As the lockout enters its 328th month, or so it feels, fans are beginning to wonder if their 2011 NFL season will be taken away from them by greedy millionaires and billionaires.
Football has become our national pastime (despite what anyone over 50 chewing tobacco may argue), and the momentum lost by a missed season may prove difficult to recover from.
Regardless of where you stand on this debate, the common denominator remains: We want football!
One of the most important parts of the offseason is free agency. While this usually occurs shortly after the Superbowl, the lockout has drastically changed this schedule. Should the labor dispute become resolved and team activities are once again allowed, an avalanche of activity is sure to follow.
Players without contracts will be swept up by teams preparing for training camps and preseason in a much shorter time period than normally expected. Because of all this lockout hoopla, fans may not know who will be available via free agency.
Here are five free agents that fans may have forgotten about who could be key contributors to teams looking to add a piece or two for a playoff run.
If Owen Daniels' contract expired at the end of the 2008 season, he would surely be receiving a big fat extension from the Houston Texans. However, after two seasons of injuries and inconsistencies, his time in Houston may be coming to a close.
Daniels hauled in 70 passes for 862 yards in 2008, but has only played 19 games since and simply does not look like the same player. However, Daniels is 29 years old and came on very strong at the end of last year, including 22 catches and a pair of scores in four games. He now appears to be free of injury and ready for a fresh start.
A contending team that is in need of a tight end could see some value in acquiring Daniels, who always gives it his all on the field.
Davin Joseph already has a Pro Bowl appearance to his resume, and is set to hit the open market. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all but recognized that they cannot afford to keep the outstanding guard, and have cheaper options waiting in the wings.
Although the Bucs are not known for their offensive line play, Joseph has kept that group together on a string at times, appearing in 57 of 64 games prior to last year.
Although an injury cut short his 2010 season, there is no reason to believe Joseph won't be ready to go once the lockout ends. He is an excellent talent that is equally adept in run and pass protection.
Any team in need of offensive line help could add a major piece should they choose to sign him.
Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league, Stephen Tulloch is a tackling machine. He began to see increased playing time in 2008 and has led the Tennessee Titans in tackles each of the last two seasons.
Tulloch is a difference maker.
He has blossomed into one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and Tennessee's defense would surely take a step or two back without Tulloch manning the middle. The Titans spent two draft choices on linebackers in this years draft, an indication that Tulloch may not be back in Nashville.
A lot of teams looking to make the next stop, like the Detroit Lions, could certainly use Tulloch's services. I would not be surprised if he made the Pro Bowl in 2011.
Mathias Kiwanuka's tenure with the New York Giants has been an up-and-down affair, and it appears that he will be departing the Big Apple this offseason. After recording eight sacks in his first full-time season at defensive end in 2008, Kiwanuka has battled through injuries and inconsistencies since.
The Giants are loaded along the defensive line, and may not see it in their best interest financially to make an offer to the former BC Eagle.
Kiwanuka has all the physical tools to be a playmaker. A fresh new start may be exactly what he needs to become a star. Expect a double-digit sack total from Kiwanuka in his new destination, assuming he stays healthy.
One of the main profiteers of the Green Bay Packers' Superbowl run, James Jones is surely in for a big payday. It's unlikely that Jones will be back amongst the cheeseheads, as they have plenty of options at wideout, along with one of the best QB's in the league to make receivers look better than they are.
Jones burst onto the scene in 2007, catching 47 balls for nearly 700 yards. Although he has been inconsistent since, Jones stormed to life in the second half of 2010, including some vital catches in the Packers Superbowl victory.
Some will surely look to capitalize on his current form and turn him into a reliable No. 2 option. Teams like Atlanta or Tampa Bay, who have a solid first option but lack a consistent second, could add Jones into the fold and drastically improve their offensive immediately.