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Five takeaways from Eric DeCosta’s first press conference as GM

There is a new sheriff in town.

(105.7 The Fan)

After starting with the Ravens in 1996 at an entry-level position, Eric DeCosta wrapped up his first press conference as the team’s general manager on Wednesday. He discussed a number of important topics:

It will be an analytics-heavy approach to building Baltimore as a team

Just down the street at Camden Yards, the Orioles brought in analytical minded general manager Mike Elias. While baseball analytics are well ahead of football analytics, the NFL is modernizing how players, coaches and team personnel approach the game.

Quality-control coaches are usually staff members that break down tape and tendencies of the opponents the week prior. Then those coaches map that data towards the particular strengths or deficiencies of the team they are facing. The head coach, coordinators and position coach then use that data to implement into a game situation.

According to DeCosta, those numbers and data will be used to further the development of players, deciding who to sign or draft and which decisions to make in-game.

“I think we’ve done a lot of really good things in the past, and we would be foolish to just change things overnight,” DeCosta mentioned on Wednesday. “I think we always want to be a physical, big, fast, aggressive, disciplined football team. We always want to play with passion. We always want to have the ability to impose our will on our opponents. I think we want to be financially responsible when it comes to the salary cap.”

“I think we want to be innovative in terms of whether we use analytics, technology, new teaching principles, new ways of looking at players, new ways of interviewing players and getting to know their personalities and their makeups and things like that, incorporating science with traditional scouting methods, which I think are critical, and creating an organization that is a fun, really rewarding place to work. I think that’s a big part of what I want to accomplish as well.”

Moving quarterback Joe Flacco is not the top priority for the Ravens at this moment

Much has been said about the movement of Flacco this offseason. From DeCosta’s comments, it is believed that the team will wait until the free agent market shapes and possibly until after the 2019 NFL Draft to make a decision on how to move on from their 11-year starter.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I think that’s an ongoing process,” said DeCosta of Flacco’s impending departure. “The new league year starts in March, and we’ll have a lot of different ideas, strategies, things that we’ll look at once March rolls around. Right now, we’re really focused on the draft and our free-agency meetings, which will start to take place over the next couple of weeks. We have discussed Joe; we’ve discussed a lot of players on the team, and I think that when the time comes for us to make a decision one way or the other, we’ll have a plan in place.”

With Lamar Jackson winning six of his eight starts, the writing was on the wall for Flacco’s career in Baltimore. However, the market could still shape up to be reasonable for the former Super Bowl MVP. Among the quarterback-needy teams are the Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos. If Flacco is released he will incur $16 million in dead cap space.

DeCosta believes that Jackson will attract pass-catching talent in free agency

In 16 games and seven regular season starts, Jackson rushed the ball 147 times. Though that type of rushing ability could attract offensive linemen, who crave having their hand in the dirt and mauling the opponent, it could possibly turn off a receiver who is looking for the next big contract. Jackson never threw the ball more than 30 times in a start.

Despite that thought process that Jackson may not be able to attract wide receivers — due to them having to block very often — that shouldn’t dissuade them from coming to play in Baltimore, according to DeCosta.

“I think they’ll catch the ball,” DeCosta said about wide receivers. “I think players respect talent. I think players respect athletes and competitors. Anyone can watch Lamar Jackson and see how talented he is and what kind of a competitor he is. Players also want to win, and I think that’s something that drives every professional athlete – winning football games or winning games. I think they’ll recognize that about us. When they watch us play, they’ll want to play here.”

As time goes along, Jackson could clean up his mechanics and see more passing opportunities to make Baltimore a more dangerous offense. That hinges on his ability to develop during the offseason and build a rapport with his current and/or new weapons.

It’s still up in the air if safety Eric Weddle and guard Marshal Yanda will return to the team

“I think we want to have the best players we can, that we can fit in under the parameters of the salary cap,” DeCosta said of the veteran duo. “We want to have a great mix of young players and veteran leadership and guys that can help us win games. There are a lot of different formulas for that. We’re not, as of right now, we’re not tied to cutting anybody, and we’re not tied to playing with anybody. We just want the best team we can field to play in September 2019.”

John Harbaugh mentioned that he would like to have both veteran leaders back. The two last played in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, representing the Ravens. While Weddle, 34, initially mentioned that he could retire if Baltimore didn’t retain him, he backtracked his statement. Now he is open to playing for another team if cut.

As for Yanda, who is also 34, some have mentioned that while he is an All-Pro guard at this juncture of his career, father time will eventually catch up to him. The same people believe that it’s better to get rid of a player one year too early rather than one year too late. If Yanda is traded, he could fetch Baltimore a solid return for a year or more of strong offensive line play in a league that is desperate for it.

DeCosta believes that inside linebacker C.J. Mosley should get paid and wants him to return

Since he was drafted by Baltimore with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Mosley has been a four-time Pro Bowler (2014, 2016-2018) and Second-team All-Pro (2014, 2016-2018). The 26-year old has been extremely sturdy at the position for Baltimore, making 597 combined tackles in five seasons, with 43 of them going for a loss. He is slated to become a free agent once the new league year begins.

“Well I think Ray Lewis got paid deservedly,” DeCosta discussed about middle linebackers. “Good football players should be paid. C.J. is a good football player – there’s no doubt about it. You can get caught up in these types of positions that guys get paid – you should pay the left tackle, or you pay the corner, but not pay the defensive tackle or the inside linebacker. That’s all well and good unless someone rushes for 250 yards against you, then all of a sudden you change the dynamic and say, ‘Well, we should sign the inside linebacker or the defensive tackle.’

“You want to be a balanced team, you want as many good players as you can. You try to fit that in under the parameters of the salary cap that you can. But in the end, you have to win the game. Guys in different positions can help you do that. If it’s an inside linebacker, as we saw with C.J. late in the year – the interception – he won that game [versus Cleveland] for us. So at that time, I think people would say that was pretty important.”

DeCosta wants to do everything in his power to keep Mosley around. He is still fairly young — he will be 27 when the 2019 season starts. He also has the clout behind his name and the experience that Baltimore’s new general manager desires in a middle linebacker. Though Lewis was a once-in-a-generation talent, his legacy has been seemingly passed down to Mosley.