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Late for Work 5/4: Eric DeCosta Opens Up About Negotiations With Lamar Jackson

Left: GM Eric DeCosta; Right: QB Lamar Jackson

Eric DeCosta Opens Up About Negotiations With Lamar Jackson, What Biggest Factor Was in Reaching an Agreement

Ahead of this afternoon’s press conference with Lamar Jackson, General Manager Eric DeCosta, and Head Coach John Harbaugh, DeCosta discussed the quarterback's contract extension in an exclusive interview with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.

Here are some of the highlights:

Whether he was surprised no teams pursued Jackson: "Was I surprised? Probably a little bit, but in the end, every team has to look at who they are, how they're built, what's important to them. I always feel like one of the advantages to free agency is when you have a guy on your team, you know exactly who he is, you know how he's wired, you know what's important to him. Other teams don't know that, you know? And so that's why in my mind, free agency is always a little bit dicey because here we are coveting other players on other teams, and we don't know very much about them. A lot of times we try to find out, but we don't. We know Lamar Jackson. We know how he's wired. We know what resonates with him. We know how competitive he is. And so, for us, it was a no-brainer."

Whether teams didn't pursue Jackson because they thought the Ravens would match any offer: "I think the franchise [tag] is a powerful tool. I mean, anyone will say that. Agents will say that; teams will say that; the union would say that. And so that's exactly right. I think the fact is we were having a tough time getting a deal with Lamar. Again, we respected his position and his feelings, but we were still having a tougher time. But in the end, we felt like our deal, that the deals that we had made, we felt they were credible deals, we felt they were strong deals, and we felt like we were in a position to, not that we could match every single deal, but we felt like we would be able to match most deals and that if a team were willing to do a deal that we couldn't match would be very hard for that team to do that type of deal. Not impossible, but very difficult. We already had the $32 million as a placeholder on our salary cap. Other teams didn't. That's problematic for other teams. So, in the end, it's a calculated gamble, I would say. You know, is a team going to go after Lamar Jackson? And if they do, maybe, just maybe, the deal is something we can match which makes life easier for us."

Negotiating directly with Jackson: "Lamar is a good agent from the standpoint of: he asks the right questions; he knows what he wants in a lot of different ways; he's aware of different mechanisms and issues with the contract language terms, types of structures, things like that. He's done his homework with all of that stuff and he's a very, very smart guy, savvy. And he did a great job overall."

The impact the deals for Deshaun Watson and Jalen Hurts had on negotiations with Jackson: "I think they were both kind of hovering overheard in different ways. Obviously, the Watson deal was really something that the media focused on quite a bit and was fascinated by on the impact that would have on the negotiation with Lamar. The Hurts deal hit before the Lamar deal got done. I would say that the contract that we did with Lamar is not that dissimilar from the contract that we offered Lamar in September, and I think that contract actually had the biggest impact of the whole thing because we felt at the time that was a strong contract offer. We had a small window to get that done. Lamar had put a self-imposed end-of-negotiation before the season started. We felt like we were getting close to a deal at that point but we ran out of time. And so we decided to kind of revisit that contract. We augmented and added some money in different ways to that contract and fortunately we were able to get the deal done. When we compare the two deals – the deal from September and the deal that we offered Lamar that Lamar accepted – the framework was there with that deal back in September and allowed us to get to this point."

Providing Jackson with new weapons in the passing game such as Odell Beckham Jr.: "We want to maximize Lamar's ability. I've probably done a poor job of doing that over the last couple of years in some ways by not having more receivers around him. We love the guys we have, but in terms of building the best possible offense, that's a factor, too."

With New Weapons, Jackson Figures to Be More Dangerous Than Ever

"Good Morning Football's" Kyle Brandt placed the AFC starting quarterbacks into seven tiers, and Jackson landed in Tier 3 with Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert. Patrick Mahomes was the lone quarterback in Tier 1, and Joe Burrow and Josh Allen were in Tier 2.

When discussing which quarterback was the most likely to rise in the tiers, Jason McCourty went with Jackson, largely because of the upgraded receiving corps.

"As I look at the list, I feel like Lamar has possibly gone through the most change this offseason," McCourty said. "Obviously Rodgers switching teams, but for Lamar Jackson, getting a new offensive coordinator (Todd Monken), also getting some weapons, adding Odell Beckham, drafting Zay Flowers, the running game is what it is. I think Lamar Jackson has a chance to step up and get into that category with Burrow and Josh Allen."

NFL Network's Judy Battista said that with the best collection of receivers he's ever had, Jackson "is poised to have his best passing season."

That's saying something considering Jackson led the league in touchdown passes in 2019 when he was the league MVP. He also set a record for highest-completion percentage in a 40-yard passing game (86 percent, 37-of-43) in an epic comeback win over the Colts in 2021 in which he threw for a franchise-record 442 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

ESPN's Domonique Foxworth said he is "very excited" to see Jackson in the new-look Ravens offense.

"The way that people have been attacking Lamar with success is aggression, blitzing," Foxworth said on "The Mina Kimes Show." "Go ahead and blitz and let him throw a quick screen to Zay Flowers or just miss a tackle."

Reaction to the Rock Ya-Sin Signing

The Ravens continued their productive offseason by signing cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to a one-year deal yesterday. Baltimore needed a starting-caliber veteran cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey, and the 26-year-old Ya-Sin fits the bill.

Russell Street Report’s staff reacted to the signing. Here are some excerpts:

Darin McCann: "While Rock Ya-Sin probably won't be confused with Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner, he's a good player who is still only 26 years old and excels in man coverage on the perimeter. He gave up a very respectable passer rating of 82.5 last year, continuing a trend of posting a better number in that category every year of his four-year career. He also only allowed one touchdown against him."

Kevin McNelis: "The caveat I feel has been missed by a lot of this conversation is that Ya-Sin's supporting casts in Indy and Vegas were … less than optimal. With Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton leading the charge in the secondary, maybe Ya-Sin can finally blossom some when he's not asked to do too much."

Nikhil Mehta: "He's not a CB1-level talent, but he's a solid outside cornerback whose experience Mike Macdonald can trust opposite Marlon Humphrey early in the season. He can execute most coverage assignments and he can comfortably stick with a wide cross-section of the NFL's receivers."

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