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Transcripts: Eric DeCosta NFL Combine (3/1)

Opening statement: "Hi everybody; welcome. One of my favorite books (Where the Wild Things Are), I'll quote, 'Let the wild rumpus begin.' If you have any questions, you guys go ahead and ask."

On if he has any updates on contract negotiations with QB Lamar Jackson: "Yes, Lamar [Jackson] and I are talking. We met recently. It's an on-going discussion. We both understand the urgency of the situation; it's been a good dialogue, a good discussion. I'm optimistic; as I continue to be optimistic, and we'll see where it goes."

On the challenges of contract negotiations with players without an agent: "You have a lot of regard for the player, first and foremost. I think when you deal with an agent, sometimes you're able to speak very freely [and] position yourself a certain way. You have different arguments that you can use that maybe you wouldn't say to a player. So, I think that's part of it. There's a lot of respect – tremendous respect – because I'm with a player like Lamar [Jackson], a player like Roquan Smith who also represented himself. Every day, you see the commitment, [and] you understand where they're coming from. So, it's definitely a different dynamic. It can be challenging, but it's doable as we've proven, and we continue to be optimistic about it."

On what specific discussions he has had with QB Lamar Jackson: "That's a question that I appreciate. What I've kind of said for the last two years is that I'm not going to talk specifically about any discussions about the contract. Lamar [Jackson] and I had that agreement – actually, we forged that agreement probably two years ago down in West Palm [Beach, Fla.]. I think we've both tried to live up to that, so I would appreciate the understanding in that regard. The specifics of it – we can talk about the process – but I'm not going to go into all those things."

On WR Rashod Bateman's injury status: "Rashod [Bateman] is doing really well. Obviously, it was a pretty serious injury. I think we got out ahead of it to a degree. Rashod and the Club, we decided to do the surgery, and I think it was probably good that we did it at that point because the injury could have gotten worse. He's doing well; we text quite a bit. I know he's very, very excited, champing at the bit to get into the offseason program. We're very excited about him as a player; I can't wait to see what he can do this year."

On the value of the Senior Bowl as a chance to scout college players: "The Senior Bowl is invaluable to us; it's always been that way. I think that goes back to [executive vice president and former general manager] Ozzie Newsome and [former director of player personnel] Phil Savage … Ozzie playing at Alabama, and Phil Savage with his Alabama roots. We have a strong appreciation for the SEC. Being down there, what we've seen … The very best players in the country typically show up. We have a chance to watch these guys practice every single day. The access we get is incredible. [Executive director of the Senior Bowl] Jim [Nagy] does an amazing job; Phil Savage before him. The interview process, they've done a wonderful job of streamlining that. For us, to get that type of unfettered access is really incredible. We feel like it gives us the best chance to know the guys, and it helps us very well with the evaluation process."

On preparing a contingency plan without QB Lamar Jackson: "We're always preparing for every contingency. We look at every situation – free agency, the Draft – any possible situation that might arise with players. In this business, you get surprised daily, and so, you have to be prepared for any situation. What that means: what you cap looks like, what your cap might look like, what players are available, what players aren't available. Oftentimes, we look at guys in free agency that we're excited about, and they get franchised, [and] they're off the market. Sometimes, you'd say, 'Oh, there's nobody at this position that we're looking for,' [and] next thing you know, there's four or five cap casualties that hit the market. So, it's an ongoing process. What we try to do is strategize and plan. Going back to January, we go down to Jupiter [Fla.] with Steve Bisciotti, our owner, and kind of go through all the different contingency plans that we can: risk management, looking at all the different opportunities that might arise and figure out what's going to happen."

On different situations that would involve franchise tagging QB Lamar Jackson: "There are a couple different situations where that can go. There are a couple different franchise tags. We're hopeful that we'll get a deal done with Lamar [Jackson] before that happens, but sure. They're big numbers; we've known they're big numbers, we're prepared for that, and we have four, five or six different plans based on what happens over the next 10 days."

On if the team has made a decision about which franchise tag it would use: "We have not."

On if he feels Lamar Jackson deserves to be in the higher echelon of NFL quarterback salaries: "There's no doubt."

On wanting QB Lamar Jackson in Baltimore: "You can't win in this league without a strong quarterback; that's been proven. So, we want Lamar [Jackson] here. We think he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He's certainly one of our best players, and we want him back. So, we understand that. Living in a world without a quarterback is a bad world to live in, and I think there are a lot of GMs and coaches who would probably say that who are living in that world right now. We're aware of that. I think we've been blessed since 2008 to have Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson, and my goal is to continue that."

