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National Columnist

Ravens star Ray Lewis gets people paid, as in OTHER people around NFL

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NEW ORLEANS -- Numbers don't do Ray Lewis' NFL career justice, but go ahead and count them up. Thirteen trips to the Pro Bowl. Six spots on the Associated Press All-Pro team. NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- twice.

Great numbers, but they tell an incomplete story about his impact on the NFL. You can't spackle these gaps with more numbers, but go ahead. Try: More than 1,500 career tackles with the Baltimore Ravens. More than 40 sacks. More than 30 interceptions. Twenty fumbles recovered, 19 forced.

Enormous numbers, but they tell just part of the story. They tell what Ray Lewis did for Ray Lewis, and obviously they did plenty. They did enough to earn Lewis a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame, probably when his name first appears on the ballot -- five years after what he says will be the final game of his Hall of Fame career: Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

But Ray Lewis has provided for more than Ray Lewis. He has provided for others in a way that almost defies belief, though I will try to explain it, to do it justice, here.

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He made a rich man of a rotten linebacker named Adalius Thomas. He did the same for Bart Scott. And Jarret Johnson. And Edgerton Hartwell. Those are former teammates in Baltimore who showed the promise of greatness, maybe even delivered greatness, when they were playing linebacker alongside Ray Lewis.

Current Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has benefited from Ray Lewis, too. In 2009 Suggs signed a six-year deal worth $62.5 million, making him the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history. Who knows, maybe Suggs is that good. Next year we'll find out -- when he has to play without Ray Lewis.

We already know how that turned out for Adalius Thomas. And Bart Scott. Jarret Johnson. Edgerton Hartwell.

Those four linebackers played well in Baltimore -- Thomas and Scott earned spots in the Pro Bowl while with the Ravens -- and that quarter parlayed their Baltimore success into huge paydays elsewhere. Thomas became the highest-paid free agent acquisition in New England Patriots history in 2007: $35 million over five years. Bart Scott got even more out of the Jets in 2009: $48 million over six years. Hartwell and Johnson didn't break the bank quite so spectacularly, but both signed contracts worth more than $4 million per year. All told, those four linebackers signed contracts worth more than $128 million.

And they were busts. All four of them.

Adalius Thomas practically stole money from the Patriots for three years, performing like barely half the player he was with the Ravens. His last three seasons playing alongside Ray Lewis, Thomas averaged 63 tackles and 9½ sacks. His three years in New England? Down to 36 tackles and five sacks per year. Before he could inflict a fourth miserable season on the Patriots, they cut him. He hasn't played since.

Bart Scott's annual production has dropped from 66 tackles and four sacks per year with the Ravens to 54 tackles and two sacks per season for the Jets. Injuries ended Hartwell's career in Atlanta, but his numbers were anemic -- one sack in 13 games -- compared to what he did in Baltimore (six sacks in 2003 and '04).

As for Johnson, he has time to prove he's more than a figment of Ray Lewis' domination -- but his first season with the Chargers wasn't encouraging: 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks, his worst production as a full-time starter in 10 NFL seasons.

Those are the linebackers who have gotten paid thanks to Ray Lewis, but he has made rich men of more than just linebackers. Cornerback Duane Starks got $23 million to leave for Arizona in 2002. Safety Dawan Landry got $27.5 million from Jacksonville in 2011. Busts, both of them, since leaving the Ravens and Ray Lewis. Coincidence? You saw those linebacker numbers. You tell me.

Lewis also has been Midas for a growing number of coaches, highlighted by an astonishing run of Ravens defensive coordinators who parlayed their time running the Baltimore defense -- their time with Ray Lewis -- into head coaching gigs.

The first defensive coordinator Ray Lewis played for in Baltimore was Marvin Lewis (1996-2001), who would later become head coach of the Bengals. Next was Mike Nolan (2002-04), who left to become head coach of the 49ers. Next? Rex Ryan (2005-08), who left to become head coach of the Jets. Next was Greg Mattison (2009-10), who didn't become a head coach in the NFL -- but did all right for himself, becoming one of the five highest-paid assistants in college football as defensive coordinator at Michigan. After Mattison was Chuck Pagano (2011), who turned his one season as Ravens defensive coordinator into the head coaching job at Indianapolis.

Five defensive coordinators, four head coaches (and Mattison). That's not a coincidence. That's Ray Lewis. And it doesn't end there, either. Four other former defensive assistants during Lewis' career in Baltimore turned their time with the Ravens into promotions in other organizations before becoming head coaches as well: Jim Schwartz (defensive coordinator of the Titans, now head coach of the Lions), Mike Smith (DC in Jacksonville, now head coach of the Falcons), Jack Del Rio (DC in Carolina, then head coach of Jacksonville) and Mike Singletary (assistant head coach in San Francisco, then the 49ers' head coach). The last three -- Smith, Del Rio and Singletary -- coached linebackers with the Ravens. They coached Ray Lewis, and then got promotions elsewhere.

That's eight former assistants on Ray Lewis' side of the ball who became NFL head coaches. Eight. There are only 32 franchises. One-fourth of the whole damn league has hired head coaches who can be traced to Ray Lewis' time with the Ravens.

That's not a coincidence.

That's staggering.

CBSSports.com's Jon Gallo contributed to this report.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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