Transcripts: Day 1 NFL Draft Media Availability

Eric DeCosta opening statement: "First of all, thanks for coming out. Obviously, [it's] been a very action-packed day, [or] night, I should say. To quote [former executive vice president of public & community relations] Kevin Byrne, we got better tonight. That's something Kevin used to always say." (John Harbaugh: "And Chad Steele just said that when we walked in here. So, you did well, Chad.") "And [senior vice president of communications] Chad [Steele] just said that. I think we're all thrilled we got, in our opinion, the very two best players at their positions. In Kyle [Hamilton], we got a rangy safety, a ball hawk [with] tremendous physical skills [and] measurables. A very, very smart football player [with] a great make up [and] pedigree. [He's] productive, tough and physical. He can do a myriad of different things for us. I never dreamed in a million years that he would be there. It reminds me of some of the old Drafts with [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], where it just seemed like in the early days, good players would just fall down the board to us. It kind of felt that way, and it was a no-brainer for us. With Tyler [Linderbaum], just one of the very most enjoyable football players to watch this year. I think all the scouts would say that. You're talking about one of the best technicians – strong, physical, tough, quick-footed. Somebody said it on TV, I think; if he was an inch taller and his arms were a half-inch longer, he would've been a Top 5 pick, and I believe that. He's probably one of the better centers we've seen come out in a long time. So, it filled a huge need for us. We feel that this offseason, we've had a chance to address the offensive line in different ways and improve the depth and the quality along the front, and we're not done. So, overall, a very exciting start to the process, and I'll kick it off to Coach [Harbaugh]."

John Harbaugh opening statement: "Just reiterating what [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] said, we got better. I'm very excited about the two players themselves; the personality, the toughness, the character. You watch the tape, and they jump off the tape. It's just been a great first round for us, and I'm fired up."

Eric, when you say ball hawk with S Kyle Hamilton … S Ed Reed-caliber ball hawk? A centerfielder? (Gerry Sandusky)

DeCosta: "Oh man, you're trying to set me up." (laughter) "I would never compare anybody to [No.] 20 [Ed Reed]." (Reporter: "Let me give context to that. Much like you never replace a Ray Lewis. You never replace an Ed Reed. Since Ed Reed, I've heard a lot of conversations about how hard it is to find a guy coming out of college who can play in space. Is he a guy who can play in space at this level?")"I think he can play in space. We would not have drafted him if he couldn't play in space; a safety has to play in space in the modern NFL. He has awareness. He's intelligent. [He has] tremendous range. Again, people talk about his 40 [-yard dash] time; I could tell you what some of our best players have run, 40-wise, over the years. This guy covers ground with range and speed and awareness. He's quick. He has great eyes. So, he can do it all. We're very excited about him, and he's a phenomenal kid."

Eric, what went into the move to deal WR Marquise Brown? How long has that been kind of in the works? (Bo Smolka)

*DeCosta: *"That's a complicated topic. For me personally, [it's] complicated, because Marquise [Brown] was my first pick, and one of my favorite guys on the team. But Marquise came to me after the season and requested that he be traded and was not happy and wanted to play elsewhere. Again, it was something that I anguished over for a long time. He would tell you, I think, that he and I had many conversations throughout the spring. You know … I always say the club has to win, and this was a situation where it was going to be impossible for the club to truly win, but we do what we think is best for the player. We try to accommodate players when we can. I'm sensitive to that, so we did it. I think he would say that he feels happy, which is good, and we made the best of the situation as a club. We used that pick wisely, I think. We got a good trade, I think, and we got an excellent player. I hope when we look back at this, we'll see that. It was a tough situation. I hope for the best for 'Hollywood' [Marquise Brown], I really do. I hope he's in the Pro Bowl, but I also think that this guy [Tyler Linderbaum] that we drafted is also going to be in Pro Bowls, too. So, that will be a heck of a thing."

