00 p.m. ET), teams can begin contacting the representation for free agents from other clubs, and negotiate contracts prior to the start of free agency. Teams and players can agree to terms in that three-day window leading up to the start of the new league year, but deals can't officially be signed until free agency begins the afternoon of March 10.

That makes this week - starting today, and leading up through a week from today - a critical juncture for the Bills in their efforts to re-sign Hughes. Knowing that they'd rather not use the tag, and knowing that a player of Hughes' caliber and youth will be a desired commodity on the open market on March 7, the Bills have a bit more than eight days to ensure that they keep Hughes around for the next several years.