Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ray Lewis and Matt Birk Agree to Join the Ravens

According to the Baltimore Sun, Ray Lewis has agreed in principle to a contract which will have him stay with the Ravens, and according to ESPN, center Matt Birk has agreed to a three-year deal. None of the details have filtered out as of yet, but these are two tremendous signings for the Baltimore Ravens.

It's difficult to argue which signing is more significant, but probably the least surprising signing of the two was Ray Lewis deciding to come back to the team. After Lewis' brief foray into free agency, it became abundantly clear that the Ravens were the only team willing to pony up significant money to sign him. This makes perfect sense for both sides, because his intangibles mean far more to this Baltimore franchise than any other he would go to. There is no way he would enjoy the same respect and the same clout with the franchise if he went to any other city, because he would have to respect players who had been there longer. In Baltimore, he is the unquestioned Alpha of the defense; this is how Ray Lewis is most effective and is the only way that he can be an elite player. Lewis only has a few years left, and this is the situation where he can maximize those years. There's a framework in place for him to win the big one, and there's no locker room he can command better than this one. The Ravens need him to transition this new defense, and he needs the Ravens to give him his swan song.

The Matt Birk signing was wholly unexpected (at least from my point of view), but avoids any potential drop off from the loss of Jason Brown. Certainly in the short term Matt Birk is an upgrade over Jason Brown, but it is somewhat surprising that the Ravens would let such a young promising center get away in favor of an older veteran. Regardless, Matt Birk has been one of the top three centers in the league for the past few years, and he brings that pedigree to a still-young Ravens offensive line. His veteran presence will further help Joe Flacco with getting the protection schemes right, and he maintains that tough mentality that this offensive line needs to survive in the AFC North. It doesn't surprise me that Birk would leave Minnesota, based on the fact that in Baltimore there is far more top-to-bottom consistency, from the coach to the quarterback.

It will be very interesting to see where these contracts fit in under the cap, but assuming the contracts are reasonable these seem to be two excellent signings for the Baltimore Ravens.

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