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Gil Brandt ranks Ray Lewis as the eighth greatest linebacker in NFL history

Ray Lewis outruns the Tennessee Titans’ Frank Wycheck for a fourth-quarter touchdown during the Ravens’ 24-10 win in the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 7, 2001. Lewis returned the interception of Titans quarterback Steve McNair 50 yards for the first touchdown of his career.
(Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Photo)

Former Cowboys Vice President of player personnel and current NFL media senior analyst Gil Brandt recently published his ranking of the 45 greatest linebackers in NFL history. Baltimore Ravens icon Ray Lewis was ranked as the eight best all-time linebacker.

Lewis played seventeen season in Baltimore and earned two Super Bowl championships. He received All-Pro honors ten times, and made the Pro Bowl in thirteen of his seasons. The ‘General’ was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on two separate occasions, and took home MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXV.

His career statistics include 2,061 tackles, 41.5 quarterback sacks, 67 passes defended, 31 interceptions, seven forced fumbles and three touchdowns. Lewis is also regarded by many as the best leader of his generation, who brought valuable intangibles to Baltimore. The Ravens rightfully erected a statue of Lewis next to fellow Baltimore football legend Johnny Unitas at the entrance to M&T Bank stadium to commemorate his accomplishments. Yet Lewis’ feats on the gridiron were not enough to propel him to the top of Brandt’s ranking.

The players reagrded as better than Ray in Brandt’s view are, in order, Lawerence Taylor, Derrick Thomas, Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Ted Hendricks, Derrick Brooks and Bobby Bell. Therefore, Lewis is seen as the greatest inside linebacker of the modern area, ahead of other greats such as Junior Seau, Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis and Zach Thomas.

The only active player to make the list was Steelers ageless wonder James Harrison. Current Raven Terrell Suggs was a questionable omission from Brandt’s ranking. His career accomplishments as a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time All Pro, former NFL Defensive player and Rookie of the Year and Super Bowl champion; with 771 career tackles, 114.5 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries, seven interceptions and two touchdowns compare favorably to others on the list. In particular, Suggs has outproduced Harrison, who slotted in at 25th on the list, by a large margin in the sack category while being regarded as the best two-way outside linebacker in the league for the majority of his career.

Rankings such as these are always arbitrary, especially when evaluating linebackers who played during different eras. Nevertheless, a legitimate case can be made that both Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs deserve more respect than they were shown by Brandt.


Where does Ray Lewis rank among the best linebackers in NFL history?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    (132 votes)
  • 42%
    Top 3
    (299 votes)
  • 22%
    Top 5
    (160 votes)
  • 15%
    Top 10
    (106 votes)
697 votes total Vote Now


Which outside linebacker has had a better career?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    James Harrison
    (135 votes)
  • 76%
    Terrell Suggs
    (428 votes)
563 votes total Vote Now