Ravens sign J. Lewis to 5-year deal 3rd-year receiver gets contract extension worth $16 million

Talks continue with R. Lewis

Newsome: 'He's proved he's a starting receiver'

October 20, 1998|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,SUN STAFF

The Ravens started taking major steps toward building for the future yesterday, reaching agreement on a five-year contract extension worth $16 million with third-year wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, who also is one of the NFL's top punt returners.

The Ravens also are in negotiations with middle linebacker Ray Lewis, whose agent, according to a league source, had initially proposed a five-year deal worth $40 million that includes a $10 million signing bonus. The proposal would have made him one of the top-five-paid players in the league.

Jermaine Lewis, 5 feet 7 and 172 pounds, will make $238,000 this year under the terms of his old contract, but will get a $2 million signing bonus for the new extension and another $2 million up front for exercising the option years in his contract.

He will make $1.4 million in 1999 and $2 million in 2000. Lewis will make $2.2 million in both 2001 and 2002, and $2.7 million in 2003. The final three seasons of his new deal are option years.

"It's something we had been working on going back to last spring," said Ozzie Newsome, Ravens vice president of player personnel. "He has proved he is a starting receiver in this league, and we compensated him as such."

Said Jermaine Lewis: "I'm glad it's over and they did a good job. I didn't want these negotiations to last long and we pretty much got what we wanted."

Lewis, a former University of Maryland standout and native of Lanham, made a significant impact in 1997, when he led the NFL with a 15.6-yard punt-return average, the highest seasonal average since Cincinnati's Mike Martin averaged 15.7 in 1984.

He also had 42 receptions for 648 yards from the slot position and finished second on the team with eight touchdowns. He finished with 2,025 total combined yards, fifth in the league, despite missing five starts due to leg injuries, particularly ankle sprains.

That's one of the reasons the Ravens waited until this season to re-sign Lewis. There were questions about his durability and whether he could play as an outside receiver. But after six games this season, Lewis is averaging 69.8 yards on his five touchdowns. He has scored on pass plays of 73, 64 and 56 yards and raced 87 and 69 yards for touchdowns on punt returns. Lewis is tied for third in the AFC with five touchdowns and leads the league with a 22.7-yard average on 17 receptions.

"They had some questions, but I guess I have answered them," Lewis said. "I hadn't been out there and I wouldn't have wanted to pay somebody if they hadn't been out there either. But I've touched the ball a lot, and I'm holding up pretty good, knock on wood. My health, I assume, is no longer a factor."

Ray Lewis' agent, Roosevelt Barnes, according to the source, has backed off his original proposal, but is still involved in negotiations with the team. Barnes did not return phone calls to his office yesterday.

Lewis has two years left on a contract that will pay him $675,000 this season and $770,500 next year.

"Hopefully, we can reach an agreement, but there is no time frame," said Pat Moriarty, Ravens vice president of administration. "We have had ongoing dialogue, and we're making progress. We want to reach an agreement that is mutually satisfying to both sides."

Ray Lewis, the second of two first-round picks in 1996 and 26th tTC chosen overall, has led the team in tackling the past two seasons and is considered one of the club's cornerstones, along with second-year left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and second-year strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware.

Lewis, 6-1 and 240 pounds, had 142 total tackles in 1996 and led the league with 210 last year, the only player to reach the 200-tackle plateau. He is fourth on the team in tackles this year with 34, despite missing 2 1/2 games with a dislocated left elbow suffered against Jacksonville in Week 3.

During Lewis' absence, the Ravens gave up 100 yards rushing to three running backs in the three games. Lewis returned Sunday and had a team-leading nine tackles in the Ravens' 16-6 loss to Pittsburgh.

His speed and quickness have made him one of the best in the game. Lewis earned Pro Bowl honors last season at age 22.

"It really doesn't matter to me when they get the contract done," Ray Lewis said. "I love this game, and Ray Lewis loves playing football. Ray Lewis also likes taking care of himself. There comes a time in everybody's life when a business decision has to be made. So whatever happens, happens."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Packers by 10 1/2

J. Lewis' deal

The breakdown of the five-year extension agreed to by Ravens wide receiver/kick returner Jermaine Lewis:

Signing bonus: $2 million

Exercising options: $2 million

1999: $1.4 million salary, $100,000 workout bonus

2000: $2 million, $100,000 workout bonus

2001: $2.2 million, $100,000 workout bonus

2002: $2.2 million, $100,000 workout bonus, $500,000 roster bonus

2003: $2.7 million, $100,000 workout bonus, $500,000 roster bonus

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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