When the musical chairs for running back were starting to go, Jamal Lewis started to wonder if he was going to be left out.
Based on his three-year contract to re-sign with the Ravens, Lewis doesn't have to take a back seat to anybody. Technically, his three-year, $26 million gives him the highest average of any running back in NFL history. His $8.6 million average on paper tops the eight-year, $62 million deal given by the Seahawks to Shaun Alexander and the eight-year $60 million deal given by the Chargers to LaDainian Tomlinson.
In reality, though, Lewis will be playing on a one-year deal that pays him $6 million, and the relationship with the Ravens will be reviewed after the season.
Lewis received a $5 million signing bonus and a $1 million base. The final two years of the contract will pay him $10 million each season with roster bonuses of $5 million in March that the Ravens have to decide to pay or renegotiations will begin for a new deal in 2007.
Lewis came back to the Ravens and asked for a one-year deal over the weekend. The Ravens gave him the best of both worlds. They gave him a deal that could keep him with the Ravens for a season, but it gives the Ravens the chance to keep him for three years.
"I'm back with the fellas, my teammates. That's more important than anything else," Lewis said. "I don't have to learn a new system and all that stuff, so it makes things a little easier."
Lewis ran for a career-low 906 yards in 2005 after serving a four-month federal prison sentence on a drug charge and undergoing offseason ankle surgery. He complained at times that he was not being used enough, a problem he doesn't expect to occur in 2006.
"I've got a feeling now that we got this done, it's going to be a little different," Lewis said. "I think we'll get back to the way it used to be."
Lewis had 387 carries in 2003, when he ran for 2,066 yards -- the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. He had only 269 attempts last season.
"I would think with Jamal coming back, he's been the horse here for a while and we're still going to continue to ride that," running backs coach Tony Nathan said. "Mike played fullback early in his career, so you can put both of them on the field at the same time."
The Ravens expect Lewis to have a bounce-back season in 2006.
Lewis, the franchise's career leading rusher with 6,669 yards, became a free agent in January. The Ravens considered, but then decided against, applying the franchise tag to him. Lewis then passed up a two-year, incentive-laden offer from Baltimore that included a
"We are so excited to have Jamal back," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "If you look at his history, he always rebounds in a big way from adversity. He had a tough 2005 that started with surgery, his incarceration, and then dealing with all of the turmoil during the season with the contract hanging over his head. We expect big things from him."
Lewis' return to the Ravens comes less than 24 hours after the Ravens agreed with former Broncos running back Mike Anderson.
"He's one of those multipurpose backs," Lewis said of Anderson. "He can play fullback and he can play tailback. He's a good asset to this team and I will love to play with him."
Anderson was expected to sign a $8 million, four-year contract late Monday. Anderson, 32, ran for 1,014 yards and scored 12 touchdowns for Denver last season.
He received a $2 million signing bonus, according to NFL Players Association figures.
Nathan couldn't believe his good fortune after watching the Ravens secure Anderson and Lewis on successive days.
"Just last week I was kind of scared," Nathan said. "Now I feel like the cat that swallowed the canary."
"I think this gives you the luxury that you can use either one," Nathan said.
The agreement with Lewis capped a whirlwind three days for the Ravens, who lost four free agents over a 72-hour period: Taylor to the Vikings, punter Dave Zastudil to Cleveland, nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu to the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Tony Weaver to the Houston Texans.
In addition, the Ravens re-signed linebacker Bart Scott to a
three-year, $13.5 million contract.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.