This debate might be moot, since Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has already said the team would not put the franchise tag on Ray Lewis. Then again, he also said Brian Billick's job was safe right before he fired him.
As it pertains to franchising Lewis, the question isn't "will they?" It's "should they?"
If the Ravens believe putting the tag on Lewis increases their chances of making a Super Bowl run next season, then they should not hesitate to do it. The Ravens have a responsibility to do what's best for the team, not what's best for any individual player, even one as great as Lewis.
The best-case scenario is that Lewis takes a hometown discount, which would give the Ravens the flexibility to keep certain key players and add others. However, if Lewis is just looking for another big payday, which is his right, the Ravens should franchise him, which is their right.
It just doesn't make sense to commit a huge sum of money to a linebacker who will be 34 next season. Lewis still plays at a high level, but his best days are behind him and the salary cap doesn't have a provision for sentimentality. That money would be more wisely spent on Terrell Suggs, who is seven years younger than Lewis.
Even if franchising Lewis appears to be the Ravens' best option, they still might not consider it for fear of how he would handle it. Of course, no player likes to be franchised, but it's part of the business, and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn't think twice about pulling out his trump card.
If Lewis is truly a team leader, he wouldn't sulk or be disruptive. He would set an example for his teammates by playing with the same intensity and commitment he always has.