On if he will scout the quarterbacks in this year's Draft class: "I was trained as a scout; I started out as a scout. That's kind of what my development was, as [a scout]. So, I scout everybody anyways. I don't really short-change [scouting]. I love football, I love the art of evaluation. I'm going to look at all the top players, I'm going to do the top 150 players in every single Draft class, and I've done that. I look at the top guys in free agency. I enjoy it, and so for me, that's not something that changes year to year; that's just a part of the process. To build a Draft board, you have to look at the players, [and] you have to evaluate the players. Someone has to do it; I would rather have it be me than somebody else."

On his philosophy of investing in more Draft picks: "That's an excellent question; I can talk ... I don't think you guys want me to talk about that because I'll talk for 15 or 20 minutes on that alone, but I will say this: You have to have a lot of Draft picks every year. You have to draft a lot of players because guys do get hurt. There's an element in the Draft where just having more picks proves over a long time to be a good thing. It's like investing in the stock market. You might have some up and down years, but if you continue to invest, eventually you're going to see you come out ahead. So, that's kind of how I look at the Draft. The other thing you have to have I think is a really strong performance department, a wellness department. That's the training room, that's wellness, that's mental health, that's diet and nutrition, strength coach, performance people. They have to be the very best as well because players are going to get hurt, and you can get incremental value by having the very best people working for you to get your players back on the field."

On if he was disappointed that Lamar Jackson did not attend the Ravens' Wild Card playoff game: "No."

On pending free agent CB Marcus Peters: "Marcus [Peters] is a free agent; he's a guy that I hold in very, very high regard. I've had a few conversations with Marcus' agent [Doug Hendrickson], who is a good friend, and Marcus is a great friend. He and I have communicated. That will be ongoing, but that's a guy that when you talk about 'true Ravens,' guys who have done a lot for your team, for me, for the Ravens over the past four years – Marcus is on that list."

On RB J.K. Dobbins: "J.K. [Dobbins] finished strong. I'm really, really impressed with his passion, his work ethic, the way that he battled back from a very, very serious knee injury. It was very impressive to me to see how he really kind of matured over the course of the season. He came back from that second procedure surgery that he had, and he started to really look like that old J.K., which is extremely exciting for the organization. And we fully expect J.K. to have a great year this year."

On if he is concerned about reports coming out from sources inside QB Lamar Jackson's camp: "No, I'm not really concerned about that. Again, the only camps that I know are me and Lamar [Jackson], and we talk, and we text. And so, I'm not really too concerned with perceptions. I've seen a lot of perceptions in the last 27 years, and a lot of times those perceptions are probably not accurate. So, Lamar and I continue to talk. I have a lot a lot of admiration and respect for Lamar; I think he would say the same about me. And like I said, it's a tough negotiation. There are some dynamics that make it challenging. But I remain optimistic, and we remain talking, and I'm excited about that."

On evaluating wide receivers: "I think that's a good question. I would say a lot of people would say the same thing; it's a challenging position to evaluate in different ways. If I had an answer, that means I would probably have some better receivers, I guess. We keep trying. I think there are a lot of things that go along with that position. Sometimes it is tied to the quarterback, and I think it's tied to things like durability; it's tied to a lot of things. We're going to keep swinging. There have been some guys that have been successful players for us that were draft picks. We've never really hit on that All-Pro type of guy, which is disappointing, I would say, but it's not for lack of effort. We believe in what we do; we believe in our scouting; we believe in the system that we have – the scouting system that we have. It's one of those anomalies that I really can't explain, other than to say we're not going to stop trying. We're going to keep trying. I think we've drafted – I don't know; [senior vice president of communications] Chad [Steele] would probably know – probably, at least five or six receivers in the last four years, maybe. We're going to just keep swinging, and hopefully, at one of these points, we'll hit the ball out of the park. But that's our goal. We understand the importance of the position, so we'll keep trying to do it."

On this year's class of wide receivers: "I think it's a good class. I think there are probably five or six guys that you look at as potential first-round-type guys, and then [it's] pretty strong through the second, third and fourth round, as well. Now, what we've seen [and] what we saw last year … The dynamic is, these guys typically go higher than you might have them rated, because of the importance of the position. We've seen that with the pay scale at that position, as well. I think the league recognizes the importance of that position. That being the case, I think it's a strong, good class. Hopefully, we're in position to get a guy that we like at some point. Whether that's [in the] first round or the third round, if we trade [for] or get a second-round pick – whatever it might be – we're in position to get a guy that can come in and help us win football games."

