Skip to main content

Eric DeCosta Explains How the Lamar Jackson Deal Got Done

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Eric DeCosta was watching his beloved NBA team, the Boston Celtics, blow a big lead in Game 5 of their series against the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young had just delivered a 30-foot dagger to win it for the Hawks when a text from Lamar Jackson pinged DeCosta's phone.

The text said something like, "I think we can get a deal done. We're getting close."

"I said back to him, 'Lamar, you just saved my night,'" DeCosta said. "Because I was in a dark place, and at that point I didn't care anymore about the Celtics."

The cloud over DeCosta wasn't just from the Celtics' choke job. It had been hanging over DeCosta and the organization for quite some time.

The two-year on-and-off contract negotiations with Jackson were arduous and long. On Thursday, the two sides finally came out the other side, agreeing in principle to a five-year extension that keeps Jackson in Baltimore through 2027.

There wasn't too much time to celebrate the Jackson deal crossing the finish line. The first round of the NFL Draft started just a couple hours later. But DeCosta had enough time to throw on a Jackson Era 8 Apparel sweatshirt and record a video addressing Ravens fans who had been along that rocky ride throughout.

"It was a long, long process, but family is never easy," DeCosta said.

After selecting wide receiver Zay Flowers with pick No. 22 in the first round, adding another weapon to Jackson's dramatically upgraded arsenal, DeCosta shed some light on how the Jackson deal got done and what it means to him personally, and for the organization.

"Sometimes, you just need time," DeCosta said. "Sometimes these things can happen in two weeks, and sometimes it takes two years. This was on that scale. I know that our appreciation and love for Lamar has really never wavered, but it was business as well.

"Sometimes with family, things can get tough. We all feel that sometimes, when you're in a fight with your parents, or a sibling or you're trying to figure something out. It's like the emotion of it, and there was definitely some emotion, but in the end, we've been blessed to have Lamar as part of this organization for a long time. We've won a lot of football games. I think he feels this place is special too. It was business; it wasn't personal, and I think over time, that's kind of what developed."

DeCosta said he put a lot of pressure on himself to get a deal done with Jackson. He took over for Ozzie Newsome five years ago. Jackson was Newsome's final first-round pick, a master stroke who quickly became one of the NFL's biggest stars and the 2019 unanimous MVP. DeCosta didn't want to see that star shoot out of Baltimore.

"It's been a challenge in a lot of ways," DeCosta said. "I've gotten pep talks at different times; they've made me laugh. I'm very appreciative. I've been here my whole career, so I really have an appreciation for the culture of this place and what it means to me. I guess that's one of the reasons why I think I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself in situations like this because I've been here forever, and this organization means more to me than just a job. The weight of that, it means a lot. So, I do feel that way."

Jackson represented himself, and he tweeted Thursday that his mother also operated as his agent. That made for a "very unusual, unique negotiation," DeCosta said. He admitted that he had some moments when he wondered whether they would ever get to the finish line, and questioned himself at times about what he could have done different to "speed this process up, to make everybody happy."

"I just think that it happened in the normal course, that it was meant to happen the way it did for whatever reason," DeCosta said. "Hopefully – honestly I have to say – I hope I never have to be a part of that type of negotiation again because of the time, because of the emotional aspect, because Lamar is such a special player and what that means to our club and to this city."

Head Coach John Harbaugh also conceded that he didn't always know that negotiations would end the way they did, but he tried to maintain faith.

"I just felt like we were doing things the right way, and treating Lamar the right way and that it would work out one way or another," Harbaugh said. "I didn't know if it was going to work out with Lamar being there for sure; you just never know. You can't know that, but I believed it would. To see it happen the way it did, today, to hear how excited Lamar was on the phone about it when we talked about it. That was really a great moment."

DeCosta revealed that the Ravens made Jackson about five or six different contract offers. They continued to tweak different aspects to try to make it work and finally settled on a deal worth a reported record $260 million with $185 million guaranteed – both all-time NFL highs and ahead of the contract signed last week by Jalen Hurts.

Two big developments happened between when Jackson made it public that he had requested a trade from the Ravens. Baltimore inked wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and Hurts signed his contract. It was clear that Jackson was in favor of the Beckham deal. DeCosta was asked Thursday how much the Hurts' extension greased the wheels for Jackson and the Ravens.

"I couldn't really say. What we try to do is come up with a deal that we think is good and fair for the player, that, hopefully, the player looks at and resonates with the player, as well. And it's been ongoing," DeCosta said. "When you negotiate, a lot of times you just kind of edge forward towards progress. Sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's slow, but you're just trying to make progress, every single time, to find that sweet spot.

"The market is what the market is. John says it all the time; that's the market. But I think that the way that we feel about Lamar, it's the market-plus, if that makes sense. Like, we've seen Lamar; we've won lots of games with Lamar; we're around him all the time. And we do feel that he's the best quarterback in the NFL, and I think this contract reflects that."

Related Content