Today could be the day that the lockout clouds clear and NFL sunshine beams down on Baltimore and the rest of this football-crazed nation. The players and owners have reportedly agreed to a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, and the players will vote to approve the deal -- and end the lockout -- at 11 a.m.
If there is ever a day that our employers should allow us to crack open a celebratory cold one, it is today.
By the time we finished chugging the can, NFL teams would already be scrambling to prepare for what is expected to be a crazy, hectic week. Free agency could begin on Tuesday and training camps will be alllowed to begin Wednesday, which means players will sign contracts, throw on practice jerseys and run out onto the field for their first practices with their new teams. They can worry about the hellos and introductions later.
This week will be confusing, but it's going to be fun.
Well, unless you're Ozzie Newsome and company.
So what should be the Ravens' first act of business?
They have a bunch of key free agents who will draw interest, including guard Marshal Yanda, fullback Le'Ron McClain, safety Dawan Landry and cornerbacks Chris Carr and Josh Wilson.
They have to sign a pass rusher and a veteran offensive tackle in free agency, fill holes in the depth chart vacated by players who sign elsewhere and they would be wise to add an experienced wideout if Donte' Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadah walk.
And there's the matter of cutting running back Willis McGahee to free up salary cap space (if that's still the plan), which should happen pretty quickly after the league re-opens for business.
I sarcastically speculated on the Ravens' lowest post-lockout priorities 10 days ago, but since the lockout is about to end, I can finally get serious for a moment. I think the Ravens' first acts of business should be releasing McGahee (he is a luxury); trying to re-sign critical free agents such as Yanda, Carr and quarterback Marc Bulger; and then going after that elusive pass rusher.
The Ravens will be contenders again in 2011 -- continuity helps -- but the next week will be the difference between them finishing first or second in the AFC North, and we know how critical that is.