Opening Statement: "Well, first of all, nice to see everybody. I haven't really spent a lot of time with you guys lately – since the Draft. It's been a long time, and a lot has certainly transpired since then.
"What I can say is that it was a very, very challenging season – a rewarding season as well. I always say that one of the hardest things I've ever done was graduate from Colby College, and I would say that this season – surviving this season and succeeding getting through this season – was probably right up there with that. I'm proud of the team. I think we overcame a lot of adversity, a lot of challenges, unique things that happened throughout the course of the season [and] in the offseason. The coaching staff did a really remarkable job getting us prepared to play every single week. I think, in general, the organization rallied around the team and put us in position to succeed every single day here in the building, facilities, everything – to give our players the best chance to win. It was a unique season in many different ways. Many different things would pop-up day-to-day. You'd think you had something figured out, and something else would come up. But again, not the end result that we wanted, but we see progress with this team. A lot of young players emerged. Very proud of the way that we competed – especially the second half of the season with our backs to the wall to get into the playoffs. All the different things we had to handle to win those games. We won a playoff game in the end. I'm reminded of this as I'm headed down to the Senior Bowl today – actually, this afternoon – and they're going to be 29 other teams that feel the same way I feel – that sense of disappointment. But also, a sense of optimism as we think about the future and what the team is going to look like next year. This is one of the great things about working in scouting, is we never really have an offseason. We call it the offseason, but it's really our season. That's the best part of my job, is we can be eliminated, and the next day, you get right back and ready to work again with your new mission – which is to build a better team than you had the previous year. And we will do that.
"I want to thank some people quickly, and then I'll open it up to questions. I want to thank [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti for his support, first and foremost. [Ravens president] Dick Cass – I probably spent more time talking to Dick Cass in the last three months, than I've spoken with Dick in the last 15 years. He's really been a great advisor to me and has helped navigate us through some situations. [Head Coach] John Harbaugh – great coach, even better person, great friend. This was a season where we really needed John's leadership, especially. He's just an amazing leader, great person, and a phenomenal football coach. The scouting staff – specifically [director of player personnel] George Kokinis and [director of player personnel] Joe Hortiz, [executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome, [senior vice president of football operations] Pat Moriarty. [Director of football administration] Nick Matteo – who's been our 'COVID- czar' in the building – did an amazing job this year day-to-day. Probably, other than maybe [director of football information] Megan McLaughlin – who I want to make a shout-out to as well on the coaching side – those two truly were the unsung heroes this year with all the different things that came up day-to-day with COVID-. All the different protocols, the situations that we had to adjust to on the fly. The video guys, the facilities guys – [senior director of facilities maintenance] Keith Mathews, [senior director of football video operations] Mark Bienvenu, [football video operations senior manager] Collin Ferguson, guys like that. The trainers, [head team physician Dr. Andrew] 'Andy' Tucker, our doctor; those guys really did amazing jobs. And then, finally, the fans. Obviously, it was a unique season. They couldn't really be there to support us as much, but we felt their energy, we felt their passion, and they also inspired us. And then you guys [the media]. It's a unique season, [and] your coverage of the team was outstanding. Don't always like it, but we love it in a lot of ways, and you bring people to the game. Again, challenging for you. You all have families, and we understand that. What you guys are asked to do this year, in a unique situation, we appreciate that as well. We thank you for your support for what you guys do to make the game of football even better. So, I'll open it up for questions."
When you go into this offseason, do you see a lot that has to be done? Or do you just tinker a little bit and then just add a couple of pieces here and there? Sorry to stretch this question out, but do you feel strapped by the salary cap? Or do you think it's forgiving for the mission that you have? (David Ginsburg) "I think we certainly want to get better at every single position, if we can. We think we have a good foundation of young players. This is a very young team in comparison to Ravens teams of the past. We've also got a nice mix of veteran players scattered in at different positions who can provide perspective and leadership, and they're very good players as well. There are certain areas of the team … And it's still early – we just had our personnel meeting last week – but there are definitely some areas of the team that we want to improve, and we will continue to do that through the Draft and through free agency. I think we anticipate having six or seven [draft] picks this year – probably six right away. But as you guys know, we like to add picks, and that'll probably be something that we try to do throughout the course of the Draft, or probably through the Draft.
