R. Lewis talks in holding pattern

OWINGS MILLS -- As the Baltimore Ravens continue to haggle with All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, sentiment continues to build in NFL circles that Lewis should come to grips with the reality that the high-profile bidding war he had envisioned simply isn't going to happen.

Lewis has received the silent treatment in free agency so far after declining to accept the Ravens' three-year, $24 million offer that includes $17 million in guaranteed money. And that situation doesn't figure to change as several teams have already filled openings for inside linebackers.

Lewis' top financial option remains re-signing with Baltimore.

"As a player of Ray's stature, you don't maintain a sense of reality," former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann said Monday in a telephone interview. "There are few places for him to go in the first place, economically. In Ray's situation, you look at some of the numbers that lesser known, less accomplished younger players are getting and you think, 'Why can't I get a piece of that?'

"In Ray's case, the reality is that there aren't a whole lot of options for him. The way you drive up the price is to have a lot of suitors for your talent. That's the only way to get that done is to negotiate with other teams. Truthfully, Ray Lewis has made more money than he can spend in his lifetime."

Against the advice of his former agents, Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker, Lewis opted for a seven-year, $50 million contract extension in 2002 that was the richest defensive player contract in NFL history at the time. They advised Lewis, as did Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, that the deal's status would have a short shelf life.

If Lewis, who turns 34 in May, had opted for a four-year contract or a five-year pact as recommended, he would have become an unrestricted free agent during his prime.

"It's not just a question of economics," Theismann said. "The numbers get skewed. Players think the numbers are equal to respect. I don't agree with that. I think numbers reflect market value. It's the free enterprise system. Free agency has always leaned toward youth."

Lewis is a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

He led the Ravens with 117 tackles last season, also recording 3 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

However, it was Ravens free agent inside linebacker Bart Scott who cashed in during free agency with a six-year, $48 million contract with the New York Jets instead of Lewis. Scott has only been named to the Pro Bowl once.

Has Lewis' game declined?

"Ray can still play, I saw him at the Super Bowl and he's still built like a rock with a great attitude," Theismann said. "There are certain thing he doesn't do as well at a certain age, but I think it's paramount that Ray gets re-signed by the Ravens. Ray brings so much more to a football team with his presence in the locker room and professionalism than just his play on the field.

"To me, Ray is a middle linebacker that has to play in a system where the tackles protect him. He's still a major asset, especially to a young coach like John Harbaugh. Ray still has the ability to run and tackle, he just doesn't just move as well as he used to. But he's still Ray Lewis."

Meanwhile, Scott conducted a conference call with New York reporters Monday.

He outlined an aggressive approach.

"It's one thing to be physical and make a tackle, it's another thing to be violent," Scott said. "Violent makes guys stay on the sideline when they're getting hit. I have no problem talking it. To tell you the truth, you have to shut me up. That's why I never called the plays, because I was too busy fighting.

"I've been a violent, angry player ever since I was in Little League. My high school coach helped develop that and Baltimore taught me how to control that. It's one thing to be violent and passionate without being reckless. We call it 'organized chaos.' You have to be violent. Football is physical game you have to go in with bad intentions."

Scott said he was honored that the Jets chose him over Lewis, who made exorbitant financial demands to New York team officials.

"Unbelievable, I'm excited for the opportunity and the chance to prove them right," Scott said. "Ray is a great player, and he will go down as one of, if not the greatest players to play the game. It was an honor to play beside him."

NOTES: The Ravens didn't get back in touch with Pittsburgh Steelers free agent offensive tackle Marvel Smith on Monday after launching preliminary discussions over the weekend, but it's believed he remains on their radar. A former Pro Bowl selection, Smith has a history of back problems. "I think Marvel's a good, solid player," Theismann said. "He's played in this division and knows the Ravens' defense, the Browns and the Bengals. He understands what smashing people in the mouth is all about." ... The Ravens haven't made inquiries about Jacksonville Jaguars free agent offensive tackle Khalif Barnes. ...

Baltimore contemplated going after offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb prior to him re-signing with the New Orleans Saints. .. The Ravens talked with the representatives for newly-signed Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington, but never made a serious run at the former Pittsburgh Steelers' third receiver. "We gave the Ravens our word that we would call them before we did anything with Nate," said Eric Armstead, one of Washington's agents. "They had some definite interest in Nate." ... Jets coach Rex Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and secondary coach Dennis Thurman recruited Scott hard, making a surprise visit to his house after midnight Thursday. ... "I thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world," Scott said. "I'm happy they didn't get out of the car and get bit by my dogs. When I heard my dogs barking, I thought they were out chasing deer or something. When coach Thurman called me and told me to come out and get these dogs, it was the funniest thing in the world. I'm trying to figure out, how does he know I have dogs and how does he know where I live? They did their due diligence. It was really refreshing. It showed they wanted me and they weren't going to let me go anywhere." ...

The Jets are still looking at Ravens free agent defensive backs Jim Leonhard and Corey Ivy. Leonhard is reportedly also drawing interest from the Philadelphia Eagles. ... Scott denied that he shopped the Jets' offer to the Ravens and other NFL teams despite the fact that the deal increased through an option year and an additional $8 million in total value between Thursday and the launch of free agency Friday.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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