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News » Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-02-27

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-02-27

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-02-27
For the first time in his 13-year career, Ray Lewis will become an unrestricted free agent.

But where will the 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker end up?

While there is talk that Lewis could bolt for the Dallas Cowboys or New York Jets, the Ravens believe they could still retain the face of their franchise.

"Economics are always a part of it," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I don't know what the other part of it would be. He has a very good relationship with Coach Harbaugh. You know of his relationship with (owner) Steve (Bisciotti), and he and I have a very good relationship.

"And I think he realizes where our football team is at right now, in that we have Joe (Flacco), and that we can contend in our division and in our conference to try to get him to another Super Bowl. So those things are in place. But economics always play a big part of it."

Lewis had one of his better seasons in recent years, finishing with 117 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The Ravens had talked in the offseason about limiting his snaps in passing situations to save the wear-and-tear on his body. But Lewis remained an every-down linebacker and played a full 16 games for the first time since 2003 (when he won his second NFL defensive player of the year award).

Ravens officials have said Lewis' value to the Ravens goes beyond tackles and sacks.

Asked whether Lewis had more value in Baltimore than anywhere else, Newsome said, "We like to think that."

"What you all do not get the opportunity to see like I do on a daily basis is how he interacts with the young players. He's a great mentor not only to the other young linebackers, but some of the young offensive players. .... So he has value that goes beyond his production on the football field."

Since the Ravens' season ended with a loss in the AFC championship game, Lewis has talked about the possibilities of playing for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets. Over the past year, the Ravens have repeatedly talked about their intentions on keeping Lewis.

Besides Lewis, the Ravens are still working on a deal for linebacker Bart Scott. There have been indications that the Ravens have made more headway in talks with Scott than Lewis.

But the Ravens haven't ruled out the possibility of keeping both linebackers. Even if the Ravens reach a deal with Scott, Newsome said it doesn't preclude the return of Lewis.

"The one doesn't have an effect on the other," Newsome said.

The New York Jets, who are expected to show interest in Lewis and Scott, freed up $6 million in salary-cap room when they released wide receiver Laveranues Coles. That money could be used in their pursuit of one of the Ravens' linebackers.

It has been estimated that the Ravens are $19.4 million under the salary cap.

While Newsome is optimistic about keeping Lewis or Scott, the Ravens might have trouble retaining center Jason Brown and safety Jim Leonhard. The team is also uncertain about the future of kicker Matt Stover.

"We always feel like we're willing to pay more for our players than other people will, but over the past few years, we have lost players because they've had the opportunity to help their families by making a lot of money" elsewhere, Newsome said.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 27, 2009

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David Pittman Name: David Pittman
Position: CB
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: Northwestern State
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