"As far as the salary cap goes, I think it's such a strange phenomenon, because we are actually probably 11th or 12th best in the league in terms of salary cap room, and we anticipate that number being somewhere between $15-20 million. However, that's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and that's based on a projection of between $175 million and $180 million dollars of salary cap room. So, we like the positioning we are in. I think there are about 14 or 15 teams this year who are actually over the salary cap. We see that as an opportunity for the club to really improve. But it's an unusual dynamic and there are going to be, I think, some challenges for teams to get under the cap. We'd like to have more room than we have; $15-20 million dollars is not a lot of money. But when we judge ourselves against our competitors, we feel like we have an opportunity to use that to our advantage."
Just a lot of talk this offseason about fixing the passing game. Head Coach John Harbaugh addressed it last week. In what ways do you feel like you have to address the passing game as a whole? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think one of the things we have to do is get better up front with pass protection. Losing Ronnie Stanley was definitely a tough deal for the offensive line to handle. Orlando [Brown Jr.] did a great job, and I think the offensive line, in general, really battled versus some adversity this year. But pass protection is going to be a factor. I think that having an OTA this year, if we can, more practice time would be a big thing. We've got some young receivers that would benefit from more practice time, and OTAs, and an offseason. We'll look at the personnel as well. There are a lot of different ways that we can do that. Receivers come in all different sizes and shapes. We've got the Draft; we've got free agency. I think one of the things, as you think about the passing game, is we throw the ball a lot less than a lot of other teams do. That's by design; we're a running football team. People like to look at yards per game as a good metric of a passing game, and I think we threw the ball probably 150-160 times less than any other team did this year in the NFL. We want to be precise, for sure. I think that we want to be more efficient. Some of that is simply reducing penalties. We were highly penalized this year. We had a lot of pre-snap penalties. That's not an ideal thing for a team that wants to be a passing team. We've got to do a better job in that regard, and I think turnovers as well – reducing the amount of turnovers. We had a bunch of turnovers this year – for instance, before the half. So, there are a lot of things that we can do. It's not all about getting the quote 'Number One receiver' that everybody likes to talk about. We will certainly look at that. We would try to upgrade every single position on this football team this offseason, if we can – based on the parameters of what we have to work with draft pick-wise, money-wise, and all the other challenges associated with building a football team."
As you know, QB Lamar Jackson is a popular topic around Baltimore. Do you anticipate or will you go and approach Lamar Jackson about a contract extension this offseason? Is there any chance of that happening this year? (Jamison Hensley) "There is certainly a chance of that. I will be talking with Lamar [Jackson] probably within the next 10 days or so. He's down in Florida, but we've got a great relationship. He's got a great relationship with this organization. He's a very easy person to talk to, and certainly deserves a contract. He has played phenomenal football over the last couple of years, and our intention – and my intention – is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years."
Do you think it's less important for you guys to have that "quote unquote" Number One wide receiver, because it's a lower volume passing game? I guess, if you did choose to go after one of those guys who's projected to be at the top of the free agent market, do you feel like your cap would allow you to do that if that's where you wanted to go? (Childs Walker) "We want to have really good players at every position. We want playmakers. We want guys that can stretch the field. We want guys that can catch the ball inside on third downs. We want guys that can scare the defense and allow us to be flexible and balanced up front on offense. We don't want to be a team that's forced to do anything; we want to be a team that can dictate to the defense what we want to do. I think part of that is being a team that can run the football – a physical, big, physical mashing style [of] offense, which is what we've seen in the past from us. We are a running team. We want to be a big, physical offensive line. We want receivers who can make plays. We want tight ends who can make plays. We want to not give the defense a chance to get used to what we're doing. So, as far as that goes with the salary cap, there are some unique challenges this year with not even knowing what the cap is going to be. The cap could be $175 [million] [or] $185 [million] – we don't really know yet. That's going to pose some problems. We've done some deals. We did some deals this offseason. We extended Marlon [Humphrey]. We extended Ronnie Stanley. We did an extension with Jimmy Smith. We'll continue to do that. And when you do those kinds of deals, you do eat up some cap room and you reduce your flexibility to sign other players. That being said, we like our positioning with the salary cap. We see some other opportunities for us to do some things to get some additional cap room. We'll be strategic. We'll be targeted, but we'll have some players we definitely want to go after."
