A few weeks ago we discussed with cautious optimism the recent statements that Terrell Suggs made asking the three star linebackers heading for free agency (himself, Ray Lewis, and Bart Scott) to take a collective “hometown discount” so that they can stay together as a team. Leave it to the most unlikely of suspects to slash the optimism right out of that equation. According to an interview on the NFL Network, Ray Lewis has quashed any ideas of a hometown discount, and will play where he will get paid as competitively as possible. I can see Bart Scott or (prior to this offseason) Terrell Suggs making this sort of statement, but Ray?
Look, I have no problem with a player asking for money commensurate with his experience and ability, but I would hope that Ray understands that his role is far more than a player. He is not just “52”, he is a leader in the locker room. Even when he hasn’t played his personal best, he has raised the level of play of everyone else on that defense. I am sure that this is a major talking point for him and his agent in negotiations, but he misses one salient point. In the interview with NFL Network, he implies that he would be such a locker room force on whatever team he joins. I am not sure that would take place. He would be new to the players, new to the organization, and would be coming up against other leaders on the team. Ray has been the face of this franchise because all other potential leaders are subsumed under his fury and passion. I am not sure that other teammates would respond as well to his approach, and I am not sure that Lewis would be content to be a supporting figure in the locker room.
Moreover, one thing Lewis has been adamant about amidst the rumors of his diminishing abilities is that he must be a starter and take just about every snap. The Ravens have been loyal with him, passing over other young talent to keep #52 in his spot. Will his other suitors be so patient if he has an off-year next year? We all know Ray wants to play another 3 years, but what if his new team drafts a linebacker after next season and wants to put the legendary linebacker in a backup or mentoring role? Lewis is not that kind of player, and he should know that if he stays in Baltimore he will be a starter for just about as long as he wants. He has earned that- if he gets in another uniform, he won’t have earned that right.
What alarms me most about this report is that he specifically names two teams he would like to join, the Cowboys and the Jets. Why? He sounded more like a free agent hungry for dollars than the face of the Ravens franchise. I understand he can win with the Cowboys or the Jets, and he may get loyalty from new Jets head coach Rex Ryan, but the assumption that those situations would be comparable to his situation in Baltimore are preposterous. These comments also come on the heels of his announcing that he didn’t want to discuss his offseason plans, and I understood that to mean that he wanted to silence speculation. Here he is stoking the flames himself, either trying to force the Ravens to up the ante or get his money elsewhere. He should realize that if the Ravens are forced to pay top dollar for his services, they won’t have the money to resign important other pieces of the team or perhaps even their draft picks.
Ray has to pick which one he wants more from the Ravens, the money or the chance to win another Super Bowl. Based on this interview it sounds like he wants to go to the highest bidder. I understand this sentiment in principle, but I have trouble hearing it from the face of the Baltimore Ravens, it just doesn’t seem right. Ray Lewis the mercenary? I don’t want to believe it, I hope it is just posturing. I always thought he cared about the team’s rings, not just the ones on his hand.
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