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News » Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-08

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-08

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2009-03-08
Although negotiations took longer than expected, the Ravens reached an agreement with Ray Lewis that will allow the 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker to finish his career with the team.

Lewis, 33, is expected to sign a three-year, $22 million deal.

"Ray Lewis can retire as a Raven," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

The second player ever drafted by the Ravens, Lewis became the long-time face of the franchise and developed into one of the best middle linebackers in NFL history. Known as a passionate leader, he was key in leading the Ravens to their Super Bowl championship in 2000.

"My heart is with the Ravens," Lewis said in a statement. "My heart is with Baltimore and the great fans."

In addition to keeping Lewis, the Ravens signed two free agents, center Matt Birk from Minnesota and cornerback Domonique Foxworth from Atlanta.

The Ravens are hoping this splash offsets the losses of three starters -- linebacker Bart Scott, center Jason Brown and safety Jim Leonhard -- and allows them to make another strong playoff run this season.

"What a great day for the Ravens," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "To get the commitment from Ray means so much to the team, to the franchise and to our fans."

By reaching this new deal, Lewis can do something that few NFL starts have been able to accomplish -- finish with the team where your career started.

Joe Montana finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Emmitt Smith went to the Arizona Cardinals and even Johnny Unitas played his final season with the San Diego Chargers.

"I don't think an athlete can have a greater legacy than to be able to stay in one place for an entire career," Lewis said. "I feel so fortunate that the Ravens did what they had to do to make this happen."

The Ravens repeatedly expressed their desire to retain Lewis. Nearly a year ago, owner Steve Bisciotti said that the Ravens would "outbid" other teams if Lewis reached free agency.

But there were signs of a possible split between Lewis and the Ravens over the past month.

On Feb. 4, Lewis said he wouldn't give "a hometown discount" to the Ravens and talked about his interest in going to the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. About two weeks later, Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said that Lewis told him that it's his "dream" to play in Dallas.

According to a league source, the Ravens offered Lewis a three-year, $24 million deal before the start of free agency on Friday. Lewis declined so he could become a free agent for the first time in his 13-year career.

Surprisingly, Lewis didn't draw any interest from other teams. The Jets chose to pursue Lewis' younger teammate, Bart Scott, and the Cowboys decided to sign Keith Brooking, a cheaper alternative.

"Over the last six days, I took a backseat and waited to see what would happen," Lewis said from his Florida home. "This is part of God's plan, and I couldn't be happier."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 8, 2009

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Adam Bergen Name: Adam Bergen
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