Outside linebacker is a tricky position this offseason with the four pending unrestricted free agents. Can you talk about how difficult that's going to be to navigate, and kind of what your thought process is at outside linebacker right now? (Ryan Mink) "We were fortunate; we were six-deep this year. We had a stable of guys, and we could roll different guys out based on the teams that we were playing. We love that versatility. We love the fact that we had 12 legitimate pieces in the front seven this year that we could roll out on gameday, in terms of defensive line and outside linebackers. We may not have that this year. We may have some turnover on the roster; we understand that. Again, the salary cap sometimes dictates the players that you can have on the team, but we do see some opportunities to bring some guys back. There are certainly some guys we want to target out of the gates. We do feel that we have some younger players that have a lot of potential to help us. We also have, again, the Draft. We see that the Draft looks pretty good this year in terms of outside linebackers and pass rush-type guys. There are also some guys in free agency on other teams that would be of interest if we can't bring some of our guys back."
Just philosophically, going back to the S Earl Thomas III deal, you didn't get a chance to bring him in and really meet with him ahead of time, and then it ended up not working out, which seemed to be a lot of it was personality-wise. Does that change … Or maybe you've done a whole lot of that before, but I wasn't really familiar that you had. Does that change the way you maybe want to go about the future in terms of free agency and making sure you get a chance to meet in person and do those things? Or was that just [that] sometimes, it just doesn't work out? (Pete Gilbert) "Any time you work in personnel and scouting, you're going to make mistakes. You're going to swing and miss. You try to hit more hits [and] more home runs than you strike out. So, for every player that we might have missed on, I'd like to think that we have an Eric Weddle, or a Calais Campbell, or Mark Ingram [II], or somebody like that that comes in right away and provides leadership and a foundation for your younger players to emulate. So, we talk to a lot of different people and we do our homework. I think one of the things that I have to be better at, probably, is [that] I'm an aggressive personality, and I need to be, at times, patient and not rush up and swing at the first pitch, to use a baseball analogy. I need to take a pitch, and that's on me. But in general, I think we do talk to a lot of people. We do our homework. I am very, very proud of the job that our pro personnel department has done in terms of looking at personalities and [saying], 'Does this guy play like a Raven? Does this guy live like a Raven?' I'm really proud of the job that those guys have done. I think if you go back and look at our guys that we brought in here over the last five to 10 years, you'll see evidence of that. I think that with the Draft, it's oftentimes easier to get information, because you're spending nine months on these guys, and you're talking to a myriad of sources at schools, and different people, and a network of people that you can call on. Pro personnel is tougher, but it can be done, and I think we do a pretty good job of it."
Last year, obviously, the offseason got thrown into chaos kind of midway through. Approaching the offseason this year with no Combine and all the pandemic challenges, what do you see as some of the biggest things, maybe things people aren't talking about, that are going to be affected by the unusual nature of things? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Well, I think fortunately, we were able to prepare. We started preparing for these types of things last May. One of the things that we did was we had a bunch of guys working on a committee in-house that was looking at the possibility of no college football, no Combine and things like that. We had to do a lot of these things last year, because we didn't have a typical Draft build up. We were doing our meetings in Zoom, and we weren't working guys out. We weren't getting the individual in-person interviews that we would normally get. We weren't having the Pro Days. We weren't getting all the numbers. So, we were forced, last year, to navigate this. So, I think we actually, in a lot of ways, are more prepared this year than we were last year. That being said, last year, we did have a Combine. This year, we won't have a traditional Combine. We will get a lot of the information. We'll have to be more flexible. We have great area scouts, the best in the league. We will rely on those guys, for sure. Those guys will get us the information, as much information as we can get. We have excellent doctors, trainers and support staff. We will be able to have a Draft, and we will feel comfortable that we will have all the information that we can. There will be some differences. There will be some challenges – no doubt. I'm a traditionalist. I believe in the Combine. I believe in workouts, and Pro Days, and interviews and all of those things, but I remind myself that we didn't have these things last year. I feel like the Draft last year, for us, was pretty good. So, I have reason to think that this year will be no exception."
How satisfying is it when you see your rookie class come in without having a training camp and all of that and add to the team? [How satisfying is it that] the guys that you looked at and thought would add something actually did? (Kirk McEwen) "I was proud of the rookies this year. The maturity that they showed day to day … It's a long season; the NFL season is a very long season. To not have any OTAs, to not have a traditional training camp is a credit to them and very much a credit to our coaching staff, as well, for getting those guys ready to play. I was happy that most of our guys were able to contribute throughout the course of the season. We had very few guys hit that proverbial 'rookie wall.' We actually saw some guys play their best football down the stretch late for us. If you want to talk about guys like Justin [Madubuike] and J.K. [Dobbins], who became really important parts of the team late in the year. So, that's always a great thing. Now, the challenge is to build on what they did this year and really make themselves even better players next year."
