What the Packers almost did in 2003 before Ray Lewis went to Baltimore is one of the most talked about draft stories ever. The story goes that Green Bay had a top two pick and were considering taking Lewis but then-Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome got to him first, with a trade for No. 8 overall pick plus Anquan Boldin, which allowed them to take Joe Flacco instead of Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.

The “brett favre mvp” is a story that many people may not know. The Packers almost drafted Ray Lewis to pair him with Brett Favre but the Ravens got to him 1st with ‘no fanfare’.

Ray Lewis ended his NFL career as a key piece on two championship teams and one of the finest defensive players of all time. Lewis achieved something that few athletes do these days: he spent his whole career with the Baltimore Ravens. 

Lewis was picked by the Ravens in 1996, and although it looked like a no-brainer at the time, they weren’t the only ones who liked him. The Green Bay Packers were a club that sought Lewis and came close to getting him. 

Here’s how Lewis came close to playing with Brett Favre until destiny – and Baltimore – intervened. 

The 1996 NFL Draft before the Ravens were selected Lewis, Ray

Baltimore Ravens linebacker #52 Ray Lewis holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore Ravens linebacker #52 Ray Lewis holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVII #52 Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis with the Vince Lombardi Trophy | Getty Images/Patrick Smith

A linebacker wasn’t Baltimore’s top priority heading into the 1996 NFL Draft. They selected another player ahead of Ray Lewis in the first round that year, as difficult as it may seem. That year, the Ravens also had the fourth overall selection in the draft. They used it on another future Hall of Famer, offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden, according to Pro Football Reference. 

Before Lewis, other clubs chose linebackers, including: 

  • Illinois’ Kevin Hardy (Jacksonville)
  • Kutztown’s John Mobley (Denver)
  • Reggie Brown, Texas A&M (Detroit)

The University of Miami product was still on the board when the Ravens were up 26. 

Lewis was adored by the Green Bay Packers.

Ray Lewis didn’t make the top five or top ten, but it didn’t rule out other suitors. The Green Bay Packers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, were great admirers of Lewis’s game. They initiated contact with Lewis on Draft Day after rigorous scouting.

Green Bay notified Lewis that they wanted to take him with the Ravens (who were still known as Baltimore at the time since they hadn’t decided on a moniker). They also thought that Baltimore would not accept Lewis. They were so sure of themselves that they wrote Lewis’ name on their draft card. 

The Baltimore Ravens did, unfortunately, pick Lewis. Lewis was ranked lower than numerous other LBs in that draft class, but the Ravens recognized a need at the position and went after him. “We selected Ray, but there was no hoopla,” says club executive Phil Savage.

The Packers’ response to Ray Lewis being selected by the Baltimore Ravens.

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Legendary Packers’ GM Ron Wolf, according to one Green Bay official, John Dorsey, was upset by the transfer. While Wolf did not believe Ray Lewis would fall to the club at the age of 27, he prepared to choose the future Hall of Famer if he did. 

So, how did the switch go for both sides? 

For the Baltimore Ravens, it seemed to have worked. Lewis had a Hall of Fame-worthy career that included two Super Bowl victories for the squad. He bravely fought back from an injury in 2013 to become an important part of a strong Ravens defense. He was the club’s top player and perhaps the best player in the league that year, as he led the team to a 34-7 Super Bowl victory against the New York Giants. 

Despite not obtaining Lewis, the Green Bay Packers had a successful 20-year run. During Lewis’s tenure, they won two Super Bowls, one with Brett Favre in 1997 and the other with Aaron Rodgers in 2010. Still, Lewis’ decision to go to Baltimore rather than Green Bay may have been a difficult one. Throughout his stellar career, he never played with a genuinely outstanding quarterback. Trent Dilfer was good enough in 2001 to avoid making a mistake. Furthermore, although Joe Flacco had a fantastic playoffs in 2013, no one would mistake him for Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. 

Placing Lewis in charge of defense on a team headed by Favre or Rodgers would have been disastrous. For all parties involved, the combination may have been good enough to win additional titles. 

Ray Lewis, a Ravens legend, blasts Ben Roethlisberger’s remarks before the Chiefs game, saying, “I don’t know if I ever walked into a game to have fun.”

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