Eric, WR Marquise Brown was at the Cardinals' Draft Party. So, was this pre-arranged, and it was just a matter of announcing it when you did? (Jeff Zrebiec)

DeCosta: "Yes, that's a good question. Sometimes there's a strategy involved with what we do and how we do it, and it's just what we do. Everything we do, as coach [Harbaugh] would say, it's always, you think about it, and you do what's best. It's like a gameplan – you have to have a strategy. So, we had some conversations. We had agreed earlier this week, and we had a way of going about it that we thought was good for the club and good for him. It's unusual, as you guys know, to be able to keep something quiet, which I'm proud of – especially with you, Jeff [Zrebiec – The Athletic]. It's hard because you're always breaking stories. (laughter)But we were able to do that, so that was good, too."

Had you had a chance to talk to QB Lamar Jackson to prepare him that a trade was coming, given how close they are as friends, and it is his No. 1 wide receiver? (Luke Jones)

DeCosta: "Yes, that's something that we did do. [Head coach] John [Harbaugh] and I did speak with Lamar [Jackson] – we always do. Lamar is probably one of the great leaders of our team, also in the community, as a teammate, in the building. So, we do try to communicate with him as best as possible. We had a communication with him, actually, before the trade was made, to be honest, and explained the situation as best as we could. It's challenging for everybody. Our locker room is very close, which I'm proud of, as Coach [Harbaugh] would say. So, any time a teammate is potentially getting traded, it's something that's hard for the players to understand at times, but in the end, it happens, it's part of the business."

As far as getting a pass rusher, do you see opportunity there in later rounds? You picked the two best players on your board, but do you still see the opportunity to add a pass rusher in the later rounds? (Todd Karpovich)

DeCosta: "I don't want to tip my hand, but I do think there are excellent players available in the next three rounds, really. One of our goals with this Draft was to have as many picks as possible. I'm not naïve; I know we're not going to nail all six fourth-round picks. I've read some very intelligent articles about that – how difficult it is to draft in the fourth round – and I do think, though, our goal is to be pretty damn good with these upcoming picks. I think we've stacked an excellent board; our scouts and coaches have done a great job; and I think we're primed to do very well in the next couple days."

Eric, when you're looking at the list of needs, safety was probably not very high. Was this another case of best player available? I know you keep telling people that you select the best player available. Do you think this is kind of the epitome of that? (Jamison Hensley)

DeCosta: "I do, I really do, because, as you said, this is a situation where, honestly, we thought this guy [Kyle Hamilton] would be gone by pick 4 or 5, maybe. So, [he's] just too good of a player, and it was kind of a no-brainer, to be honest, for us – it wasn't even contemplation. Had the phone been ringing at that time, we would not have traded out away from him. And just these kinds of players, we feel, are unique, and he can help us in so many ways. You've watched us play; you've seen the NFL game change; you've seen how tight ends now are such weapons. We think this guy can cover tight ends; we think he can play split safety; this guy can play down in the box. He's a very smart guy, he fits our defense, [and] our coaches are very excited. We think that with Marcus [Williams] and with Chuck [Clark], with him, with guys like Brandon Stephens, with Geno [Stone], we think we have a lot of moving pieces, chess pieces, that will help us be a very good defense."

Back in 2019, I think it was, you guys ran a lot of three safety looks and were really good as a pass defense. Was that something that you wanted to return to, or just saw a lot of value in just with those types of guys on the field? (Jonas Shaffer)

Harbaugh: "Absolutely. We're going to run multiple personnel groups, and three safeties has been a big part of what we like to do. So, yes, we've got three really good safeties right now. We can play the extra safety at [the] nickel [position], we can play safety at [the] dime [position]. We can play them at [the] MIKE [position]. All of those guys are going to be on the field, for sure."

