Marcus Peters, Justin Houston and Calais Campbell are three of the team's most respected defensive veterans, but their return to the Ravens next season is not certain.
General Manager Eric DeCosta said Wednesday that he hoped free agents Peters and Houston would re-sign with Baltimore.
DeCosta has already engaged in talks with Peters and his agent, Doug Hendrickson, seeking an agreement that would allow Peters to return. The 30-year-old Peters leads the NFL with 32 interceptions since he entered the league in 2015. In addition to his playmaking, his defensive acumen and fiery passion have made him a favorite with teammates and coaches.
"Marcus is a free agent; he's a guy that I hold in very, very high regard," DeCosta said at the NFL Combine. "I've had a few conversations with Marcus' agent, 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."
The 34-year-old Houston, who led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks last season, has said that he's not retiring and would like to return to Baltimore. DeCosta would like to see that happen, and thinks Houston may take his time making a decision. In both 2021 and 2022, Houston agreed to a one-year contract with Baltimore in July.
"I love Justin," DeCosta said. "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. 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. I think you can expect the same, if we go down that road."
The 36-year-old Campbell is under contract for next season and has announced he intends to return for his 16th season. The six-time Pro Bowl defensive end has 99 career sacks and was an important piece of Baltimore's front seven in 2022 with 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback sacks in 14 games.
However, Campbell has a reported salary cap hit of $9.44 million next season, according to Spotrac, and the Ravens have not reached a long-term contract agreement with Lamar Jackson, although DeCosta remains optimistic they will. But without knowing how much Jackson will cost, the Ravens are not certain how much they will have to spend or whether they could carry a contract like Campbell's.
Regardless of what happens with Jackson's contract, the Ravens will have tough choices to make.
"We'll make those decisions at some point," DeCosta said. "There will be some tough decisions that we have to make with the roster, like there are every single year. But it's a shell game, and some of that we do know. There's agents here, and we're talking with different people. … It's not necessarily Calais. It's not necessarily other guys. But we're always looking at: How can we get better? How can we build the best roster? Understanding that the salary cap is a real constraint. And so we've got to do what we think is best for the club. Those are tough decisions.
"I remember, in '19, when I first took over, I had to make the tough decision to move on from Eric Weddle. We lost C.J. [Mosley]. We didn't sign Terrell [Suggs] and Za'Darius [Smith]. And I almost got run out of town before I was even the GM, basically. Those were hard decisions. And so every season, that new league year opens up, you know that you're going to take on some water and you're going to have to make some tough choices about the team because we're not just trying to win this year. We're trying to win four years from now as well."