Ray’s gamble might cost him cash

February 18, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Now, it’s Ray Lewis’ time to gamble.

It’s getting a little more complicated with today’s announcement from the Ravens that they’ve decided to place the franchise tag on Terrell Suggs. “Sizzle” got his money.  At least for now, he has $10,170,000 coming to him next year.  

A month ago, Steve Bisciotti basically said “we’re not going to use the franchise tag on Ray Lewis.”  He spoke the truth on that one.

Now, Ray and his agent have to figure out whether or not the Ravens are to be believed when they say, “Here’s our offer…it’s pretty much what we told you it was back in August.  Things haven’t really changed.”

Gamble time.

Does 52 call their bluff and go out on the open market for the Pay-Ray-Tour?  

That SEEMS like it’s the best thing to do.

Not so quick, though.

Here’s what COULD happen with Ray.  

Ray’s been offered a deal that includes a $12 million signing bonus.  Four years?  Five years?  It probably has to be somewhere in that neighborhood just to make the deal “cap favorable” for the Ravens.

OK, here’s where trouble lurks for Ray and David Dunn, his agent.

Right now, the offer is there from the Ravens.  A team source tells me they’ve done their best to convince Ray that the offer is firm, fair, honest and not necessarily a negotiating chip.  In other words, Ozzie & Co. are giving Lewis the “tough talk”, as in, “Ray, we love you, we want you and we hope you’re back.  But this is our offer and it’s what we’ve determined your value is to us.”

If Ray doesn’t believe the Ravens are being forthright, he can just put his phone on silent until February 27 and start the Pay-Ray-Tour in search of someone who will pay him what he thinks he’s worth.

Fast forward to, say, March 12.  Ray and Dunn have made nicey-nice with everyone in the league and guess what they find?  No one has the money.  Or, at least, not enough to make Ray pack up and move. 

What if, for example, the very-best offer given to Ray is something like $9 million up front and another $13 million over four years to play in — Atlanta — or St. Louis — or Minnesota.

Ray says to Dunn, “I’m not signing for that…call the Ravens and take their deal.”

Dunn calls Ozzie.  “We’ll take your offer.”

There’s only one problem.  Make that, three problems.

“Well, David, some things have changed in the last 14 days,” Ozzie says.  “We couldn’t wait around because we have a team to put together.  We gave Jason Brown his money. We re-signed Jim Leonhard.  And Dre Bly was available at the right price and we brought him in.  We’re still interested in Ray, but the numbers have changed from our standpoint.”

Suddenly, the honest, firm offer Ray turned down becomes the honest, firm offer that’s not on the table anymore.

Ray can take the Ravens offer right now and stop worrying about his “deal” and start focusing on the ’09 season.  Or, he can gamble that the Ravens are fibbing to him and that there’s plenty of negotiating left to be done.  Howie Mandel is nowhere in sight but he might as well be.  

Ray’s always been the best at playing HIS game.  Football.

Ozzie’s pretty darn good at playing HIS game.  

Who wins?

Maybe both of them will.

But if Ray’s not careful, he’s going to win at a reduced price.  

And he won’t like that.