R. Lewis: No hometown discount

OWINGS MILLS -- Star middle linebacker Ray Lewis doesn't plan to grant the Baltimore Ravens the hometown discount that team owner Steve Bisciotti is hoping for. And the impending unrestricted free agent and 10-time Pro Bowl selection said that he's open to playing for the New York Jets or the Dallas Cowboys.

During an interview with the NFL Network while preparing for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year made it clear that he isn't inclined to leave money on the table to remain in Baltimore.

"I don't play less," Lewis said during a seven-minute interview. "If you don't play less, you don't take less. That's just life."

Bisciotti and Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs have both recently broached the idea that Lewis could opt to stay with the Ravens by not maximizing his financial demands. And Bisciotti offered the opinion that Lewis can make more money in Baltimore than elsewhere.

"I've been hopeful forever that we're going to work a deal," Bisciotti said last month. "I don't think that other people are going to value Ray Lewis higher than we do. We know what he brings to the table. He's showing at 33 that he's capable of playing like a 28-year-old. So, I've got my wife on a budget already to try and save some money so we can sign him. ..

"Ray is not going=2 0to settle for something that he thinks is way below. Are we going to get a hometown discount? I hope so, I really do. I hope I get a discount so I can find another Jimmy Leonhard with the money we save."

However, Lewis seems open to testing the market when the free agent signing period begins Feb. 27, provided that he hasn't been re-signed by Baltimore. Of course, Lewis might just be saying that to get the Ravens to think that he'll sign quickly if he makes it to free agency to try to get the team to increase their offer.

One team Lewis has been linked to in rumors is the Cowboys even though owner Jerry Jones has said that he intends to spend most of his money signing outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware to a contract extension.

Lewis has a history of clashing with controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, who imitated Lewis' trademark dance after scoring a touchdown against Baltimore in 2004 after his trade to the Ravens was nullified and he joined the Philadelphia Eagles. During interviews, Owens has brought up the murder charges filed and dropped against Lewis in 2000.

Nonetheless, Lewis, at least outwardly, doesn't have an issue with Owens.

"I can definitely play with T.O," Lewis said. "I think T.O. is a great, great person. I just love him. I love his work ethic. I love everything about him. So, playing with T.O. is easy."

Easy probably doesn't describe conquering the Cowboys' rampant locker room chemistry problems, many of which involve Owens. However, Lewis struck a confident stance that all the team needs after a disastrous season is "one general," to unify the franchise.

"I don't see all of that outside stuff that they're talking about what goes on in Dallas," Lewis said. "I see Dallas as a great opportunity. It's always been America's Team. It's just a great place to play football."

Meanwhile, Lewis regards New York as a strong potential destination largely due to the presence of former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as the Jets' newly-minted head coach.

Of course, there would likely be a lot of possible endorsement opportunities/extra income for Lewis in a big market like New York.

"That opportunity by itself looks attractive," Lewis said. "That just sounds right. It's like, 'Wow, if something does happen where you're not back in Baltimore, the Jets wouldn't be bad.'

"You go take a young Jets team that has a lot of talent across the board. You wiggle 52 into that equation, then that team goes from just being OK to 'let's go win this.' That scenario is attractive."

Lewis emphasized that he hasn't talked to Ryan yet about the Jets. A conversation like that would be a violation of NFL tampering rules even though that rule is rarely enforced.

Until Lewis is officially a free agent, the Ravens have exclusive negotiating rights.

Lewis didn't shut the door on returning to Baltimore and extending his 13-year tenure after being drafted in the first round out of the University of Miami in 1996 prior to the Ravens' inaugural season.

Lewis did seem bothered that the Ravens haven't already addressed his contract status since this is the first time in his career that he has ever been allowed to approach free agency. In the past, the Ravens had always extended Lewis' contract well in advance of free agency.

"The uncomfortable thing about me is that I'm even having this conversation," Lewis said. "With everything I've given to that city, I've always felt that this is one conversation that I would never have and didn't want to have. That scenario in Baltimore, that's nothing I don't love about my city."

Ravens Insider Top Stories