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Transcripts: Justin Madubuike Contract Extension Press Conference (3/11)

Eric DeCosta opening statement:"First of all, I want to thank everybody for coming out here today. We are thrilled to announce that we've extended Justin [Madubuike] to a four-year contract. [It's] very special for us to be able to get that done. We've always strived to keep our best young players here in Baltimore, and I'm thrilled that this is another example of that. I want to thank Justin and his family. I want to thank [vice president of football administration] Nick Matteo, who was instrumental in this deal taking place. I want to thank [owner] Steve Bisciotti, and I also want to thank Ben Renzin – Justin's agent – who did a great job. We're excited. We hope our fanbase is excited. We know Justin's excited, and we can't wait to see what the next four years look like."

Zach Orr opening statement: "It's an exciting time. [I give] credit to Eric and all the people involved. [I] credit to 'Madubeeks' [Madubuike and] everybody involved getting this deal done. Justin is not only one of the best defensive tackles in the National Football League, but he's one of the best football players overall. Just a quick story about him. Back in 2020 when he came in during Covid, I remember training camp. It was the first padded practice. We're all amped up wanting to see what our team's going to look like. It's ones versus ones, and 'Beeks' [Madubuike] is out there. I'm like, 'We have a rookie out there. OK. We're about to see what's going on.' He struck the lineman [and made a] TFL [tackle for loss]. It was an explosive play, and I remember just that moment we looked [at each other] like, 'This dude has a chance to be a great player.' Ever since that day, he's come with the same mindset [in] practice [and] meetings. [He's] worked his butt off, and it's no shock that he's a player that he's become today. The great thing about it is he's only going to get better. It's an exciting time. [I'm] happy that we got this done. He's earned this, and the future's bright with Justin Madubuike. We're just getting started."

DT Justin Madubuike opening statement: "First of all, I'd like to thank God for sure. Without Him, I wouldn't be here. I'd like to thank Steve Bisciotti, Eric [DeCosta and] Coach [Jim] Harbaugh for giving me this opportunity to be here and to believe in me. I'd like to thank my dad, [who is] my biggest supporter, [and] my uncle for making it [here today]. It's just an exciting time. I'd like to thank Zach [Orr]. It's crazy, we talked about this right after the [Cincinnati] Bengals [2022 Wild Card] game. After that long, 100-yard [fumble return] touchdown, everybody was just feeling bad about themselves, and me and Zach just gave each other a hug like, 'You had a great year. I already know next year you're going to turn up. You're going to be All-Pro. You're going to be Pro Bowl. I can see it. I can feel it.' At that moment, I knew, [saying to myself] 'I'm going to take a month off, and I'm going to literally work my butt off to be one of the best in the league.' With hard work and faith and consistency, your dreams can come true. I'm a living testimony of that, so I'd like to thank everybody who believed in me. [I'd like to] thank the whole organization, and I'm hungry. I'm ready to get back to work again. I've been working out as you all can see a little bit." (laughter) "I'm just very thankful for the opportunity [and am] thankful to be here living my dreams. I'm just going to keep working, keep being better and just keep striving for greatness for sure."

Was there a time over the past week where you felt a long-term contract extension could get done soon?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Yes, for sure. Eric [DeCosta] has always been in communication with me that he wanted to get a long-term deal done. It was just about getting the right time and the right moment to get it done. My agent took care of that. Now I'm here, and I plan on being here for hopefully my whole career. I just love this organization. Not only have I grown as a player, but I've grown as a person. I just love my teammates, and I love the staff from the cafeteria to nutrition to everybody. It's top tier. It's the best in the league, and I want to definitely be a leader and set that example and just be the best."

Going into the 2022 season, former Raven Calais Campbell talked about how you were going to bust out as a player. What was it that came together in 2023 that did not come together in 2022?*(Kirk McEwen)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Calais [Campbell] was taking all my reps." *(laughter) *"I'm just kidding. Just having a guy like that [in] Calais – a great leader, Walter Payton Man of the Year [recipient] – definitely sets the example of how to be a true professional and definitely having him as a vet [and] asking him questions [helps]. Obviously, we're competing for playing time, but also he's a solid, standup guy who always checks on me. That's a great person to have in front of you to learn from."

Now that you have signed your second contract, have you become a player who the young guys look up to as a tone setter? Do you look forward to that responsibility?*(Childs Walker)*

(MADUBUIKE) "I feel like I've always been that guy that is always open to giving information [and] to help people out. I feel it's going to be more now with just the success I have had on the field and just the type of person that I am. I'm always open to help people out and be that guy, definitely, for young guys to ask questions [and] look forward to or count upon for information. Yes, for sure."