On if he's fearful with any potential outcomes of the QB Lamar Jackson negotiations: "You know what? We'll have a plan. Obviously, I'm going to think about everything, but I don't fear a lot of different things. If you think about it and you plan for it, you discuss it, you talk about it, then what's the point of fear? So, it's not like we didn't know we might be in this position. Last year at this time, we talked about it, so we've had a full year to really discuss all the different plans. We'll make the right decision."

On the challenges of negotiating with a player representing himself without an agent: "I think that question was already asked. It's difficult; it's challenging. You're dealing with a player, so of course it's different. It's a personal relationship. You're with that guy every single day, and you have a great appreciation for who he is and what he does. And so, yes, it is challenging."

On upcoming free agent OLB Justin Houston: "Yes, I love Justin [Houston]. Justin had a great season for us. He's a proven vet. He's a guy that when you talk about the best pass rushers of the last couple decades, you put Justin on that list. He had a great season for us; came up big in some games; he's a great leader; a hard worker. That's going to probably be … The last two times we signed Justin, it was later in the process, and I can probably say that that will be the case this time, as well, with some of the unknowns that we have and that we're faced with roster-wise. Last year, we signed him when I was at the beach – literally on the beach, throwing a football with my son, Jackson – and I got the call from [Houston's agent] Joel Segal, and the deal was done. But that was probably July 10th, maybe, so I think you can expect the same, if we go down that road."

On this year's class of cornerbacks: "There are some good corners. In fact, Coach Harbaugh, I gave him about 10 guys to look at, and he's been cranking on them, and he's excited about this class. I think you've got some guys that have excellent size. There are a couples that are like, 'Man,' they're like old school, Chris McAlister-type guys, body-type-wise. You've got some great athletes; you've got guys that make plays on the ball; you've got guys that are ballhawks; you've got some physical guys. So, basically, you're going into a restaurant with a lot of different things on the menu, and basically, 'What do you want?' And so, the question just is, 'Do we have enough picks?' We only have five draft picks this year, which, as a drafter, as a guy that loves the Draft, that's not a lot. I have to keep reminding myself that our second-round pick this year is Roquan Smith, which I can live with, but I still look at that void, and I'm like, 'Man, I wish I had that pick.'"

On offensive coordinator Todd Monken's role in the Draft process: "We'll spend time with [offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken]. I was really impressed with Todd, and I've been able to spend a little time with him here and get his vision for what he wants to do. Anytime you bring in a new coordinator, there are going to be some slight changes. I think our system is intact; that's not going to change. Our system for evaluating and building out a Draft board is not going to change. And basically, the culture and what we look for at most positions will not change. The fiber of what we believe in, in players [will not change]. But Todd will have his opinions and have a voice, and he'll have specific things that maybe he thinks we're lacking or that might make his offense more robust, and so, we'll look at that very closely. We've been through a lot of offensive coordinators, and every time they come in, I look at it as a great opportunity for me to learn from those guys and to do a better job of building out a board and being a better drafter."

On the DT Jalen Carter situation: "So, first of all, that was a horrible tragedy – let me say that. Secondly, I don't know a lot about the situation – kind of like you guys. I don't really know. I wouldn't want to comment on the specifics of how that would affect somebody's draft status, because there is a lot more information, [and] I'm not privy to that; I might be by the time the Draft rolls around. It's a horrible thing that happened down there, and I feel horrible for the families, the parents involved. I have children. It's a horrible thing. So, that's what I would say about that."

On how the Ravens' Draft board is created: "Again, I could probably talk about that for six hours. But it's basically a mosaic, so imagine a huge board, and basically, you're taking all these different data points, and you're trying to meld them all together. And certainly, there are some positions that, quote unquote, the PFF [Pro Football Focus] people of the world would say, 'These positions are more valuable than other positions,' and we factor that in to a degree. For us, it's how the guy plays; it's the comps; it's the sequence lists that the scouts do, which is a ranking of the players by position, but also across the board. We'll use some analytics, [and] we'll use some true old school scouting. The interviews will play a factor in that, so we'll background information that our scouts get, which I think is probably some of the best in the league. And then my job is to come up with a list, ranked, [of] all positions that we think are top to bottom the best, and we'll make the decisions based off of that list."

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