Hey there, Baltimore. Good to see ya again.
After a 10-day vacation which had been planned long in advance, I'm back in Charm City just in time for the Ravens' first training camp practice of 2011, which will take place today at 1 p.m.
All I missed while I was gone was the end of the NFL lockout, the surprising release of tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason, the Ravens re-signing offensive guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Josh Wilson agreeing to terms with the Redskins.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to leave the country.
Thanks to the MASNsports.com staff for helping to pitch in with the Ravens coverage while I was away, but it would be an understatement to say I'm eager to get back out to Ravens headquarters and have some real football to cover for the first time in a while.
I'd like to quickly touch on a few points, recapping some of the action while I was gone.
First, on the Heap and Mason cuts: these are the types of moves that fans often question, but are sometimes necessary for an NFL team to stay young and have the financial flexibility it takes to fill holes in key spots.
Heap and Mason's contracts were both back loaded, as most are in pro sports, and the two were set to make a combined $9.1 million this season. Cutting two of the franchise's top receiving targets of all-time (plus running back Willis McGahee and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg) certainly stings, but it clears a lot of cap room and allowed the Ravens to ink Yanda and still have room to add a pass rusher and more cornerback help.
Plus, don't assume either veteran pass catcher is gone just yet. The Ravens will certainly make an effort to bring Heap and Mason back at a discounted price. I'll go on record saying that I'd be surprised if Heap signed elsewhere, given his ties to the Baltimore community and comfort level in the organization.
On the Yanda front, the Ravens knew they needed the burly Iowa product back, and they got the job done, re-signing their top unrestricted free agent to a reported five-year, $32 million deal. This is one of those win-win signings, as Yanda gets his payday and gets to stay in a comfortable situation with a team for while he truly enjoys playing, while the Ravens get their Pro Bowl-caliber right guard locked up long-term.
As for Wilson's departure, he always seemed like the logical free agent cornerback to sign elsewhere. Coming off a strong 2010 season, Wilson set himself up for a nice multi-year deal, and with the Ravens already having Domonique Foxworth, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb locked in for this season, the former Maryland Terrapin was unlikely to get major playing time in Baltimore.
When it came to the Ravens' free agent cornerbacks, Chris Carr seemed to be the more likely of the two to return from the get-go. Carr is more versatile, is willing to share playing time, and enjoys being somewhat of a quiet leader in the Ravens' locker room. He will now likely get the bulk of GM Ozzie Newsome's attention in terms of the Ravens' cornerback search.
Finally, the Ravens announced this morning that single-game tickets for 2011 home games at M&T Bank Stadium will go on sale next Friday, Aug. 5, at 10 a.m. Tickets can only be purchased online or at www.ticketmaster.com.
I'll be back later this morning with more news and notes before heading out to Owings Mills for the start of training camp. It won't feel the same not taking in the action from the blazing fields of McDaniel College, but after a long time away from football, it certainly will do.
UPDATE: The Ravens announced they've officially signed six of their eight draft picks.
We already knew about second-round WR Torrey Smith and fourth-round WR Tandon Doss, and we can now add CB Chykie Brown (fifth round), DE Pernell McPhee (fifth round), QB Tyrod Taylor (sixth round) and RB Anthony Allen (seventh round) to the list.
Only first-round CB Jimmy Smith and third-round OT Jah Reid remain unsigned.