How big is re-signing DT Justin Madubuike as far as building out the rest of the defense this offseason since ILB Roquan Smith and S Kyle Hamilton are also back?*(Todd Karpovich)* 

*(DeCOSTA) *"I think it's big any time you keep your best, young talent. We feel really good about those guys. We feel really good about where the defense stands overall, and we're just on the come [up]. We're excited to see Zach [Orr] orchestrate this whole thing. I think the thing that stands out about Justin [Madubuike] is just his ability as a three-down player. He can play the run, and he's an exceptional pass rusher, too. He's a guy that has gotten better every single year. He's a great example for the younger players who can see him and see his progression from 2020 to now. That's exciting for those guys to see, and we're thrilled that we have him up front. We have Roquan [Smith]. We have some good, young players with Roquan at the linebacker position, and also in the secondary, we feel like we're very strong."

We know you've done some with outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith in the offseason in the past. What type of influence do you think he will be since you've been able to work with him now throughout the year?*(Cordell Woodland)*

(MADUBUIKE) *"Now, it's free teaching. I had to go to Atlanta and pay [for his services previously]." (laughter) *"For him to be on the staff now, it's like free teaching every day. But just the person that Chuck [Smith] is – very open, very honest in terms of technique and pass rush stuff. He just helped not only me, but I know a bunch of my teammates just get more crisp and more trim in terms of pass rush. He's really good at what he does. I've worked with him for the past two years, and I feel like my game has evolved as soon as I start tapping [in when] I've been with him in training. So, yes, [he's] a very big influence for sure."

Typically when you guys have used the tag in the past, you've eventually gotten a deal done, but it usually taken some more time. Were you surprised that this came together as quickly as it did considering the deadline last Tuesday? What about this negotiation made it that you were able to come to a long-term deal as quickly as you did?*(Luke Jones)*

(DeCOSTA) "Well, we were coming from a place of respect, and Justin [Madubuike] knows what we're all about, and we know what Justin's all about. He has an agent that I think, he and I have a great relationship over the years. So, we weren't that far away. There was a chance we could have gotten a deal done before we had to franchise him. We were close, and we've had had good discussions along the way. We met at the Combine. And we've had, along the way, a lot of opportunities. So, it's keeping the line of communication open, being honest with each other. We've done a lot of deals. Some take two years, [and] some take two weeks. And this was a very easy deal to get done in most cases."

Did you guys come close to a deal before last offseason? I know DT Justin Madubuike was big on betting on himself, but just looking back at that and how it unfolded, was there any pressure on your end to get the deal done before the tampering period started and you maybe start to see some deals come together for other guys at the top of that defensive line market?*(Jonas Shaffer)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"We've never really had any kind of long-term discussions with Justin [Madubuike] prior to this year. We had a couple discussions during the season. Those are tricky at times. Obviously, you want the player to be as focused as he can be on the season, and Justin did a great job of that. We decided that it's probably best to just wait until after the season to really kind of get going on the whole thing. You certainly do look at the market, [and] you kind of weigh that. In the end, there's always a value to the player to get this deal done if you can early before the market. and sometimes there's a value for the team as well. It's not an exact science certainly. But we felt like there was a deal to be made. We were that close that we could get a deal done, and I thought it was in our best interest as a club to get that deal done before free agency started."

What was it like to share the moment with your family when you got the news that everything had been agreed to?*(Jeff Zrebiec)*

(MADUBUIKE) "It was huge. First thing I did was, I cried a little bit – I'm not going to lie. I prayed, [and] I called my dad immediately. He was stoked. He was like, 'What? Really?' [I'm] just very thankful. [I'm] glad to have a great support system, and I'm ready to get to work really. I'm hungry now."

You talked about that hunger and wanting to continue to get better. What does that look like for you in the future as you continue to just progress in your career and get better? How do you envision that?*(Ryan Mink)*

(MADUBUIKE) "What I see in the future is just continued greatness, continued ... [I] just [want to have] impact on the game, just being a force, being a cornerstone to this defense. [I] just [want to keep] holding myself to this high standard that I did this past season and staying consistent. That's what I see. I feel like when you do those things [and] take it one day at a time, good things are going to flourish, [and] good things are going to happen. It's going to radiate to other teammates for sure to motivate them [and] inspire them so we can just be the best, because we have a goal in mind that we definitely fell short at this year. And we're hungry to get back to where we belong."

What is it about DT Justin Madubuike that makes him? There's so much more even to come besides what he's already done so far?*(Ryan Mink)*

(ORR) "Eric [DeCosta] said it. Justin [Madubuike] is great against the run. He's great against the pass, and this year what I felt like helped take his game to the next level [is] if you really just watch our film and pay attention to it, he played all across the defensive line. So, I mean he played the shade, the head-up zero, he played the three [technique], played the four [technique] and played the six [technique]. Sometimes he played the five [technique]. He played the run and rushed out at all those positions, and like I said, this year was his first time getting those opportunities to do that. So, now it's just another year of being comfortable with the technique that we want at all those different positions. That way, teams can't just focus in on one spot where he's at, and he's going to continue to get better at that. It's going to be great for us. That's how I see him getting better – just continuing to work on the technique, just like he said he's going to do, and it allows us to move him around different spots so offenses just can't key in on him." 

What sort of advice did you seek or get maybe to come to reach this decision about signing the deal to stay here long term versus playing on the tag and so forth?*(Brian Wacker)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Any advice? I really didn't get much advice. [My dad] just said to stay cool, stay calm, [and] chill. It will get done. They want you there. You want to be there. Just give it patience. So, really patience was my advice, I would say."

A lot of times, contract years bring pressure on a player. Some players struggle to deal with it. Why were you so comfortable this year knowing that you could be playing for your next contract?*(Jeff Zrebiec)*

(MADUBUIKE) "I would say my faith, for sure. My faith and my belief in myself kept me calm. I just knew that if I just do the right things, go to bed on time, stay consistent, stay focused and just do the right thing, I know at the end of the tunnel, there is going to be some light, and everything is going to take care of itself, and it did. So, I have to continue that formula, keep it going and just try to continue to be an impactful player."

With what defensive coordinator Zach Orr said about your versatility to play along the defensive line, some guys aren't able to do that, whether it's because of their body type or technique. What makes you able to do that and be so versatile to play along the line?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Like you said, I'd say [it's] my body type and stuff like that. I feel like I have a very unique body type in which I'm strong enough to hold myself in terms of being a nose [tackle], I'm quick enough and agile enough to rush as a three [technique] and then I'm also fast enough to burn that edge. It's just [about] the hard work and consistency and the standard I [hold] myself to and knowing my abilities and just showcasing them and just believing in myself."

You talked earlier about the end of the 2022 season and the goals that you had going into last year. Now, when do you start to set that mindset about how many sacks you want in a season? Sometimes you won't tell us your goals, but when do you set those in your mind?*(Valerie Preactor)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Now." (laughter)

You mentioned sharing this moment with your family, but your teammates showed a lot of love and reacted very positively to your contract. What was your reaction to that and to see how much support they have for you?*(Carita Parks)* 
*(MADUBUIKE) *"It means the world to me. Those are the guys that, literally, we go to war with each other on Sundays, Mondays and now sometimes Saturdays, I guess. It's just a blessing to have a brotherhood. It's a real brotherhood. We say it [to] the media – a lot of people say that – but it's really true. We love playing with each other on the football field, and we just have each others' backs. We check in with each other in the offseason, as well. It's just awesome to have my teammates' support and just [have] genuine love. A lot of guys texted me like, 'Man, this is really motivating for me. You really did that, man. We talked about it, and now I believe in myself,' so I feel like it just inspires everybody to keep getting better."

Was it important for you to get this deal done prior to free agency because you knew that it could benefit the team to navigate through free agency? Was that something that was at all on your mind?*(Kyle Phoenix)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Not really. In my mind, I was just like, 'Hopefully, we can get this deal done, so when it's done, I can just focus on just grinding, getting right and getting ready for this upcoming season,' and that's what happened. So, now, I can focus on enjoying this with my family, but then [I'm] getting back to work."

How much does not having to carry the franchise tag help the team enter free agency?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(DeCOSTA) "Well, it helps. We need all the help we can get, so yes. It helps. Every little bit helps. These are things that we just don't look at in a vacuum. We try to consider all the different consequences of these types of things. Something that I've been looking at since really last August in meetings with [vice president of football administration] Nick [Matteo] and [senior advisor to the general manager] Pat [Moriarty] and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and [president] Sashi [Brown] and everybody – just looking at financial projecting out what we're going to look like in '24, '25, '26 [and] '27. Obviously, with a franchise quarterback and what those contracts look like – I've said this before – the landscape changes, so every deal you do is critically important in the grand scheme of things, and that's why I think you all can get a sense for the feeling we have towards Justin [Madubuike] that we were willing to commit to a contract like this. I think [it] speaks the world for how we feel about him as a player and as a person."

