Say it with me, Ravens fans: We have football.
Earlier today, the NFL and its players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, putting an end a four-month battle that threatened to keep fans from enjoying a 2011 season.
It was a long battle between the owners and players, more commonly referred to as the billionaires versus the millionaires. The debates were long, at times discouraging, but always under the scrutiny of the public eye.
Like most, no matter how poor the discussions reportedly went or how grim the comments from commissioner Roger Goodell or DeMaurice Smith seemed, there was never a point in which I was convinced there would be no football this fall. Thankfully, I'm proud to say my instincts did not let me down.
So now that the locks are off and the doors are soon to open, where do things go from here and, more importantly, what's next for the Baltimore Ravens?
Starting tomorrow morning at 10, players will be allowed to enter the team facility, where they'll most likely complete their physicals and receive playbooks. Meanwhile, the front office will be just as busy, as Tuesday also marks the day in which teams can begin to sign draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents. They also can begin making trades and talking to veteran free agents with whom they hope to sign.
Then on Wednesday the first group of teams will report for the start of training camp, just 15 days before the first preseason game. The Ravens are among the list of teams scheduled to begin training camp Wednesday, along with Seattle, San Diego, Arizona, Oakland, Denver, Dallas, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and New England.
The rest of the league will report either Thursday or Friday, but all 32 teams have until 4 p.m. Thursday to waive players and make roster cuts.
As far as what the Ravens hope to accomplish, there are a few story lines that have been brewing in the offseason.
For one, it'll be the first action for the 2011 draft picks, including first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith, whose skills in the secondary will hopefully make an immediate impact in a quarterback-driven league. His play will have a bigger factor than he knows, too, as the Ravens currently have too many players at that position. With Josh Wilson and Chris Carr bothfree agents, and competition from Smith, Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth, it's clear somebody is going to be left out come September.
Also, look for the Ravens to work quickly to re-sign guard Marshal Yanda, who is in need of a new contract. Yanda has been a mainstay on the offensive line and losing him would be a huge blow to Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense. It's expected Yanda will remain in Charm City, but the sooner the ink can flow on his new deal, the happier everyone will be.
Other than those minor issues, the don't expect to see too many transactions flashing along ESPN's Bottomline. The Ravens are in pretty good shape for the season as far as personnel, and now that the lockout has been lifted, it's up to the coaching staff to put all of the pieces together and hopefully get the Ravens back to another deep postseason run.
As always, we'll keep you up to date with all of the happenings from the Ravens and any major news will likely be sent out via our text messaging service, so be sure to sign up for that by texting the word "Ravens" to 29292.