Ray Lewis Needs To Swallow Pride, Return To Ravens

chad lamasaCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2009

Four days into free agency and Ray Lewis, a first-round draft pick in 1996 and sure fire first ballot Hall-of-Famer, remains unsigned.

The Ravens offered him what they thought was a fair deal for a 33-year-old linebacker, saying that it would be the best deal that he would get. The offer was in the neighborhood of $20 million over three years, with $17 million guaranteed.

Lewis turned it down and decided to test the market. I'm sure he felt that every NFL team would be knocking down his door to sign him.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Ray Lewis receiving a huge contract—no one has come knocking. Not even the the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, who were thought to be the front runners for securing his services.

Rex Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator and current Jets head coach passed Lewis over for the younger Bart Scott. He is also rumored to be in talks with Corey Ivy and Jim Leonhard, other Ravens teammates of Lewis's.

I'm sure Lewis has taken a major blow to his ego, with the lack of interest from the rest of the league, but now it is time for him to swallow his pride and realize that he needs to stay in Baltimore. I don't fault him for wanting to see what he's worth on the open market though.

This is his job, and a very cool job at that, but a job nonetheless. Just like any job, if you can get more from somewhere else of course you're going to take it.

This whole thing about a hometown discount is absolutely ridiculous. If I was looking for another job and my current employer said, "We want you to stay here, but we want you to take less money," I wouldn't accept that either.

Would any of you? I don't think so.

That being said, Lewis needs to know what he has with the Ravens. If he was on the Lions or Rams, I could understand wanting to leave in order to make a run at the Super Bowl. But just a few weeks ago, with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and first-year head coach John Harbaugh, they were a game away from the Super Bowl.

Even losing Bart Scott, this defense will still be in the top five in the league in 2009. The offense is finally starting to close the gap and that has made the team more rounded. Barring injuries the Ravens should again compete for the AFC crown.

Forget on-the-field accolades for a minute, and just realize how revered Ray Lewis is in Baltimore. No. 52 is one of the most popular jerseys in the stands at home games. His was the first Ravens jersey I bought.

He has achieved a one-name status in Baltimore. Only four other Baltimore players in the history of the city's professional sports teams have done that—Cal, Eddie, Brooks and Johnny.

One day his number will be retired and he will be in the Ravens Ring of Honor.

Even when he had his legal issues, this city rallied around him.

This situation reminds me of when Coach K was thinking of leaving Duke to coach the Lakers. Durham is the perfect place for him. If he had left Duke and failed at the pro level, he would have been just another college coach that couldn't cut it. At Duke, he is a hero and one of the best coaches of all time. He made the right choice to stay.

Ray needs to do the same.

If he leaves, he will be considered a sell-out by Ravens fans. If he's not successful the fans of his new team, will consider him a waste of money.

Also a new team is not going to structure their defense around him. At this point in his career, does he really want to learn an entirely new system?

He will not be able to replicate the chemistry he has with the guys he currently plays with. They want to play with him and make him proud. Does DeMarcus Ware really care what Ray Lewis thinks of him?

I doubt it.

Lewis's dance at the beginning of home games and his "Where my dogs at" rant won't matter to players on other teams where Lewis might go, nor would the fans care about these rituals. He won't be "The Man" on another team or the face of the franchise.

Ray has it made here. There may be a few hurt feelings in Baltimore, but once he gets a sack, interception or even a few tackles in the first game of the season, all will be forgiven.

Not to be crude, but I think it's time for Ray to suck it up and come home. If there are hurt feelings on his side, I can accept that, but they will go away as soon as he steps on the field and he hears all the Ravens fans cheering for him.

And cheer they will.