The free agency window is about to open, and the reports are about to start flying. Is there some peace of mind knowing you probably just got done your biggest piece of business of the offseason?* (Childs Walker)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"Yes. I think that's right. In looking at it, you know you just can't keep every single player on your team. That's a frustrating aspect of this job that I have, so you have to keep your very best [players] if you can, the guys you feel most strongly about as players, but also as people, the guys who impact your roster and your fanbase in different ways, and Justin [Madubuike] is one of those types of guys. We won't be able to do this in every single instance, unfortunately, but we feel very, very good about what we did this weekend, and we're a better football team. We're going to win a lot of football games this year with Justin manning the defensive line. Hopefully, we've got some other young players who see the opportunity to stand up and help us as well."

You mentioned the importance of getting this deal done ahead of free agency. How do you view the running back market versus what you might do in the Draft or in free agency? Do you expect to be aggressive or patient? I know patience is something that you guys have always displayed.*(Brian Wacker)*

(DeCOSTA) "I understand the question, but talking about a market on the eve of free agency doesn't seem like a smart thing, so I'd probably pass on that question."

Executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta mentioned that it was important for him to sign his own guys, and defensive coordinator Zach Orr, you came up through the system. Does this reverberate through the league? Do guys talk and say, "Look the Ravens said they were going to sign their guys?" Do guys talk about that? Is that something that is mentioned?* (Kirk McEwen)*

(MADUBUIKE) "It hasn't been mentioned with the talks that I've had with people. I don't really know how to answer that, really. But no, I haven't had those talks, really. I'm just really kind of in my own lane, in my own zone, carrying out my responsibilities, handling my business. And definitely, you don't see a bunch of people staying their whole career in one place, but definitely, this is a place that I can see myself doing that, for sure."

To be able to have defensive coordinator Zach Orr here – somebody you already have rapport with and who guys in the locker room know – what does that do you for you guys? What does it mean to have that familiarity with your new defensive coordinator?*(Cordell Woodland)*

(MADUBUIKE) "I feel like it makes the guys in the locker room [tip] their hat to [defensive coordinator] Zach [Orr] and respect him in a sense of he's been there, he's done that, [and] he knows what it takes to win in this league. He's been on championship teams. So, at the end of the day, it gives his voice more of an impact, in terms of my teammates. [There are] just more ears to listen to him, for sure, so we can all be on the same page and just attack as a wolfpack."

DT Justin Madubuike has just gotten better every single season. What is it about Justin as a player and person that has allowed him to just improve every single season?* (Garrett Downing)*

(DeCOSTA) "I just think [Justin Madubuike] has a great work ethic. He's gotten stronger. I don't know if he's gotten faster, because he was pretty fast coming out [of college]. But he's just ... His instincts for the game have improved every year. He's a very, very coachable player. He's just got a great combination of explosiveness, quickness, and he's a worker. He's highly disciplined, he's highly motivated, he's a great teammate. He does everything the right way, really. And I think the big thing is he's responded to coaching for four years, and he's been around some good players, too. He's had some great mentors, [and] he pays attention to those mentors, which I think is really, really important for a younger player. He's gotten it done. We're proud of him."

At the time of your signing, it was the most in total guaranteed money for an interior defensive lineman. Was that something that was important to you – getting guarantees in your contract?*(Kyle Phoenix)*

(MADUBUIKE) "Yes, for sure. I wanted to get paid." (laughter) "No, but I definitely felt that all the hard work that I put in year in and year out and just staying focused, not getting into any trouble or shenanigans and stuff like that, just staying locked in, making sacrifices ... I felt like definitely ... I wanted to get compensated. But just obviously, [with] putting in the work on the field and letting it show, I felt like it was right."

You mentioned kind of projecting this roster forward to future years. I know you have had the privilege of re-signing a lot of these young up-and-comers, including QB Lamar Jackson, to big-money deals. We've also seen you kind of do some things you haven't done, cap wise, with restructures, void years – those kinds of things. Does the calculus change for being financially responsible down the run, with the opportunity to sign these guys, but also maybe the responsibility of kind of paying them as much as you have?*(Jonas Shaffer)*

(DeCOSTA) "Yes, it's a good question. It's definitely not a static environment, and it's going to be changing rapidly. It depends on lots of different things – the salary cap, for instance, being one. But yes, we will have to be financially responsible in most cases, because we do have a lot of money going to very good players. It's not a scientific study, but we probably have four, five or six players on our team right now that are being paid top-of-the-market money; that's a good problem to have, in a lot of ways, because it means you're going to have a good team. But it also means that there are going to be some situations where you just have to let players test the market and see what they can get elsewhere, and that can be a frustrating thing, especially for a team that likes to draft. I mean, first and foremost, I started out as a scout, and so, the idea that you can draft a really good player, keep him for four years and watch him go play elsewhere is frustrating. But this is the business we have chosen, and we'll abide by those salary cap rules and hopefully make good decisions moving forward."

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