Lewis, Ravens agree to deal

Updated: March 5, 2009, 2:15 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Apparently, you can go home again.

After testing the free-agent waters for several days, 13-year veteran Ray Lewis reached an agreement to return to the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday.

"From beginning to end as a Raven. ... Wow! To be with the same team with the same fans for an entire career, that doesn't happen in the NFL," Lewis said. "I don't think an athlete can have a greater legacy than to be able to stay in one place for an entire career."

The two sides agreed to a three-year contract, worth $20 million to $25 million. The deal has yet to be signed but should be finalized in the next few days.

"We got better today. Our football team got better. I am very happy," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "This will allow Ray to finish his career as a Raven."

Lewis, who said several times he would sign the best offer he received, garnered only modest interest around the league. Owner Steve Bisciotti recently said the team would pay Lewis "a lot of money" to remain with the franchise.

Made For Each Other

Ray Lewis and the Ravens needed each other. The LB wanted a good contract, and Baltimore was willing to give it to him, ESPN.com's James Walker writes. Blog

• Blog network: NFL Nation

The longtime middle linebacker is one of the most celebrated and decorated defenders in league history. Lewis is also regarded as the heart and soul of the Baltimore defense, and it was hard to imagine the unit playing a game without him.

That point is now moot.

The Ravens lost standout inside linebacker Bart Scott to the New York Jets in free agency, and that ramped up contract talks with Lewis' camp.

In 13 seasons, Lewis has appeared in 164 games, with 146 starts.

The former University of Miami star has played in nine Pro Bowl games and been selected an All-Pro on eight occasions. In addition, he twice won NFL defensive player of the year honors, in 2000 and 2003. He was chosen as the most valuable player in the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV victory.

2008: Best of Ray Lewis

NFL.com Video

Highlights of the best moments from Ray Lewis in 2008.

The team's first-round pick in the 1996 draft, Lewis has nearly 1,000 tackles, 33½ sacks, 28 interceptions and 48 passes defensed. He has played in all 16 games in seven seasons. In 2008, when many critics thought he had lost a step and was no longer in an elite defender, Lewis started all 16 games and recorded 160 tackles, 3½ sacks and nine passes defensed.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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