Some national analysts believe that Ray Lewis will retire now that his 17th season has ended due to a triceps tear. Others believe that Lewis won’t allow his retirement to be determined by injury and that he will in fact return in 2013.
But is it really that cut and dried?
If you’ve paid any attention to Ray Lewis whatsoever, you are fully aware that he is a spiritual man. He is also tremendously blessed with qualities that make him a quintessential leader and a gifted motivator.
Clearly there’s a calling for him beyond football.
During the episode of NFL Network’s “A Football Life” featuring Ray, his body language and his carefully chosen words seemed to suggest that he was close to being ready to move on from football; to be a Dad; to answer his call from a higher power.
It’s quite possible that this injury has forced Ray, at least in his mind, to plan B. And that would be to return for an 18th season at the age of 38.
And how might the Ravens respond if that is his decision?
Suppose during his absence that Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain or Albert McClellan really step up and their productivity exceeds what we’ve seen from Ray over the past 6 games. Do the Ravens ignore that and restore Lewis to his Mike linebacker spot because that’s what HE wants?
What if the best player on the draft board when the Ravens are on the clock in April is a middle linebacker?
Should the Ravens extend special treatment to Ray even if it proves to be detrimental to the team? The Orioles once did that with Cal Ripken and his infamous streak when Cal’s best interests superseded the team’s.
And if they don’t cater to Ray’s whims, what message might that send to teammates who might idolize him? Could the club take a hit on their reputation for being a player-friendly organization?
And then of course there are the dollars and cents, the lifeblood of the NFL.
Next season Ray’s cap figure will be $7.3 M. If the Ravens release Ray they will save $4.5 M in cap space – space that could go a long way towards signing a productive player or retaining Joe Flacco. Let’s not forget that at the moment, the Ravens are projected to butt up against the cap again in 2013. (Link to cap spreadsheet)
We’ve seen the holes on defense in 2012. Every one of those cap dollars could go a long way towards plugging those holes.
Clearly there are many moving parts to this story and it will be several months before a solution is reached. And even then, not everyone will be happy.
It really isn’t cut and dried.
Until then, it’s next man up and on to Houston.