Ozzie Been Looking For Lewis Heir For Years

But the inside linebacker keeps going. Lewis and Reed will determine when they’re done.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 11:08 am | Categories: Garrett Downing

The question is bound to come up every year around the draft.

Are the Ravens looking for replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?

“I started trying to replace Ray Lewis six years ago, and he’s still going,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said with some laughter. “We understand that we got two great players. And they will determine when they do not want to play in the National Football League.”

The topic is even more pressing this season, as Lewis is entering his 17th season and Reed is entering the final year of his contract. Reed said he believes he can play five more years, but added that plans could always change, including for this season.


Ozzie On Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

Regardless of Lewis and Reed’s long-term plans, the Ravens need reinforcements at both positions, and a number of mock drafts have them taking an inside linebacker or safety in the first round.

“Do we need additional depth at linebacker? Yes. Do we need additional depth at safety? Yes,” Newsome said. “Those are the reasons why we will be paying attention to those positions in the draft, not because of Ray and not because of Ed.”

Some of the players who have been mentioned as possible draft options for the Ravens at those positions include Alabama safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.

If the Ravens end up getting one of them, they will undoubtedly face the label of being the “heir-apparent,” but Newsome was clear that the team isn’t looking for a rookie to come in and become the “Next Ray Lewis.”

“You’ll never find another Jerry Rice. We’ll never find another Ray Lewis,” Newsome said. “Ray is one of a kind. The reason why he is that is not just because of how good a player he is, it’s the type of leader that he is.

“It’s unbelievable to have someone to be in our organization to have that type of leadership ability. It’s immeasurable. We’ll never replace Ray Lewis. Elway never got replaced. Peyton Manning will never get replaced in Indianapolis. Ray Lewis will never be replaced in Baltimore.”

Even if the Ravens thought that one of those likely first-round prospects could eventually take Lewis’ spot at middle linebacker or Reed’s place in the secondary, they may not have the luxury of getting one of them this season.

Barron, Hightower and Kuechly could all be gone by the time the Ravens draft at No. 29, so Newsome may be forced to look in a different direction.

And if the Ravens do end up taking one of them, he emphasized that it isn’t a signal that Reed or Lewis is getting nudged out the door.

“Those players will determine their own times when they walk away,” Newsome said.

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