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A convincing recommendation led Kendrick Lewis to Ravens

3/18/2015

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Kendrick Lewis was lured to Baltimore because, as he put it, the Ravens opened their arms to him in free agency. The veteran safety was drawn by the Ravens' impeccable reputation for playing defense.

What convinced Lewis to sign a three-year deal with the Ravens on Tuesday was a persuasive recommendation by a player from their championship past.

"I asked my former [college] teammate Michael Oher about the decision, and he made me feel comfortable in making this decision to come here and be a part of the Baltimore Ravens family," said Lewis, who went to Mississippi at the same time as the Ravens' 2009 first-round pick, "and I'm looking forward to it.”

At Tuesday's introductory news conference, Lewis said he had offers from other teams but declined to name them specifically. When it came to making a decision, he texted Oher to get his take on the Ravens. Oher spent five seasons in Baltimore (2009-13), winning a Super Bowl in 2012, and is now an offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers.

"He was just upfront," Lewis said. "He poured his heart out in all the great things he had to say about this organization to make my decision. That's what it was.”

The Ravens reached out to Lewis in free agency to stop the revolving door at safety. Since Ed Reed left in 2012, the Ravens have gone through four starting free safeties (Michael Huff, Matt Elam, Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles). Last season, there were six players who rotated at safety and no one played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps.

Lewis is expected to provide stability at free safety, based on his track record. He has started every season in his five-year career, and he played more snaps than any Texans defensive player last season (1,027 snaps, or 96.7 percent of Houston's defensive snaps).

"I think he's a guy that's going to come here and solidify our defense, especially on the back end," defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt said. "He's a guy that we'd looked for. We needed a veteran presence back there."

Even though the Ravens haven't announced Lewis as the starter, he is the presumed favorite to line up alongside Will Hill.

“I'm a competitor, a full-time competitor," Lewis said. "No matter what position I'm put in, that's my goal, to come in the starting lineup. I'm going to compete from the moment I step on the field, from the moment I step in the classroom, I'm going to compete. It's up to coaches, it's up to the organization to make that decision, but I'm going to give it my all.”

Lewis has primarily played free safety, lining up as the defensive centerfielder. His priority is to cut down on teams' success throwing deep against the Ravens.

Last season, quarterbacks completed 6 of 8 passes that traveled at least 40 yards in the air against the Ravens. That 75 percent completion rate was tied for the second-worst in the NFL in 2014.

With Lewis in the back of the Texans defense, quarterbacks connected on 29.4 percent on those passes (5-of-17).

"I bring my leadership. I bring knowledge. I bring my talent," Lewis said. "I bring my playmaking abilities to help this team out, even though this is a great team. I'm just an added piece that can help them become greater, and I'm very thankful to be here and be in this position.”