Ray stays…2.0

November 05, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Imminent.

Extension.

Those were the two buzz-words most closely linked to my Tuesday, November 4 blog about Ray Lewis’ contract status in Baltimore for 2009 and beyond.  News reports and message boards percolated with that subject matter yesterday:  ”Lewis and Ravens close to 5-year extension…” – “Ray’s contract extension imminent?”

The only problem with the words “imminent” and “extension”?  I didn’t say them.  Or write them.

I’m always amazed at what people READ and what they THINK they read.  

I wrote a piece that says Ray Lewis is not going to leave Baltimore at the end of the season.  I wrote that he’ll “eventually” (a far cry from “imminent”, by the way) sign a new deal.  ”New deal” is different than “extension”.  ”New deal” means the old contract comes to an end.  ”Extension” means the current contract hasn’t ended yet and the current contract and its new terms are merely “extended” for some agreed-upon period of time.  You can always go back and read the blog from yesterday to see it all more clearly for yourself.

Ray’s going to sign a NEW DEAL in Baltimore – likely for at least 5 years – to finish his career as a Raven.  I don’t know the date of the signing.  I never said I did.  But it will happen.  

The first sentence of yesterday’s blog: The deal isn’t signed, but it might as well be.  Meaning…there are no signatures, but the two parties want each other and they’re going to finalize a deal.  Imminent?  No.  Going to happen?  Yes.

The crux of the blog: Ray Lewis isn’t going anywhere at season’s end.  He’s going to stay in Baltimore. Whether or not the two parties agree to a deal in an expeditious manner is probably more of a concern than whether or not the deal gets done.  The Ravens want Ray to retire in purple.  Ray wants to get paid, but he knows – as anyone advising him would say – that he’ll get more in Baltimore than anywhere else.  

There are members of the Ravens organization who think Ray is definitely going to be back.  There are others who say, “I’m not so sure…he probably will return but I wouldn’t bet my house on it just yet.”  There hasn’t been one person yet say to me, “No chance he’s back…that ship sailed in August when we couldn’t agree on an extension.”  

The people I speak (spoke) with think Ray is coming back and say the deal will get done.  Hell, the guy who owns the team has said that publicly.  Then again, it was right about this time last year that he was telling the PR staff to publish web-site blogs indicating Brian Billick would definitely be back in 2008.  And, well, he decided on 12/31/07 to “change his mind…”  - All that shows, though, is that the Owner is in charge.  If the Owner wants Ray Lewis back today, that doesn’t mean he can’t “change his mind” tomorrow.  I will say, though, that I find that a very unlikely scenario.

Both the Ravens and Ray would rather the whole thing not get ugly, because feelings get hurt when things get ugly.  In this case, if it gets ugly it will probably be as a result of two things: a) the Ravens have a successful, winning season — as in, playoffs… b) Ray wanting to cash in on that new-found team success.

Ray could have taken the Ravens up on a $12mm signing bonus offer back in August.

He scoffed at it (and, honestly, rightfully so…) and said, “I think I’ll see how 2008 goes, but thanks anyway.”  In negotiation-world, that’s a gamble that’s easy to take when you already have millions in the bank and you know, somehow, someway, that more millions are on the horizon.

Ray’s initial pre-2008-season thought was, “$20 million up front sounds right.”

The Ravens said, “We were thinking more like $12 million.”

Eight million is eight million.  Ray said, “I think I’ll pass.”

And that was that.  But since then, who has created the better leverage-package?  The Ravens?  Or Ray?

No doubt about that.  Right now, it’s Ray.  By a landslide…to borrow a term that John McCain is familiar with.

Based on 5-3 at the midway point and the possibility of a 5-11 team (’07) making the playoffs a year later in part due to Ray’s terrific play and leadership, $12 million looks like it’s not going to cut it.

But $20 million probably isn’t going to happen, either.  Unless the Ravens win the Super Bowl, that is. Hell, Ray’s number might be $40mm if they raise the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa (ironic, eh?) next February.

Enter the $16mm number I talked about yesterday.  That is likely to be the final number when all the dust settles and Ray shuttles himself around the country in January and February to see if any teams out there might be willing to pony up some kind of whacky, outrageous signing bonus for a player in the November of his career.

He’ll find out those teams – and that money – aren’t out there.

And the Ravens will find out that he’s not going to take the $12 million he refused in August.

Ray’s not an easy guy to negotiate with because, frankly, he always has the edge.  Ray doesn’t enter a bargaining game with the odds stacked AGAINST him.  He goes in as the favorite, a by-product of his great play on the field, an Owner who has openly embraced him and a franchise that has cultivated his cult-like status on game-day into a worship of fandom with the 70,000 who jam their way into M&T Bank Stadium.

Ray’s going to finish his career as a Raven.

He’ll eventually sign a deal that will reward him for what he’s done and compensate him somewhat for the inevitable passing-of-the-torch that needs to take place in the next 3-5 years.

Ray’s not going anywhere.

But the ride to nowhere might be a little bumpy at times.

In the end, though, all roads will lead back to M&T Bank Stadium.

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