News reports over the last couple of days have indicted that the NFL lockout may be ending soon. Now they face a real deadline as the lockout must end by July 15 for there to be preseason games.
Since the lockout is ending so late, each team will have to make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time. Although the rules on free agency aren't clear yet, the only sure thing is that there won't be much time to make decisions about them.
Here are seven free agents that I believe will stay Baltimore Ravens next year. Some are starters, others may potentially start in the future.
This list is assuming that the new CBA will cause free agency after four years instead of six.
Haloti Ngata is perhaps the most obvious player that the Ravens need to re-sign. He is a force on their defensive line and clearly their best player at the defensive end position.
Ngata made the Pro Bowl the last two years and the All-Pro team the last three years. His athletic ability is amazing given his size at 325 lbs. This was demonstrated by the constant double-teams that he received last year.
In January, the Ravens gave Ngata the franchise tag. This was a good move since he is far too valuable to lose in free agency.
Hopefully, the Ravens can sign him to a lengthy deal once free agency begins.
Marshal Yanda is a player that looks to have an important role on the offensive line in 2011. This offensive guard started all 16 games in the 2010 season, his first full season as a starter.
Because of all the injuries on the Ravens offensive line, Yanda moved around on the line last year. His high level of play was important in a year where OT Jared Gaither was mostly hurt. Even with the offensive line struggling to protect Flacco last year, Yanda was still solid as a blocker.
Already the Ravens front office has made it clear that re-signing Yanda is a top priority. Hopefully this will be a guy they can get as soon as free agency starts before any other teams make a move.
One of the Ravens biggest disappointments in 2010 was the play of the offensive line. Joe Flacco had the second most sacks in 2010 getting sacked 40 times.
The offensive line's struggles also hurt the running game which finished 2010 ranked No. 14, which is lower than their usual spot.
However, center Chris Chester was one of the bright spots last year. Last year, he started 14 games, none of which were at his position of center. Instead, he covered at right guard because of all the injuries.
Should Chester return, it seems that it may be in a backup role. Matt Birk is still locked up as starting center and hopefully the offensive line will be healthier.
As a backup Chester could provide veteran experience as well as versatility that could come in handy if there are injuries.
The Ravens have three cornerbacks that are scheduled to be free agents this year. It is unlikely that they will re-sign all three cornerbacks: Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson and Chris Carr.
Already the Ravens have capable starting cornerbacks in Ladarius Webb and rookie Jimmy Smith.
I think that the most likely returner would be Chris Carr. Although he wasn't too good when he arrived in 2009, Carr has definitely improved during his time here. Last year he started the entire season for the first time in his career.
It doesn't hurt Carr's case that it would be cheaper to re-sign him then Josh Wilson. Carr has also expressed his hope to be a Raven in 2011. Should he return, he has a good chance of starting alongside either Webb or Smith.
This player may come as a bit of a surprise. However, I believe the Ravens are going to try to bring back Jared Gaither in 2011.
Gaither had an extremely bizarre year in 2010. He inexplicably lost a lot of weight before training camp. Then after aggravating a back injury, he sat out the entire season.
Gaither's presence was clearly missed in 2010. His absence saw Flacco take 40 hits and a clear drop off in the running game. When healthy Gaither had been seen as the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.
Although Gaither's injuries in 2010 were disturbing, the truth is the Ravens need improved play on the offensive line.
Now, both Gaither and his agent claim that his back is totally healed. Since Gaither is healthy, the Ravens would have nothing to lose by returning this potential pro to the starting lineup.
In terms of obvious players that should be re-signed, Sam Koch is actually one of them.
This is high praise for a punter, but since his arrival in 2006, Koch has been one of the NFL's elite punters. 39 of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line last season, good enough for second best in the NFL.
His net average of 39.2 yards, also ranked high among punters.
As a former special teams coach, John Harbaugh knows the value of special teams. This has been shown with good coverage teams, good kicking and good punting since Harbaugh started coaching.
It would be a shame if Koch walked, and the Ravens had to settle for an average punter.
Like with cornerback, the Ravens shall have to make a decision about strong safety in 2011.
Starter Dawan Landry looks like he could be an unrestricted free agent. Meanwhile, backup safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski could also be leaving.
Although Landry has been good during his career, the Ravens haven't been too keen on staying with the same strong safety.
With Ed Reed as the other safety, it takes away a lot of pressure for the strong safety. I think Landry will get a lot of money thrown his way, and instead, Nakamura will start at strong safety.
Nakamura is relatively inexperienced, having yet to start a game. Still, he has been a promising backup who has performed well his few times on the field.
I think he could start over Zbikowski who has been extremely busy with his boxing career this offseason, which could displease the coaching staff.