I don't know if you got a chance to see head coach John Harbaugh's press conference with us last week. I did ask him about trying to attract a top free agent wide receiver in an offense, which you said, is built around the run. How do you accomplish that when a lot of these receivers … I know what he had to say, but a lot of these receivers are paid on catches and not for blocking purposes? (Jerry Coleman) "I'll just call on a line from The Godfather, 'I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.' (laughter) No, I mean … I don't know, it's hard. I don't really think too much about that. Basically, what I do is evaluate the players, and then if we like them, we'll call the agent and we call the player. If they want to play for us, great. If they don't, OK – that's just the way it is. [There's] not a lot of rocket science involved. You're not really saying, 'Well, I don't want to play for you guys.' I've never heard a player … I've never had a player yet say to me, 'I don't want to come play for the Baltimore Ravens, because you don't throw the ball.' It hasn't happened yet – maybe it will. Most of the time what I get is, 'I hear you guys are an amazing franchise. I know players who have played for you guys and loved the experience. You're a great team for veteran players. I want to play with Lamar Jackson. I love your defense. Baltimore is a town that I want to be in. I've played against you guys. I love your fanbase. Your stadium is amazing.' That's what I hear. I've never heard, 'Well, you don't throw the ball – I'm not going there.' There's always an exception, but I haven't heard it yet."
My question is along those same lines. When you say that you throw a lot less by design, do you anticipate that design changing at all, regarding passing more? If so, does that rely on QB Lamar Jackson improving certain points of his game over the offseason regarding passing? (Shawn Stepner) "I would think that Lamar [Jackson] being who Lamar is, Lamar wants to improve. I want to improve, too. We all want to improve. You wouldn't be in this business unless you just constantly want to get better, just like you guys. So, that's definitely … That goes without, I think, saying, that we all want to get better. That's on the quarterback [and] that's on the receivers. As far as the scheme and all of those types of things, that's the coaching staff, that's the players [and] that's [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman. I don't really get too caught up in all of that right now. I'm more interested in what time it is more so than how to actually build a watch. So, I would defer to Greg and all of those guys on how we do that [and] what we want to do. They'll have ideas, personnel-wise, in the type of players that we're looking for. I get a lot of value out of that, just sitting down with Greg and the coaches and talking about the specific types of players that we want; what type of tight end are we looking for, what type of receivers are we looking for [and] what kind of traits do we want our offensive linemen to possess, or a running back to have. So, those are the things that really help me build a team. And then what I try to do is supply the coaches with those kinds of players, and then the players and the coaches go to the lab and present the product."
Is it something that you think improving in the passing attack and getting better in that regard is something that you need to do to keep up with the teams that we've seen in the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl now? (Shawn Stepner) "As I said, I think I've answered this question, but there are a lot of things that we can to do improve. One of those is reducing penalties – we were highly penalized – and [reducing] turnovers, as well. I watched those games yesterday. I think one of the issues that one of the teams had yesterday was that they couldn't run the ball, and they didn't keep the other team off the field. So, I think the fact that … Let's not forget, now, that we have a running attack that's probably the best in football, and probably the best in the history of football – that's to our credit. We want to be good at everything. We don't want to be a great offense and a great defense and be terrible on special teams. We don't want to have a great special teams and be really good on offense and be a terrible defense. Last year, we felt that we had to improve on defense up front, and we did that. So, we have ideas of what we have to do to fix the team, and we will do that. We will work on that. I'm not going to say right now sitting here today, 'Oh, we're going to do all these different things to improve the passing game.' It's going to take place over a two-, three-, four-, five-, six-month period of time, but we would like to improve in many different areas. We did not accomplish our ultimate goal this year. We have to find out why, and we have to be able to do that next year."
