Ravens GM Eric DeCosta: Team Will Work At Lamar Jackson’s Pace In Negotiating Extension

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta again expressed optimism that a contract extension with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson will happen eventually, but he indicated that there has been no movement toward a resolution, and he again declared that the team will operate “at Lamar’s urgency” in any negotiations.

DeCosta held a 20-minute news conference at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on March 2, during which he was predictably asked about Jackson’s contract status — it’s hot topic No. 1 for this team, and the temperature will only rise if weeks and months drag on without a deal.

DeCosta also discussed a draft class that he said is particularly deep at offensive line, edge rusher and cornerback. Those areas figure to be of significant need for the Ravens, who are coming off an injury-scarred 8-9 season that ended with six consecutive losses.

The Ravens expect to have nine picks in the first four rounds of the draft, beginning with the No. 14 overall pick in Round 1.

DeCosta reiterated his stance from his season-ending news conference last month, when he said the team is ready to work on a new deal with Jackson whenever Jackson is ready to do it.

Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract after the Ravens picked up his fifth-year option. Negotiations with Jackson are complicated by the fact that he does not have an agent.

“We will work at Lamar’s urgency,” DeCosta said in Indianapolis. “He and I have had ongoing discussions. We’ve talked fairly recently as well. He knows how to find me, I know how to find him.”

Jackson, the 2019 league MVP, is coming off a season in which he faltered in midseason and then suffered the first injury of his career, causing him to miss the final four games. (He also missed one with an illness.)

Jackson led the Ravens in rushing for the third straight year with 767 yards, but his passer rating (87.0) ranked 23rd among qualified quarterbacks. Despite missing five games, Jackson finished with a career high in interceptions (13) and sacks (38).

DeCosta said he was encouraged to see videos that hit social media recently of Jackson taking part in offseason workouts with some teammates, his first work since missing the final four games with a bruised foot.

And while the extension process seems stalled, DeCosta reiterated that he sees Jackson as the team’s long-term franchise quarterback.

“When we think about the Ravens three, four, five years from now, we envision Lamar being a very, very big part of that team and definitely a player that can help us win Super Bowls,” DeCosta said.

Here are some other highlights from DeCosta’s session with the media:

OFFENSIVE LINE A FOCUS: DeCosta has stressed that the offensive line is an offseason focus, and he praised the talent and depth of this offensive line class. DeCosta said that teams picking in the top 15 have “a chance to get themselves a really good offensive lineman.”

DeCosta mentioned Alabama tackle Evan Neal and Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, both of whom are expected to be off the board before the Ravens pick at No. 14. DeCosta also mentioned Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who has been linked to the Ravens in several mock drafts given that center Bradley Bozeman is likely to depart as a free agent.

DeCosta said he sees in Linderbaum a lot of traits of another Iowa offensive lineman who became an All-Pro in Baltimore: guard Marshal Yanda. DeCosta called Linderbaum “tough, gritty, very, very athletic, very intelligent, smart, the type of guy that can really be the centerpiece of your offensive line.”

“VERY CONFIDENT” DOBBINS WILL BOUNCE BACK: DeCosta said he expects running back J.K. Dobbins to return to form after missing all of the 2021 season. Dobbins, the Ravens second-round draft pick in 2020, was expected to be the No. 1 back last year after rushing for 805 yards and a franchise rookie record nine touchdowns in 2020, but he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason finale at Washington.

“J.K. … is a young player, he’s a hungry player,” DeCosta said. “He’s got a great mindset, he’s been working very, very hard and we are very, very confident that he’ll come back and be the type of player that he was two years ago.”

DeCosta said he expects running backs Gus Edwards (knee) and Justice Hill (Achilles), both of whom also missed the entire season with injuries, to rebound as well.

“We are very confident that those guys will all come back this year and play winning football for us,” he said.

“HOPEFUL” THAT CAMPBELL RETURNS: DeCosta said he is interested in re-signing defensive end Calais Campbell, who is set to hit free agency after two seasons in Baltimore. Campbell, who turns 36 in September, has been contemplating retirement but said on a Super Bowl telecast that he would be returning to the field for a 15th NFL season. Where that might be, however, remains unclear.

Campbell finished the 2021 season with 49 tackles and 1.5 sacks, his lowest total since his rookie year. He also blocked a field-goal attempt.

DeCosta has said the Ravens need to get younger along the defensive line, but in his news conference at the Combine he said, “I have a lot of admiration for Calais as a person and as a player and as a leader, so, I’m hopeful that we can bring him back. … He does as much for the team and the organization in the building as he does on the field, and so I have a lot of respect for him.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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