The Baltimore Ravens brought back a famous Pro Bowl player and added another one, too. Linebacker Ray Lewis will finish his career with the Ravens after reaching agreement on a three-year deal with Baltimore, which also agreed with center Matt Birk 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 after concluding negotiations on a deal worth nearly $22 million. "I don't think an athlete can have a greater legacy than to be able to stay in one place for an entire career."
By keeping Lewis, the Ravens fill the void created at inside linebacker when Bart Scott signed with the New York Jets.
"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."
Birk, 32, replaces last year's starting center, Jason Brown, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.
"To add a player like Matt, who will also give us outstanding leadership, makes us a better team," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're not standing pat. We're moving forward and getting better."
Lewis earned his 10th Pro Bowl this season after leading the NFL's second-ranked defense with 160 tackles. He also had 3 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Lewis has been the dominant linebacker of his generation, an emotional leader in the locker room and a tackling machine on the field. Lewis, a first-round draft pick in 1996, was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000, the season the Ravens won the Super Bowl, and in 2003.
Although he has had some injury issues in recent years, Lewis comes off another strong season in which, at 33, he led the Ravens to an 11-5 record and two road playoff wins. They lost to the Steelers in the AFC title game.
The Ravens apparently saw more than enough from Lewis to commit to him, particularly after Scott and safety Jim Leonhard left a defense that ranked second in the league and allowed 244 points, third-fewest in the NFL.
Birk spent 11 seasons with the Vikings after being selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft. He became a starter in 2000, when Birk made the Pro Bowl for the first of six times.
"The Minnesota Vikings thank Matt for all he did for the organization both on and off the field over the past 11 years," the Vikings said in a statement. "Matt has done a great job and we wanted him to return to the Vikings in '09, but at this point Matt wanted a change of scenery. We wish him the best and know that he will always be a part of the Vikings family. We look forward to playing Matt this upcoming season at the Metrodome."
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