There's so much talk about the QB Lamar Jackson contract extension, but you also have TE Mark Andrews, T Orlando Brown Jr. and others. Do you anticipate extension talks with TE Mark Andrews this offseason? Is the chance of extending T Orlando Brown Jr. affected by the long-term contract of T Ronnie Stanley? (Bo Smolka) "Good question. I think a couple years ago when I was doing my first press conference, we said that we would try to do more deals. We would try to sign up more players on our team, and we've done that. I'm proud of that, and a lot of credit for that really does go to [senior vice president of football operations] Pat Moriarty upstairs and [director of football administration] Nick Matteo. But it's something that evolves over time – these types of things don't just happen arbitrarily. In the case of Ronnie Stanley, that took place over the course of almost a year that we had discussions back and forth with [his agent] Kim [Miale] and with Ronnie. With Marlon [Humphrey] and [his agent] Joel Segal, and all these different players that we've done deals with … We want to keep our good, young players. That's something that as I thought about myself and being a GM, I really wanted us to try and do. We have these players. We draft them. We like them. We know them. They really fit us, and we want our fans to be able to reap the enjoyment of these players over time if we can, again, based on the parameters of the salary cap. So, we will continue to engage in talks with all of our good, young players, and try and sign as many guys as we can. Sometimes, you just can't get a deal done. Sometimes, you can. It's great when you can, but sometimes, you can't. You can't … I learned this from [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]; you can't sign everybody – that's a challenge. But we will try to keep as many good, young players as we can. We believe in an offensive line. We believe in being a strong offensive line. We want to have the best offensive line we can, and Orlando [Brown Jr.] had a great year this year. We are a tight end-centric offense, and Mark Andrews, in my opinion, is one of the better tight ends in the entire NFL. He's a Pro Bowl tight end, in my opinion. So, we would be foolish to not want to try and keep him. Those discussions will start up at some point. Hopefully, we can make progress and get some deals done."
You've used the trade market a number of times in your time as general manager – DE Calais Campbell [and] CB Marcus Peters. Do you see the trade market as an avenue to try to upgrade the roster this offseason? (Garrett Downing) "Well, we look at all that stuff all the time. I think teams know that they can always call me if they want to make a trade, and we'll be aggressive. We'll be proactive, and we'll call teams. I'm always willing to listen. We've made a lot of trades. I love trades. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but they're fun. I think it's one of the great aspects of this job, is having the chance to wheel and deal and make some trades, especially if you can minimize the risks involved and get a guy that can help you win some football games. So, we'll look at all of that. We don't have quite as many [draft] picks this year as I'd like to have, partly because we made a trade. But we do think we have a chance to get some comp picks – we may. We may get one, or possibly two, comp picks this year – we'll be ready for that. Certainly, as we get to the Combine, I'll talk to teams, talk to GMs [and] talk to coaches. We kind of keep our ears down to the ground to listen to different things; what players teams are going to shop [and] try to find value for the team. Everything we do is based on the premise of value. Can we gain value from that transaction? If we think we can, we'll make a move."
I know you were asked about outside linebacker, but you just mentioned value. With today's game and quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker and quicker, how has that impacted the overall evaluation of edge rushers? I guess, especially when you look at analytics and there's generally a sense that coverage on the back end is valued a little more than creating pressure? (Luke Jones) "That's a great question. We've looked at that. For sure, this year quarterbacks got the ball out faster than ever before. I think going back to 2013 actually, quarterbacks threw the ball [and] got rid of the ball quicker this year. We faced a lot of teams this year that were the fastest teams at getting the ball out of their hands. Sacks were down this year in the league [and] pressures were down this year. I still think you have to have a pass rush, especially when you're playing play-action type teams – that's a critical, critical thing. But there were a lot of teams this year that refused to be sacked, and the ball is coming out very, very fast. We saw that quite a bit. I think what you have to do is you have to be fast on defense, you have to stop the run and you have to tackle very, very well. But you also have to have pass rush; you can't just disregard the pass rush. You have to have a pass rush. You have to be able to get the quarterback uncomfortable. I think [defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink' [Martindale] does a masterful job of that, using our pass rushers and also pressure packages and things like that. So, we'll always be a team that's aggressive on defense. We'll always be a team that's coming at you in different ways. We do love our depth in the secondary. We love where we are right now. And what we learned this year, again, is you can never have enough corners. We say it every year, but this year was a great example. We had a bunch of guys go down at different points in the season. We played with a lot of different combinations, and we were able to survive and really flourish in many ways back there, despite the different personnel packages and people playing."
I wanted to talk to you about the center position. In two games this year, you had two different centers almost implode in the New England game and then in the playoff game in Buffalo. How do you fix that problem? Is G/C Bradley Bozeman a potential fix at that position? I remember when he was drafted, he was listed as a center. (Stan Charles) "I would defer to the coaches on Bradley [Bozeman]. Bradley has played center, but we'll play who we think should play at that position. We do have some other guys that could play the position. We had a couple games this year, as you alluded to, that we didn't snap the ball very well. Both of those games, incidentally, were games with really bad weather conditions – high wind [and] rain. [There was] a monsoon up in New England. (laughter) We certainly have to do a better job of getting the ball back to the quarterback. We think we have some options at the position, and we've got some good, young players. What I like about the offensive line is we have a lot of really good, nice, young players. We're not sure who those guys are going to be [and if] they are going to emerge and be the starters for us, but we've got good depth – what I would call shallow depth. We have some guys that can play. A lot of guys have played for us – a lot of young players are emerging talents. We'll also have a chance, I think, with the Draft and free agency to augment those positions as well. So, Bradley is an important part of the mix. We have some other guys that can play that position as well. We'll find the best five guys and the best backups behind them, and we'll start up in September."
