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Ravens' Lewis set to join ESPN in retirement

Photo: Al Tielemans/SI

Ray Lewis announced Wednesday he would retire after 17 seasons with the Ravens.

ESPN is on the verge of adding Ray Lewis to its talent lineup.

Multiple sources told SI.com the Ravens linebacker is close to signing a multi-year contract with the network. At ESPN, Lewis is expected to have a significant role on the network's Monday Night Countdown program. As with most ESPN NFL talent, Lewis would also be featured on multiple platforms, including ESPN Radio.

No formal announcement from Lewis or the network is expected until the conclusion of the Ravens season. Lewis announced Wednesday that he planned to retire at the end of Baltimore's season. The Ravens host the Colts on Sunday in the AFC WIld Card round.

An ESPN spokesperson declined comment when contacted Thursday morning.

According to multiple sources, Lewis and his representatives from talent agency William Morris Endeavor met during the season with several of the NFL broadcast networks.

One of Lewis' main requirements, according to sources, was flexibility in his schedule so he could attend the games of his son, Ray Lewis III, who will be a freshman running back/defensive back next season at his father's alma mater, the University of Miami. Such scheduling made Lewis an unlikely fit for a full-time role on the Sunday morning shows aired by CBS or Fox where he'd be required to be part of pre-show meetings on either Saturday or early Sunday. There is a possibility Lewis could work for ESPN on some Sundays depending on his travel. Given his star power, it's very likely Lewis would have a role on ESPN's multiple-day coverage of April's NFL draft.

Every network with an NFL contract has a list of players and coaches who would make good broadcasters. Last month, SI.com interviewed executives at CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and The NFL Network to find out who was on their watch lists. Unsurprisingly, Lewis was high on most charts. Some believe he can have a Charles Barkley-like impact in the studio.

GALLERY: RARE PHOTOS OF RAY LEWIS

"Ray Lewis has an intensity about him and a way of communicating that is very infectious," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. "He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. If Ray Lewis decided to take that same passion and put it into a broadcasting career, I think he would be a terrific studio analyst or I imagine game analyst, too.

Fox Sports Media group executive producer John Entz echoed McManus. "I see Ray as a guy who would be great in the studio because he is so animated and emotive," Entz said. "I think he could fire people up there."

Lewis had 12 Pro Bowl appearances during his 17 seasons and is a two-time winner of the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, including in 2000, the same season he was voted Super Bowl MVP following his team's win over the New York Giants. Most consider him among the NFL's greatest middle linebackers and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018.

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