Green Bay Packers nearly drafted Ray Lewis in 1996; find out what went wrong

Ray Lewis, Green Bay Packers
Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Having won two Super Bowls since 1996, there’s no doubt that the Green Bay Packers have been one of the most successful franchises over the past three decades. But they might have been even better had they drafted Ray Lewis back in 1996.

It may feel odd to look back nearly 30 years, but a recent clip just surfaced of Eliot Wolf, the Patriots’ current acting general manager, telling a fascinating story about when he worked in the Packers’ front office.

Lewis was selected 26th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 1996 NFL Draft, becoming the second player ever drafted by the franchise (Jonathan Ogden was the first). Yet, as Wolf tells it, the Packers were preparing to make Lewis their first-round pick, one selection later.

“John Michels was one. Now that one didn’t work out. That’s actually an interesting story. They were getting ready to draft Ray Lewis, and Baltimore picked him the pick before and they ended up taking John Michels. There was some disappointment. They actually had Ray on the phone, they were talking to Ray and Baltimore was still on the clock. They thought Ray was one of the best players in the draft. Baltimore obviously got a good one.”

Former Packers front office member Eliot Wolf

Once Lewis was off the board, the Packers had a quick decision to make, so they pivoted to selecting offensive tackle John Michels. Michels started nine games as a rookie but played in just 24 games before a knee injury ended his career after two seasons.

Meanwhile, Lewis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 after being named to seven All-Pro teams and winning two Super Bowls. What would have happened if Lewis played his career with the Packers instead of the Ravens? Would Green Bay have even more Super Bowls? Would the Ravens have any? We’ll never know.

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