You touched on the COVID-19 pandemic in your intro, and you guys, obviously, navigated a really challenging period. I was just curious, from an organizational standpoint and an operational standpoint, what things you might like to see the league carry over once we're beyond it, and maybe just for your organization, specifically? (Nate Davis) "First of all, I give the league a tremendous amount of credit for their counsel and their advice. And I think a lot of people, probably a lot of you guys, never imagined that we would be at this point, having played a full season. We're at the edge, at the end of the season, the Super Bowl, and we've played, and we've managed it, and we've done really, really well. I would have to give a lot of credit to the league. It hasn't been easy, not without challenge, but they've been resolute. I also give a lot of credit to the players for what they've had to endure, and the staffs, and the coaches, and the people in the buildings. It has been unusual, to say the least. I would love to think that we can get back to normal next year. I'm not sure what we'll do. I think we've all gotten used to different things; Zoom, off-site meetings – a lot of different things. The way we travel, restrictions. For me, the biggest challenge has been not being able to eat on the plane after the games, because I love those Popeyes' chicken sandwiches, and those were banned. (laughter) We couldn't eat on the plane this year, so that was something that I'd love to see get back to normal next year. But just the way that we do things, you get used to it over time. You get tougher, you sort of build up some scar tissue, and you realize that you don't necessarily have to meet in person anymore. I don't love having a mask on when I have a player in my office and we're talking. It's a tough way to communicate, but you get used to it. It's all these little things that we've had to change.
"Yesterday was the first day since July 15th that I didn't have a COVID-19 test. I didn't have to get tested yesterday, for the first time. Now, I did get tested today, and I'll be tested all week down at the Senior Bowl, again. But yesterday was my first day [not being tested], and that was kind of nice – not to have to get up on a Sunday morning, even when you don't have a game, and come over to the facility and get your COVID-19 test. So, there will certainly be changes, and there will be some things next year that we will have to endure again. But again, it's routine, it's habit, it's how you interact with people. It'll get easier. I'm sure the league will have some restrictions again next year – some things that we'll have to continue to do differently. But there were some positives, too. As I look back on it, there were some other things that became positives this year, that we never thought possible that we were able to do, and there's also a beauty in that, as well."
There have been a couple reports that LS Morgan Cox has told people that the Ravens aren't expected to re-sign him or extend an offer to bring him back. I'm not sure if it's something you can comment on now, but just overall, what has he meant to the organization over the past 11 years? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Well, I did have a meeting with Morgan [Cox] last week. It's almost the circle of life, at times, and you have to continue to get younger as a team. As you all know, we had Nick Moore, and we kept Nick on the practice squad most the year, and he had a chance to snap in a game for us. He's a younger player, and we felt that, although it was very, very difficult to move on from Morgan, it was probably something that we needed to do, long-term. And so, we made that transaction last week. We got Nick signed up, and I had a conversation with Morgan, and told him that we would not be offering him a contract moving forward. It's tough, because in my opinion, Morgan has been, really, one of the better Ravens of the last 11 years. His attitude, he's overcome some injuries, his performance, just his general demeanor, his ability every single day to come in and be a leader, and his attitude, and just the way that he practices, and his personality … We've been blessed for many, many years now with 'The Wolfpack,' with Morgan, with Sam [Koch], with Justin [Tucker], to have, probably, the best combination of punter, long snapper and kicker in the league. And things change, unfortunately. It's a tough part of this business. But Morgan, his class, his performance, just everything about him, will be missed and cherished in many ways, and I will think of him as the best long snapper in Baltimore Ravens history. As good as he is as a long snapper, he's a better teammate and a better guy."
At 24 years old, QB Lamar Jackson is the veteran in the quarterback room with the release of QB Robert Griffin III. Do you think that you'll be bringing in a veteran to back him up, or are you pretty happy with the two young men you have – QB Trace McSorley and QB Tyler Huntley? (Kevin Richardson) "Honestly, based on what we saw this year with Trace [McSorley] and with [Tyler] Huntley, we were impressed. We think both guys have a legitimate chance to compete for that backup position. It doesn't mean that we won't go after a veteran quarterback, but we think both those guys have pretty bright futures, and we see a good competition this year. Let's not forget that we had no preseason games last year, and those games are critical for young quarterbacks to play in. We are very optimistic that those guys, with a really, really good, normal offseason, with some preseason games, will have a chance to really flourish and be that guy for Lamar [Jackson]. We're fortunate that we have two guys, so we really have three quarterbacks, and both of those two young guys are smart, they're accurate passers, they're athletic, they're hungry. They've been successful college players, and when they've played, they've shown the ability to really be a backup quarterback in the NFL and help us."
You referenced the tight ends earlier. You traded TE Hayden Hurst, and you went into the season with TE Mark Andrews and TE Nick Boyle as the two main guys, and then TE Jake Breeland and TE Eli Wolf both came in, but they both got hurt. What are you going to do with the tight end room this year? Do you think Breeland and Wolf will be a couple guys who could step into a role, or are you going to look at free agency or the Draft to add depth there at tight end? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, we have Pat [Ricard], too. Now Pat is kind of hybrid fullback-tight end, but he did a lot of tight end-type stuff for us this year, as well. So, it was a different room, it was a different situation this year, and I think the coaches did an awesome job of using the personnel that we had to make us as successful as possible. [Jake] Breeland is a possibility. [Eli] Wolf is a possibility. They are both young players, [and] they'll have a chance to compete to be the third guy this year or fourth guy – whatever that might be. We'll look at personnel, we'll look at free agency, we'll look at the Draft, and certainly, we're very much a tight end-centric offense. So, if there is a tight end there available in the Draft, or somebody else, if somebody else happens to fall to us in free agency, we would certainly look at that as a possibility. We know that [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] can take those tight ends and really go to the lab and find some ways to use these guys to make us more productive on offense."
I know you guys have invested a lot in run defense, primarily, over the years. When you face a team like Buffalo that doesn't even bother to run the ball in the first half, and you see "pass-happy" teams like the Chiefs and Buccaneers make the Super Bowl, does that change the calculus at all, in terms of what you guys value in the trenches there? I know you guys have some potential decisions there this offseason. (Jonas Shaffer) "Not really. We have a vision for what we want to be as a football team. We're going to be physical, we're going to be imposing, we're going to stop the run, we're going to be a team that loves to run the football, we're going to protect our quarterback. We never want to be one-dimensional. There are some examples of one-dimensional teams that don't make it, don't get there. Looking at the Chiefs, we saw yesterday, the Chiefs played good defense yesterday. Besides the quarterback [Josh Allen], who had some scrambles, they held the Bills to -yards rushing. So, we really want to adopt the mindset, [and] we have the mindset that we want to be good in every phase. You can't be a great passing team and have a poor run defense, because then you won't have a chance to pass the ball, you won't have a chance to run enough plays. You want to be a good special teams team. You want to have a good kicking game. You want to be a team that can be efficient and run the ball and control the clock when you need to. You want to be a good four-minute offense, so you can put teams away at the end. You want to be good before the half. You want to have a passing game that can overcome a 10- or 14-point deficit. It's everything; it's not one thing. We don't want to be a one-sided team. I hate that idea – being a one-sided team – and that's not something that I aspire to. So, we are going to be good in every phase, if possible. We'll look at our strengths and weaknesses and tweak it every single year. But we want to be a balanced football team across all fronts."
You talked at length about all the changes you've had to make this year because of the COVID-19 restrictions and the rules. Is there anything, as you look forward now to the Draft process and working these guys out, that is, maybe, a little innovative or different? Do you have some ideas that maybe you haven't implemented at all, so you can approximate what's missing? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "That's a great question, but if I answer that question, I'm going to be giving all that information to other teams, which I really don't want to do." (Reporter: "We can keep it amongst ourselves here.") (laughter) "What we try to do … As I said, we spend a lot of time this offseason talking about ways that we can exploit the process and gain an advantage. We're always trying to find a way to gain an advantage over the other teams, so that's what we'll try to do. We've built out an analytics staff of four or five men and women who are very talented, and we use them a lot. They help us, in a lot of different ways, get information or approximate information that we may not be able to get. Technology is a big thing, networking. Our scouts … We had some great ideas this year that we were able to implement early on to find a way to fill in all the blanks – get information that maybe we can't get, for instance, on a school call. We couldn't go into schools this year, so how do you get the information about these guys? Those types of things. There are a lot of other things, as well. And again, I'm proud of our guys. It's something that we take very, very seriously. Our area scouts are a huge part of this. And we've been able to keep and develop scouts, over the years, very well. We've got a very veteran group of guys with great contacts. It's the blending of the traditional scouting and the science. It's the GPS, it's the analytics; it's all these other things that we can use to help us make decisions that, hopefully, will help us be better than everybody else this year."
