It's been pretty quiet regarding the status of top Ravens free agent C.J. Mosley, but General Manager Eric DeCosta expects negotiations to heat up this week at the Combine.
DeCosta reiterated that the Ravens hope to sign Mosley to a long-term deal and that "conversations are ongoing."
"Obviously, C.J. is a critical part of our team, a big part of our defense," DeCosta said. "We hope that we can bring him back next year and we have expectations that we'll have some progress this week."
Mosley will command top dollar as a proven upper-echelon young talent who has gone to four Pro Bowls in his first five seasons. He could top Carolina's Luke Kuechly as the league's highest-paid inside linebacker, especially since Kuechly signed his record deal in 2015 and salaries rise every year.
Mosley has, on many occasions, talked about his desire to remain in Baltimore, but it will still ultimately come down to dollars and cents. The Ravens want to be responsible with their salary cap moving forward, especially when handing out massive deals.
DeCosta said the franchise tag, which would put Mosley’s salary at about $15 million in 2019, is an option they would consider but not an option he wants to take. The Ravens have until March 5 to place the tag.
"I think our preference would always be to do a long-term deal with a player like C.J. He's a great player," DeCosta said.
Mosley and Kuechly are the only players in the NFL with at least 500 tackles, eight sacks and eight interceptions since 2014, when Mosley came into the league as the Ravens' first-round pick.
Mosley has been productive, dependable (he's only missed three games) and loyal (he attended offseason practices last year when several players in his contract situation sat out).
He added "clutch" to his resume this year when he sealed the Ravens' AFC North title with a late interception against the Browns in the regular-season finale.
The Ravens have to make a lot of hard decisions regarding their defense, such as whether to keep veterans Eric Weddle, Jimmy Smith and Terrell Suggs, but maintaining their young nucleus is one of DeCosta's top priorities.
"Historically, we've been a team built on defense. I think we take pride in that and our fanbase takes pride in that. We always want to be the strongest defense that we can be, understanding that the salary cap does place parameters on us that aren't always easy for us to work with," DeCosta said.
"We have to find the right combination of players that we can keep, the right combination of players that we can bring back. We want to keep as much young talent as we can; we've said that this offseason and we've started to do that [by extending cornerback Tavon Young's contract]. I think that's a really big thing for us moving forward is trying to keep our young talent in Baltimore if possible."