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Following speculation occurring throughout the last few weeks of the 2005 season, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun posted a column that reported that the Baltimore Ravens have been asking around for trade interest in star MLB Ray Lewis. This was then rebroadcast over several different media outlets, including ESPN. Preston reported the highest offer listed for Lewis was a 2nd round pick. James Brown of CBS also said Browns and Jacksonville have offered "high draft picks" for Ray Lewis.
While many Baltimore fans can not imagine a Ray Lewis in any color but purple, a large faction of fans have accepted the idea and are beginning to throw support behind it. Ray Lewis wants a bigger contract. When Baltimore told him their hands were full with upcoming free agency for rising stars like Todd Heap (who has since been resigned), Jamal Lewis, Ed Reed, and Jonathan Ogden, Lewis became distant, looking to shy away from his role as the face of the franchise. His standoffish attitude looks to have caused some definite tension in the locker room, and his absence at the end of the season on the sideline stuck out like a sore thumb.
Lewis has been in decline. While he can still motivate players around him with his personality, his body is beginning to show the wear and tear of his ferocious playing style. For the 2nd time in 3 years, he was forced to miss a large portion of the season due to injury. Meanwhile, the defense has rallied around new stars. Ed Reed, although he had a quiet year in 2005, has become a gem for the Ravens in their defensive backfield, causing absolute terror in opposing quarterbacks. Adalius Thomas, who has been a Special Teams standout in years past, became the big playmaking linebacker for the Ravens this year, getting sacks, fumbles, and interceptions and becoming the Defensive MVP of the Ravens. Meanwhile, Bart Scott, who has backed up Ray Lewis for the past 4 years, has begun to show some real skill in the middle, holding his own as the starting MLB when Ray went down with injury.
All told, the Ravens need to make some large changes this year to stay afloat. Ray Lewis was a good man for the city of Baltimore, but his desire to get a new contract has slowly eaten away at his influence here. If a team offered a first round pick for him, I would jump at the chance to make that trade. At this point, I wouldn't mind trading him to a non-AFC North team, seeing as the Ravens won't play Lewis too often. Also mentioned is Daunte Culpepper for Ray Lewis, but that trade would simply add to Baltimore's headache. It's time to reveal the future in Baltimore, and the future is not Ray Lewis.