It's taken 131 days, endless hours of negotiations and more erroneous reports than what we're seeing with the national debt crisis, but it's almost over.
According to multiple reports, the NFL and its players' union have agreed to end the lockout. All that's needed is the formality of approval by the players, which should happen early this week.
Now that the game has gone from negotiating rooms to the practice field, we can finally begin talking about our national obsession - football, NFL style.
For the Cleveland Browns, that means a return to talk about what it will take to finally get the franchise on stable ground after a 12-year period of futility since the expansion season of 1999.
Following are 10 things the Browns need to do when the lockout is finally complete:
1. Find a receiver in free agency. The hope is that second-round pick Greg Little will fit the bill as a game-breaker, but there are no assurances for a player that didn't play last season at North Carolina because of his dealings with an agent. Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi aren't number one guys. There's a glaring hole that must be addressed.
2. With the base defense shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3, there's a need to add depth up front. The first two picks in the draft - run-stopping nose tackle Phil Taylor and speed end Jabaal Sheard - should help, but there's not much else beyond Ahtyba Rubin. Robaire Smith will try to return, but he's been banged up a ton. Linebacker Marcus Benard adds speed off the edge in passing downs, and he should be of some help.
3. Bring on the linebackers. There's no way that injury-prone D'Qwell Jackson can be counted on for long-term help. Scott Fujita is back from a knee injury and Chris Gocong returns, but where's the gap-stuffing linebacker? He's not on the roster.
4. Safety help. This area is of concern. Other than the hard-hitting T.J. Ward, there isn't much. Abe Elam probably won't be re-signed, which is no big loss. Mike Adams, a hybrid-type capable of also being the third cornerback, will help some, but he's more of a security blanket. A speed safety capable of playing centerfield would help greatly.
5. Can the right side of the offensive line finally be solidified? If the Browns think injury-prone Tony Pashos will play all season at tackle, they're dreaming. Shawn Lauvao, who had some growing pains last season as a rookie, could be ready to step in at guard. If not, there's always Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack.
6. Give Peyton Hillis a break. Hillis was a workhorse at running back last season, but his body likely won't hold up to the hits he absorbs - he barely made it through last season. Everyone in the organization is crossing their fingers in the hope that Montario Hardesty will stay healthy. That's asking a lot. Hardesty had health problems throughout college, and he missed all of last season after tearing knee ligaments on his seventh carry in the final preseason game of last season.
7. Find out if Colt McCoy is the quarterback of the future. McCoy thinks he can be the guy, and you have to like his confidence and intelligence. But does he have the arm strength needed to make the tough throws? The west-coast offense that coach Pat Shurmur will install is to McCoy's liking, but there will be times when he'll need to stretch the field to keep defenses honest. Does anyone know for sure that he can do that?
8. Adjusting to a new coach. The players hardly know Shurmur, who was named to the post last January. This is where the lockout really hit the Browns hard. The period of adjustment should have been completed with minicamps and OTAs. Instead, there won't be much more than one month to get ready for the start of the season. The players better learn fast.
9. The Dick Jauron impact. Jauron, who has a wealth of experience as a head coach and assistant, takes control of the defense. Can he use that experience to mold a strong unit that could depend on several young players namely, Sheard and Taylor on the line? If he can put the defense in the top half of the NFL statistically, he's a genius.
10. The Browns need to get tougher. Playing in a division that includes the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the Browns often come off as the undersized little brother. An influx of physicality, mixed with a dash of attitude, wouldn't hurt.