All-Pro LB Lewis OKs 7-year, $50M contract with RavensPosted: Thursday August 01, 2002 1:59 PM
Updated: Friday August 02, 2002 12:09 AM
WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) -- Ray Lewis was delighted about having enough money to keep his mother happy for the rest of her life.
On the surface, both sides appeared to benefit from the five-year extension that Lewis accepted Thursday. But Lewis, who received a whopping $19 million signing bonus, saw things differently.
Asked for his take on the negotiations, which lasted for nearly a year, Lewis looked over each shoulder to make sure there were no team officials nearby.
Then he grinned broadly and whispered, "I won. I got what I wanted."
The five-time Pro Bowl star, who had two years left on a deal that was to pay him $4.75 million per season, now has a new seven-year contract worth approximately $50 million.
The sides finalized the deal Thursday after the Ravens' morning training camp practice.
"I talked to my mom yesterday, and tears were rolling down my eyes when I told her this wasn't my contract," Lewis said. "When I was 9 or 10 years old, I promised her something. Now she's set for life."
"He's a very good football player, and he's going to be a big part of our success over the next seven years," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "It's a relief, knowing he's going to be a Raven."
Lewis, 27, led the NFL with 196 tackles last year and added 17 more in Baltimore's two postseason games. He was a key figure in the Ravens' drive to the Super Bowl in 2000, and clearly is the finest player on a team torn apart by a sweeping salary-cap purge during the offseason.
"I truly believe that they truly respect what I did, and what I am still able to do for this organization," Lewis said. "This is where I started my foundation, and this is where I wanted to end it. NowI can."
Said Ravens head coach Brian Billick: "When Ray goes, I'll go. If that's the way it works out, it will be fine with me."
Since coming to Baltimore as the 26th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Lewis has been the Ravens' leading tackler in each of his six seasons. He led the league in tackles in 1997, '99 and last year, when he also registered a career-high tying three interceptions and 3 1/2 sacks.
With a big assist from Lewis, the Ravens made the playoffs for a second consecutive year in 2001. Now the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder finds himself in the middle of a massive rebuilding project.
"This assures that Ray will end his career as a Baltimore Raven, and hopefully I'll be introducing him in Canton in a few years," said Lewis' agent, Roosevelt Barnes.
Lewis appears on a course for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, despite his troubles of two years ago, when he was charged in the stabbing deaths of two men after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obstruction of justice, was put on probation for one year and fined $250,000 by the NFL for "detrimental conduct."
The following season he took the Ravens to their first world title, being named NFL defensive player of the year and earning the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Now he's destined to spend the next seven seasons trying to earn another championship ring or two with Baltimore.
Or so it seems.
"I just hope," Lewis said, "that Ozzie doesn't have a change of heart and cuts me in the morning."