SI.com's Ross Tucker understands this better than most of us -- in 2004, he faced Lewis and recalls being "amazed with how well-prepared he was and how much of a technician he could be." And that's not even mentioning Lewis' physical skills. But even knowing that, Tucker thinks the Ravens should avoid a bidding war for Ray's services.
One option: Bart Scott. I know, Scott's declined in recent seasons, but, as is usually the case, it comes down to money. Specifically, making all this work under the salary cap:
Scott's not the same talent Lewis is, but he's close enough that the Ravens need to consider signing him over Lewis if they can get Scott at about 70 cents on the Ray Lewis' dollar. Scott is an extremely physical player and an outstanding blitzer who is just 28 and didn't see any regular action his first three years in the league.It's certainly an alternative, one made more attractive by the thought of Terrell Suggs returning to Baltimore. As for Lewis taking his game elsewhere -- the Cowboys and Jets appear to be early favorites -- to not only improve the defense but also provide leadership in the locker room, Tucker offers this warning:
Too bad it doesn't work like that in the NFL, where leadership isn't for sale. The Jets learned that last year by naming Brett Favre and Alan Faneca captains. There is a process to becoming a franchise leader. Lewis has perfected that process in Baltimore, but that doesn't mean his show will play elsewhere. His presence is most widely felt in Baltimore and both he and the Ravens realize that.That's a good point, but I'd still like to see what Lewis could do in Dallas. I'm guessing he'd spend more time providing his "unique brand of leadership skills" to the front office and coaching staff than trying to keep Terrell Owens in line. And he'd probably be right in doing so.