PALM BEACH, Fla. — PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Ray Lewis is entering the final year of his contract, but the Ravens still envision the Pro Bowl linebacker in the team's future.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team is in "open dialogue" with Lewis on a contract extension and would actively pursue him if he reaches free agency.
"If he becomes a free agent next year, I think the Ravens would probably outbid other teams," Bisciotti said yesterday during a break at the NFL annual meetings.
"We know Ray's value more than the other teams. We know the leadership he brings to the team. We know the commitment and the effort he gives to winning."
This is the first time the Ravens have allowed Lewis to reach the final year of his contract.
In 2002, when Lewis had two years remaining on his existing deal, the Ravens signed him to a seven-year contract worth about $50 million. It included a $19 million signing bonus (an NFL record at the time).
Lewis, who turns 33 on May 15, is scheduled to make $6.5 million this season.
But critics have said that Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003, is not the dominant player he once was.
According to the NFL, Lewis finished tied for 12th in the league in tackles with 120 in 2007. He also has not played a full season since 2003, missing 15 games the past four seasons.
Bisciotti said earlier this year that Lewis has "four to five good years left" but indicated he will not be involved in the negotiations, which will be handled by general manager Ozzie Newsome and Lewis' agents.
"Ozzie knows what Ray has meant and what Ray means to this organization," Bisciotti said. "Ozzie is open to talking to his agents about an extension.
"Like all negotiations, there will be a gap between what we think we're willing to pay and what they think he is worth."
Ravens receive 4 picks
The Ravens received the maximum four compensatory picks in this month's draft, tying the Cincinnati Bengals for the most compensatory selections in the NFL this season.
They were given the last selection in the third round (the 99th overall) for losing linebacker Adalius Thomas in free agency last offseason, marking the highest compensatory pick ever received by the team.
The Ravens previously didn't have a third-round pick because they gave it up as part of the trade for running back Willis McGahee.
"Anytime you get to pick one of the top 100 players in the draft, we think that gives us an advantage," Newsome said.
The Ravens' other compensatory picks - which are given out by the NFL based on the free agents lost by the team - are in the fourth round (for offensive tackle Tony Pashos), sixth round (fullback Ovie Mughelli) and seventh round (defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin).