Skip to main content

Transcripts: EVP & GM Eric DeCosta Media Availability (9/1/23)


First of all, can you talk about the passing of Hall of Fame personnel executive Gil Brandt? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, that's a great question. I'm glad you brought that up. Obviously, [with] me growing up [as] a child of the '70s, I became a Cowboys fan in '78. I really just admired the way they built that team – [Hall of Fame personnel executive] Gil Brandt, Coach [Tom] Landry, [and executive] Tex Schramm. [It was] very innovative [and] really kind of set the standard for scouting as we know it. Our actual grading scale that we use – our system – goes back to that original Gil Brandt system that they used, which I'm proud of. We've tweaked it, but it's still the same system. [He was] just a very innovative, deep-thinking person. [He] just really set the stage of, basically, scouting as we know it. [It's a] big loss in the NFL community. I'm glad that he got into the Hall of Fame a couple years ago – well deserved, in my opinion. And [he's] just one of the best." 

What's your big-picture thought and mindset about where the team stands heading into the season with all the excitement and optimism? (Garrett Downing) "I feel good. I think Coach Harbaugh did a great job getting us out of training camp relatively healthy – which is awesome – compared to the recent past, and the team is in an excellent mindset. I'm excited about some of the changes we've made personnel-wise. We're very, very excited and ready to go." 

Is there any hesitation from the organization committing to RB J.K. Dobbins, given his injury history? (Kris Rhim) "We love J.K. [Dobbins]. When he's played, he's been a warrior. He's played through injuries when he's been able to. [He's] a very talented guy [and has] a great attitude. He's a leader; I think he's respected. I have a strong affinity for him, personally, and we're very excited that he's back. He's healthy this year. He looks great, and he's ready to go." 

What's the plan with RB J.K. Dobbins' contract? Will there be ongoing discussions through the year? What's your gameplan with that? (Brian Wacker) "I try to keep that stuff in house. We're excited to see what he [J.K. Dobbins] is going to do this year. He's a talented player. I know he wants to be here; we want him here. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and also as a competitor – the way he takes care of his business, the way he rehabbed his injury, the way he plays on Sundays. I think we've shown that over the last five years, we've really tried hard to bring back as many of our own players as possible, and that will continue to be what we do." 

What clinched the decision to have three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and do you think that's something that could persist for the entire year? (Childs Walker) "That's a good question. Every team is adjusting to the new rule this year, which allows you to keep three quarterbacks active on Sundays – if you have three quarterbacks on the active roster – allowing you then to dress 49 players. So, I think every team is going to attack that differently. In our situation, it was complicated a little bit by the health of our quarterbacks this training camp. [With] that being the case, we're trying to keep all of our good players, and you all saw the games; Josh [Johnson] had an excellent preseason [and] played very, very well in the games. 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley], in the one game that he played, played very well in that game. So, we think we're dealing with a position of strength at the quarterback position, with three guys that have shown they can play winning football for us, and we're excited about that." 

Can you address the Ravens' reported trade interest in QB Trey Lance? Can you comment on that? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I would say that's just bad reporting. If somebody calls you and asks if you're interested in a player and you say no, does that mean you're interested in that player? It's just one of those things. I think there's a lot in terms of Cui bono. Who does it benefit? And when you see a report like that … We've got good quarterbacks, we love our quarterbacks, [and] we weren't looking to add any quarterbacks at all this training camp is what I would say on that." 

How challenging has the evaluation of the cornerback position this summer been with guys on and off the field. Where do you think you are at that position right now knowing that CB Marlon Humphrey's status is iffy at least early in the season? (Luke Jones) "We're certainly throwing out a big net. We have a lot of guys right now at that position. I think the health [at that position] has been somewhat problematic at various times throughout camp at that position, as we've seen it in the past. [With] that being said, we do think we have a lot of talented guys back there. We're anxious to see – when we finally get everybody out there on the field together – what it looks like. But, I think that some of the younger guys have emerged [and] a couple other guys that have been on the team the last couple of years looks like they have taken a step in the right direction. Obviously, we know that when we get Marlon [Humphrey] back, we'll have a premier player out there. It remains to be seen. It's always going to be one position that every team has that's challenging at times throughout the course of any season. We'll address those positions. We've tried to do that every single year. There's always one position that seems to just be an outlier for us, depth wise. The good thing, I would say, with the corner position this year is we haven't suffered any serious injuries [or] catastrophic injuries. They're all injuries that are more, in some ways, annoying type of injuries to soft tissue or whatever, and we think we'll be healthy pretty quickly."  

How do you value the running back position as a general manager? (Kris Rhim) "We value good players. I can't speak to how other teams do it, but we want guys at every position who can make plays and help us win football games at the right time. That's across the board. We've paid inside linebackers. We've drafted safeties in the first round. We've drafted a center in the first round. Those aren't your typical 'most important positions.' We've paid left tackles a lot of money. We've paid corners a lot of money. We've paid quarterbacks a lot of money, so I do it based on how good the player is, not necessarily, 'Well this position you should give a ton of money to, and this position you can't give any money to.' For me, it really does depend on how good the player is. When I was growing up as a young scout, I had the chance to see players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Jamal Lewis, and guys like that. I could see how those guys could take over games, so I understand the argument about running backs and some other positions as well. I think there's definitely some wisdom to who you pay and when you pay those players. On the other hand, we want to try and get as many good players as we can on the team." 

How please have you been with WR Odell Beckham Jr. from what he's done on the field from a culture standpoint and everything he's brought to the team so far? (Garrett Downing) "He's been great. I would say he's probably exceeded my expectations to this point." 

What went into placing CB Kyu Kelly on waivers and not on the 53-man roster? What was your reaction to seeing him get claimed? (Kyle Barber) "Well, [Kyu Kelly] didn't make the team because he didn't make the team. I'm disappointed that he got claimed." 

Regarding DE Jadeveon Clowney, what prompted that signing? Was the OLB Tyus Bowser injury part of that? Where do you see OLB David Ojabo right now? (Bo Smolka) "Well, [Jadeveon] Clowney, first of all, he's a player that we've admired for a long time. We scouted him in the past. We've played against him many times. We felt like he could be a guy like Jason Pierre-Paul was last year and Justin [Houston], and guys like that, for us this year. He wanted to play here, which for me, when we're talking to players, and we're trying to bring players in, when a guy expresses an interest in coming here, that resonates with me. We want guys that want to be here, and he wanted to get it done. We were happy to work with him, and we were able to do it. I think that regarding all of the other outside linebackers, they're all good, young players that we're very excited to see. They're going to all improve at their own pace. David [Ojabo] is a guy that obviously missed a lot of football last year. We think that he's shown us what he can do in practice this year so far in training camp. We've seen it. Eventually, I think when he gets in games, NFL regular season games, I think he and Odafe [Oweh] both are going to have very, very good seasons for us." 

Because of where the team is salary cap wise, do you feel like you're going to have to do some restructuring, so you can create more flexibility and so you can have the ability to make moves going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes. You always want to have more money. We have different ways of doing that. We've shown that we'll spend up to the cap every single year. And we'll do that. The landscape of this team has changed a little bit because we struck a contract with Lamar [Jackson]. And so, the way that we operate will be a little bit different in the future. We'll continue to try and do early signings as much as possible. The draft will continue to be very, very important as well. We're blessed to have [vice president of football administration] Nick Matteo and [Sr. Advisor to the general manager] Pat Moriarty working here. They're very creative with the salary cap on finding ways for us to find additional money to sign players. And we'll continue to do that, and hopefully have a little bit and get to the trade deadline and maybe make a trade." 

A lot of superlatives are being thrown around about this wide receiver group. Are you comfortable assessing where this group stands compared to the other groups? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's a good question. I'm really not. I just think this group is good, and we've seen these guys make plays. And it's encouraging for us to see them every single day. [The] guys are stepping up and making contested catches and making big, explosive plays. The attitude and the energy is very, very good. Our coaches have done a great job with those guys, and just the leadership of the veteran players – Nelson [Agholor] and Odell [Beckham Jr.] – has really been superb. And the younger guys have really brought their game every single day. So, it's just encouraging to have so much depth. This is the first year, I will say this, it's the first year where other teams have called us looking for receivers. I actually thought it was a joke at first. So, that's kind of cool." 

You talked about how WR Odell Beckham Jr. exceeded your expectations. Can you talk about how he's done that?_ (Cliff Brown)_ "His body is in very good shape. He takes care of his body. He worked extremely hard this offseason. His attitude is awesome. He's a leader. He's a first-in-line guy. He's a do-the-right-thing guy. He's just been great. I just really don't know how to explain it. So, I have two boys at [The] Gilman [School], and just before camp started, there was a football camp that Odell [Beckham Jr.] had at Gilman. And to see the entire community … it seemed that there were thousands of boys and girls there. To see that impact in a very short span of time [and] to see that impact he's had on this community, it's a powerful thing, and we're excited about that." 

You have all these new pieces added to the offense and a new coordinator. Are you intrigued to a greater degree than usual to see how this offense looks when you get to the games and how it will all come together? (Childs Walker) "I was intrigued in 2019 because I knew that we were going to do something that was different, and it was going to be a difficult offense to defend. But you go into every season excited. If you're doing your job the right way, and you're excited about it and the players that you like, you're always excited. I do think it could be a really cool thing to see this group kind of come together. If you look at just across the board on offense, all the different position groups are pretty strong. We have pretty good depth, and I know that because other teams are calling us on all these offensive guys. [They're] looking at and [saying], 'Hey you have a lot of tight ends. You have an extra running back. You have a lot of offensive linemen and receivers.' So that bodes well for the season. Obviously, these guys have to play. We expect them to. I have a lot of faith in Todd [Monken] and the coaches, and the players have to stay healthy, but on paper, it looks pretty good."  

How good do you think the offense will look compared to previous years? (Jamison Hensley) "Oh man. That's more of a coaching question. I just want to see touchdowns." 

Do those conversations with other teams happen right up until roster cutdowns, and did you entertain trades either adding or subtracting players right up until the roster cutdown? (Bo Smolka) "People call me, because we do a lot of trades. We love trades, so we get a lot of calls. Now, it used to be easier for me to do trades than it is now. I think people … They're always a lot more suspicious now that I've been in the league as a general manager for five years. But yes, you get a lot of calls, and you look at it. You just have to basically assess ... The way that I think of it is, 'OK, yes sure we could flip a pick and maybe get some additional value in a late round [of the NFL Draft] next year.' Is that worth giving up your 10th offensive lineman or your seventh wideout who might make it to the practice squad? [It's] those kind of things, and you just have to go back and forth and look at it. I've seen – and this has happened to me actually a few years ago – we had a bunch of offensive linemen. We traded a couple of guys, and Ben Bredeson might have been one and somebody else – [Greg] Mancz and all that. Then, you get a couple injuries, and now all of a sudden, all that depth becomes a weakness. So, that's something you always look at. To me, kind of being greedy – I love the idea of getting extra picks. A lot of times, coaches will be more reluctant. They don't see how a sixth-round pick or [how flopping] a [sixth-round pick] for a [fifth-round pick] is going to benefit you in 2025, so they want the players. For me, it's short term vs. long term and really being balanced." 

With the team you've assembled, how do you think they'll stack up compared to the division and the rest of the AFC? _(Jerry Coleman) _"I think that we'll have to see. We feel good about our team. Every team is trying to build the best team they can. We always joke … The draft, we look at our draft board and we're always excited about the players that we got, and then we look over there and see what the Steelers did and what the Bengals did, and we're like, 'Man, they got better, too.' They're great teams. The Browns are an excellent team. We respect all those guys. Every game is going to be very, very challenging and very tough, but I think John [Harbaugh] will have us prepared every week." 

What differences have you seen in QB Lamar Jackson from previous years? (Mike Preston) "Well, Lamar's attitude has been excellent this year. I think last year was a challenging year for a lot of reasons, obviously, just where he was with his contract. This year, it's just [his] attitude [and] his enthusiasm has been fantastic. He's throwing the ball very, very well. He's been able to build a great rapport with the receivers very, very quickly. He's taking care of his body. He seems really into the offense – he's excited about it. He has an awesome relationship with his coaches, and he worked very hard this offseason with some of the receivers that we brought in, which is awesome to see. I think it's showing off, and it's going to pay dividends for us." 

With lots of talk about his contract situation, what did ILB Patrick Queen show you with what he's done over the last couple of months? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Patrick's a gem. I think we've seen in the NFL now – a lot of teams are dealing with it – these players that are holding in, or they're not showing up, or they're holding out, or they're unhappy, or they're spouting off publicly. Patrick's just a guy that shows up to work every single day. He's a very, very talented player, [and he's] very, very selfless, beloved by his teammates. He's a leader, and we expect him to have a great season."

Related Content