Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis agreed to remain with the Ravens yesterday, ending the Washington Redskins’ brief but aggressive attempt to lure away perhaps the NFL’s top defensive mind.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder had hoped to land Lewis and pair him with coach Steve Spurrier, who doubles as Washington’s offensive coordinator, as a sort of “Dream Team” to handle the team’s on-field strategy.
But it appears Lewis will remain with Baltimore despite a massive offer from the Redskins that apparently would have paid him far above what any NFL assistant currently makes. Washington is believed to have offered Lewis a salary of $850,000 next season with the chance for another $500,000 in incentives. The Ravens’ winning offer is believed to have been significantly lower.
That said, Lewis still might be the game’s highest-paid assistant. Atlanta defensive coordinator Wade Phillips recently acquired the title with a salary believed to be $625,000 this year; Lewis wasn’t far below that range last year and could have jumped over Phillips with a decent raise from the Ravens.
The Redskins’ offer came without any face-to-face meetings. The club had hoped Lewis would come to Redskin Park in the morning to meet Spurrier, but that didn’t happen.
Washington now is back where it stood Thursday, when Lewis was set to become Tampa Bay’s new coach and Spurrier said his defensive coordinator search was focusing on several candidates who are current defensive backs coaches in the NFL. New York Jets assistant Bill Bradley is one of those candidates.
The Redskins moved quickly to try to hire Lewis after his agreement with the Bucs unexpectedly broke down. Lewis, who has been a candidate for three head coaching jobs in the past year, appeared to have a deal all but done with Tampa Bay before that club backed off at the last minute.
According to the Tampa Tribune, the Bucs now are re-opening their search and looking at several high-profile college coaches, including LSU’s Nick Saban.
There was some speculation that Lewis might want to leave Baltimore for Washington’s coordinator post because the Ravens are about to experience salary cap difficulties that will require the departure of several defensive starters. However, the Ravens clearly wanted to keep Lewis, and they apparently were prepared to make a serious offer without drastically overpaying him.
Lewis, 43, is one of the league’s most respected defensive coordinators. His 2000 unit set NFL 16-game records by yielding 165 points and 970 rushing yards and then helped Baltimore win Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens have ranked second in total defense each of the past three years.
Washington is attempting to hire its fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. After the 1999 season, the Redskins fired Mike Nolan, who is now the Ravens’ wide receivers coach and who would have replaced Lewis in Baltimore. Ray Rhodes led Washington to a No. 4 defensive ranking in 2000, and last year Kurt Schottenheimer helped the Redskins rank No. 10 despite an 0-5 start.
Spurrier met briefly with Schottenheimer about rejoining the Redskins as coordinator, and there was some interest from both parties. But a formal offer was never extended, and Schottenheimer ended up taking Detroit’s coordinator position several weeks later.
Spurrier has emphasized that he isn’t in a hurry to hire someone and that he isn’t searching for someone who necessarily has an established reputation as a coordinator. To support the latter point, he has made reference to St. Louis’ Lovie Smith, who guided the Rams to a No. 3 ranking in his first season as a coordinator.
The Redskins still have 21/2 weeks before the NFL Combine begins (Feb. 28) and free agency opens (March 1). Spurrier has acknowledged that his new coordinator might want to offer input on personnel. Washington’s most pressing issue is to determine which of its 17 unrestricted players it wants to negotiate with before free agency starts.