In the pre-draft process, you guys were connected to C Tyler Linderbaum pretty early in the process. And there were questions about … You guys typically like a little bigger centers, how does his scheme fit, and all of that. Why do you feel like Tyler is such a good scheme fit for what you guys do and such a good player fit for your offense? (Jeff Zrebiec)

Hortiz: "I'd say just his competitiveness, [No.] 1, he can play, really, in any scheme. But his core strength … I mean, he's not the biggest guy. He gets on guys – you guys saw the highlights. That's him every play. Big guys don't affect him. He can leverage guys – you saw the wresting. He's just really a tremendous athlete. [He] knows how to play the position. [He] knows how to get his body in the right spot, and then he just consistently works at maintaining his blocks. You'll see it when they show highlights – he'll block three guys in one play. He's a lot of fun to watch. And like [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] mentioned, he's kind of a consensus guy with all the scouts and coaches. Everyone saw him the same way. You just put the film on and it's obvious he can play anywhere."

Do you feel as if you guys are short at wide receiver now? Is that something you think you'll be able to address? (Childs Walker)

DeCosta: "Again, I was thinking about that, and I kind of missed all the questions this year. (laughter) So, I was thinking, I kind of want to get back to the days of old, you know? (laughter) Listen, I think that we have some good young players. I'm excited. Rashod [Bateman] has had a tremendous offseason, so far. He's in great shape. We've got Mark [Andrews], and he's about as good as you get. Devin [Duvernay] made a jump this year. He's a Pro Bowl special teams guy, Pro Bowl returner. His best has yet to come. James Proche II had some moments last year. [He] had some big games and some clutch plays. We think Nick Boyle is going to come back this year and be healthier. And there's still three rounds to go, four rounds to go, whatever it is – in terms of rounds that we have picks. And as [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] says, and has said many times, 'We don't play until September.' And we will continue to look at different opportunities to get better as a club. There's still some free agents out there, and we'll have the best team we can have come September."

With Kyle Hamilton, he had an injury issue last year. Do you think that's behind him? (Noah Trister)

DeCosta: "I just trust our doctors. Our doctors and our trainers, we get all of the information, he worked out, and I feel really good about it."

Coach, with C Tyler Linderbaum, how much flexibility does this give you down the offensive line in terms of maybe keeping OL Patrick Mekari at guard or tackle? (Todd Karpovich)

Harbaugh: "No question. That's the thing – when you add a really good player, a top player into the top of the depth chart – the whole depth chart just kind of filters out in a great way. Pat Mekari still could find his way into the starting lineup. There's no doubt about it. He's a really good player. I'm assuming Tyler [Linderbaum] is going to come in and start at center – for sure, obviously. We'll see how Ronnie [Stanley] comes back, but all signs point in the right direction. We've got a heck of a right tackle, we think, maybe two. We've got two veteran tackles we brought in here. There's some depth already, and I think we may add another offensive lineman into the mix. So, to me, there's going to be a lot of competition for the starting spots, a certain one spot in particular, but then there's going to be competition for those backup spots, big time. The thing we're trying to do is be a physical, punishing offensive line. We want that kind of a mindset in our group, and that's what Tyler Linderbaum brings to us, Pat Mekari is like that already, and a lot of our guys are. This guy [Tyler Linderbaum] adds to it."

Eric, you said your phone was ringing at Pick 14. Was that to move back? Also, was there any thought to move up? We saw a couple teams jump up in the Draft. (Cordell Woodland)

DeCosta: "We discussed potentially moving up, but unfortunately, the players that we would have moved up for were gone within three picks maybe. So, that was a quick conversation. In terms of trading back, I think there were some teams who wanted to trade up to our spot. Then what you saw was a run on wide receivers. So, there were some teams I think picking in the 20's that were anxious to get up to 14, but by then, as you saw, the receivers were all gone. So, we were very fortunate, because we had a guy like Kyle [Hamilton] really there. It was a gift that we haven't always had in some years [and] it made it very easy, because the phone didn't ring. There have been a few years I can think of when the phone hasn't rung. Two years – just to tell you guys a little story – it never rang when we drafted Ronnie Stanley, and it never rang when we drafted Marlon Humphrey, and those were pretty good picks. I feel that we'll look back on this pick and we'll be glad that the phone didn't ring."