The question is seemingly asked every year at this time, as if there is a handbook on how you confront the loss of a 13-time
How will the
If the Ravens are stressing over the matter and consumed by the idea of life without the inimitable Lewis, it simply is not evident. No team official has listed the linebacker position as a top priority this offseason, instead choosing to focus on rebuilding the offensive line, finding another wide receiver and adding a pass rusher.
It's not that Lewis, 36, has given any indication that this season will be his last. He missed four games during the 2011 season with a foot injury, but he returned and had a pretty strong finish. After the Ravens' season-ending loss to the
"It's eventually going to happen [to] everyone," said Brian BIllick, Lewis' former coach with the Ravens who spoke to reporters Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. "Ray, gosh, it amazes me. I thought a couple of years ago he was a bit of a liability on third down, and he seemed to bounce back in only the way Ray Lewis can and needed to be on the field every snap. Amazing. But even for Ray Lewis, at some point, yeah. Ray has such a high expectation for himself and again, it's hard for a player sometimes to truly recognize where you are. ... It's a tough question."
The Ravens have drafted an inside linebacker in the first three rounds just once since 1997, selecting
Ravens general manager
McClain, 26, could be one of numerous defections from the Ravens' linebacker group.
"I had a conversation with Jarret at the end of the season, and I told him I would maintain communication with him throughout the process," Newsome said. "Jarret is a Raven. He plays like a Raven. We'd love to have him back if things can work themselves out."
Further complicating the Ravens' linebacker picture is the uncertainty of how outside linebacker
He was active for just two of the Ravens' 18 games this past season and didn't record any statistics.
"We're looking forward to Serg being part of the offseason program," Newsome said. "It starts from Day One, being part of the offseason program, going through the [organized team activities] and the minicamp. I think we have a very good handle on what his strengths and weaknesses are, and it's going to be interesting to see how we can integrate him into the defense. We think we have a very good handle on it. I think this offseason is going to be very big for Serg."
Lewis will obviously play inside and
The remaining linebackers on the Ravens roster —
At some point in April's draft, the Ravens figure to take a linebacker, but using their first selection (29th overall) on one would be mildly surprising considering their stated offseason priorities and a relatively weak linebacker draft class at their disposal.
Boston College's Luke Kuechy is the top-rated inside linebacker in the draft, but he's expected to be long gone by the time the Ravens make their selection. Arizona State's
Their first-round pick of Colorado cornerback
Consider this scouting report from The Pro Football Weekly draft preview: "A very inconsistent, undisciplined overly emotional locker-room lawyer and [a] divisive energy-draining field force. Has superstar-type talent [with] second-tier free-agent level quality, [and] coach-killing makeup that will drive down his value."
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower appears to be a much better fit at pick 29, but there are questions about his health after he had some knee issues in college. Still, if he is available, he could be tempting for Newsome, who has extensive ties to the Alabama program. Hightower confirmed that he will meet with the Ravens, and listed Lewis and Suggs as two of his idols.
"Whatever happens, I am looking forward to it," Hightower said. "But guys that you watched growing up when you are 15 and you want to be like this guy, to actually be on the field with those guys would be a dream come true."