Lewis, 37, a member of the Super Bowl-winning Ravens in 2001, is close to signing a multi-year deal with the sports cable network that would include appearances on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” show and other ESPN programming, Sports Illustrated reported.
ESPN has not commented on the rumored deal with Lewis. The network’s own website cited Sports Illustrated’s story.
According to Sports Illustrated, Lewis would also make appearances on ESPN Radio. The magazine said an announcement from ESPN would come once the Ravens’ season ends, either with a Super Bowl victory or a loss in the playoffs.
Lewis announced Wednesday that he would retire from the NFL after this season. The dominating linebacker is in his 17th season in the league, all with the Ravens.
Lewis was selected to 13 Pro Bowls, named the Associated Press’s Defensive Player of the Year twice and named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants.
“I told my team that this would be my last ride,” Lewis said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “And I told them I was just at so much peace in where I am with my decision, because of everything I've done in this league. I've done it. I've done it, man. There's no accolade that I don't have individually.”
Lewis’ career was marred by a first-degree murder charge stemming from a killing outside an Atlanta club in 2000. The Ravens linebacker pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge in exchange for testimony against two defendants also charged in the murder.
The Los Angeles Times noted that Disney usually features the Super Bowl MVP in commercials related to Disneyland, but Lewis was not part of the advertisements. Lewis was a year removed from being charged with murder when he won the MVP honor.
The paper pointed out that ESPN is owned by Disney. Times reporter Chuck Schilken said that Lewis now “appears to be poised to make major bucks as an employee of a company that once wanted nothing to do with him.”
Lewis said a flexible schedule is part of his demands for a deal with a network for his post-NFL career. That sticking point made it difficult for Lewis to sign on with Sunday morning shows on CBS or Fox, Sports Illustrated reported.
The Ravens linebacker wants that flexibility so he can see his son, Ray Lewis III, start his college football career at the University of Miami.
Lewis also played at Miami and had an impressive career with the Hurricanes. He parlayed that success into being selected as Baltimore’s first-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. Lewis was taken No. 26 overall.