I know you're probably not allowed to comment about the particulars, but is there any resolution in the S Earl Thomas III situation? Is that over, or as far as you're concerned, there still needs to be a hearing and all that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's ongoing. There are some different moving parts. So, I'll sort of answer that question like that, and just say that it's ongoing. When we have some news in that regard, we'll report it to you all, but it's just something that is another part of this offseason that we'll continue to look at. There are always a lot of different things, and there are all these different elements to an offseason. We don't even know what the salary cap is going to be yet. It's hard to build a football team without a salary cap – not knowing what the salary cap is going to be. So, the Earl Thomas III situation is just one part of that. But there are a lot of unknowns, and as we begin to get information when checking off all these different boxes, we'll have a much better idea for how to proceed this offseason."
I know you let go of RB Mark Ingram II recently, but do you foresee any other players being let go for cap reasons, before free agency? (Jamison Hensley) "Hard to say, because I don't know what the cap is going to be, and once we get more information it becomes easier for us to look at. The situation with Mark [Ingram II]; I can just say that we discussed that with Mark and his people – his agents – and we gave them the choice. We asked them, what would they prefer? Would they rather wait for the transaction? Or whatever it was, we felt Mark had earned the right to be able to make that choice himself, and we deferred to him, and we did as he wished."
You described earlier how free agents view the Ravens. You guys clearly are one of the top franchises in the NFL. You play in the AFC, where the Patriots had a dynasty for almost 20 years, and the Chiefs look like a team that could be good for a while. How do those other teams color your standard of success or your definition of what is successful? (Mark Viviano) "I think players look at us as a franchise that has a commitment to being the best we can be. It starts with ownership. We spend as much money as we can on players every single year. You look at how much money we spend; we're always going to spend up until the cap, and in many cases, cash over cap, every single year, to be the best team we can be. We've got a great facility. I think our schedule, the way that we handle players, the way that we treat veteran players, is great. You guys see that every single day. We've made the playoffs nine or 10 times in the last however many years; I lose track. [We've won] multiple Super Bowls. There are a lot of things that make us a great place to play. Veteran players contact us quite a bit, asking to play for us or wanting to play for us. And then, it's just players. Over the years, let's face it, we've had some of the best players in the history of the NFL play for us, and players want to play with them. Players want to play with Lamar Jackson. I really do kind of laugh at the notion that players don't want to come here and play with Lamar, because he's one of the very best young players in the NFL. We've got a lot of other young players, as well, who fit that criteria. So, I think it's a great place to play. People want to play here. It's a team that's positioned well for the future. We've got one of the great coaches [John Harbaugh] in the NFL. We've got one of the great owners [Steve Bisciotti] in the NFL. We've got a facility, here. We've got a stadium. We've got a great fanbase. There are a lot of reasons to be very excited about the Baltimore Ravens moving forward."
You guys had a very young wide receiver corps. How do you evaluate how some of those young guys, including the rookies, performed this season? Like you said, it was tough without all the practices for them, but how do evaluate them moving forward? And do you feel like you would be better served, or you would want to add another veteran to that mix? (Ryan Mink) "I thought the young guys emerged and played pretty well. Again, it's not a traditional offense, so they're being asked to do some different things. Blocking-wise; there is a more physical aspect to playing receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. I was really, really encouraged by Marquise [Brown] over the last eight games of the season. He became a legitimate playmaker for us and a clutch guy – scored a bunch of touchdowns, made some big, big plays. In the playoff games, he was a force in both of those games. He showed some great skill, ability to run after the catch, he made some clutch catches. I thought that [Miles] Boykin made some plays; he made some clutch plays for us. The young guys: Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, showed some special teams ability, made some plays here and there. I think their best football is ahead of both of those guys. We're very happy with both those guys, as young receivers who came into a very difficult situation this year, with no OTAs, and essentially, no real training camp – so to speak – with games. We're excited about both those guys – we really are. So, there is certainly more room for improvement with everybody at that position. But again, as I've said, [and] I've said it a few times, there is really more room for improvement with virtually everybody on our team, on our coaching staff and in scouting, including me. So, we've all got to do a better job if we really want to take this thing to the next level, which means playing in the Super Bowl or playing in two weeks. That's our goal, that's our challenge, and we are very focused on that."