Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 12/25/12

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 27: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens prepares for the snap during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 27, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been the core of the Baltimore Ravens’ stellar defense over the past decade, but both players are aging and at some point may either retire or move to another team. CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora reported on Sunday that the team is bracing for the possibility of life without both players. Lewis is 37 and has been out since tearing his triceps in Week 6. He is scheduled to earn $5.4 million next season, and LaCanfora says the Ravens are leery about paying him that kind of money to potentially be a part-time player. Additionally, the team reportedly is concerned that Lewis wouldn’t accept being a part-time player should matters come to that. Given Lewis’ age, there has been looming speculation that the 13-time Pro Bowler might retire after the season. We have heard that might be the case, though it’s possible he might want to return to play a full season rather than go out following an injury. Reed will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the 34-year-old safety could be in for another long contract negotiation with the team. LaCanfora says Reed would not take to being franchise tagged very well. Reed mentioned the possibility of retirement in May when he was seeking a new contract from the team. He’s in the final season of a six-year, $44.4 million deal signed in 2006. Who knows if Reed will retire as he’s threatened, return to Baltimore, or sign with another team. What we do know is that Baltimore reportedly is preparing for a future without either player. The Ravens are 10-5 and visit the 9-6 Bengals on Sunday. They’ve clinched a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season, but their defense has slipped from allowing the third-fewest points in the league the past three seasons to ranking 12th this season.

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