We heard that last week was a prime opportunity for the owners and players to come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and end the lockout. That didn't happen.
We've heard that this week is yet another prime opportunity for the sides to reach an agreement on a new CBA.
Anyone feel like we've been down this road before?
Once a deal is (finally) done, the Ravens, along with every other NFL team, will have a short window in which to re-sign their own free agents and then bolster their roster by adding veteran players and undrafted free agents on the open market.
What should the Ravens' priorities be once that window begins? Here's a top-five list to keep in mind as the labor negotiations begin to reach a pivotal stage:
1. Marshal, Marshal, Marshal
Make no mistake - the clear top priority for GM Ozzie Newsome coming out of the lockout is re-signing offensive guard Marshal Yanda. The burly Iowa product, who is headed for unrestricted free agency, has become a vital cog on the Ravens' offensive line due to his All-Pro caliber play at right guard and his ability to line up at tackle, or even center, in a pinch. If the Ravens lose Yanda to free agency, their offensive line could be in big trouble, but Yanda is happy in Baltimore and isn't expected to go anywhere.
2. Get Suggs some help
Yanda is the Ravens' top target among their own crop of free agents, but when it comes to priorities outside the organization, nothing ranks higher than finding a pass rusher to compliment Terrell Suggs. The Ravens had an all-time franchise low 27 sacks last season, and 11 of those were provided by Suggs, despite the fact that he constantly drew double teams. Adding someone who can bring pressure off the other edge and take some pressure off Suggs is crucial going forward.
3. Find Marc Bulger version 2.0
Bulger didn't see a single snap last season as the Ravens' backup quarterback, but if you ask those in the team's front office, most would say that the veteran signal caller was worth his one-year, $3.8 million contract. Bulger gave the Ravens a capable, experienced option if Joe Flacco had gotten hurt, and played an important role in the quarterback room during meetings. There's a good chance Bulger doesn't return this season, and if he does go elsewhere, the Ravens need to add another proven veteran who can back Flacco up. Recently-drafted rookie Tyrod Taylor isn't ready to fill that role this year.
4. Carr or Wilson - take your pick
The Ravens improved their cornerback depth through the draft by adding Jimmy Smith in the first round and Chykie Brown in the fifth, but they still could use one more experienced cornerback who can round out the rotation and work in with Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb. Chris Carr and Josh Wilson both stepped up last season and played well, and both will be unrestricted free agents. My guess is one of the two returns, and my money's on Carr. He loves the Ravens organization, is a team player (meaning he wouldn't mind losing some of his playing time to Smith, Foxworth or Webb), and has the ability to play multiple spots in the secondary.
5. Filling the fullback spot
Le'Ron McClain has made the Pro Bowl the last two years, but the Ravens' jovial fullback will be an unrestricted free agent when the lockout ends. Will the Ravens make a serious run at locking McClain up to a multi-year deal, or are they willing to let him go, opting instead for more of a traditional blocking fullback? McClain has made it clear that he would like to play more of a role in carrying the ball, and with backup running back Willis McGahee almost certainly not returning to Baltimore (the Ravens won't be too eager to pay his $6 million salary this season), the opportunity appears there for McClain to get more touches. The question is whether the Ravens will be interested in meeting his price tag, or whether they would prefer to go in another direction.
Other areas to watch: Dawan Landry's status as an unrestricted free agent and what the Ravens will do at strong safety, and the search for a veteran offensive tackle.