Ravens GM Eric DeCosta’s news conference: 5 takeaways including the status of Lamar Jackson’s contract - Jeff Zrebiec
Expect this offseason to be business as usual
As he summed up the resources the Ravens have this offseason to improve the roster, DeCosta emphasized the team’s nine picks in the first four rounds of the draft.
“If we do our job correctly, if we set the board the right way, we have a really good chance to build some serious, quality depth,” DeCosta said.
The Ravens are an organization that likes to draft, develop and reward their own. That has long been their philosophy, and even in an offseason being billed as one of the most important in franchise history, that’s not going to change. That doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t make a foray or two into the free-agent market.
“We can pretty much sign anybody we want to sign,” DeCosta said when asked about his salary-cap flexibility.
The Ravens, though, clearly don’t plan to be among the big buyers in free agency. Their cap situation won’t allow it, and DeCosta reiterated that the team isn’t interested in using certain cap methods that produce short-term gain and long-term pain.
Expect the Ravens to focus on signing some of their own 20-plus unrestricted free agents.
Then, they’ll try to augment the roster with a few moderately priced outside free agents. After that, their focus will shift to nailing their draft picks. In other words, it will be business as usual.
“We have some work to do in a lot of different areas,” DeCosta said. “I think everything is fixable and can be improved and strengthened, for sure.”
Inside the Ravens’ ‘unusual’ contract situation with Lamar Jackson - Jamison Hensley
What’s the incentive for the Ravens to reach a new deal now?
The biggest plus is an obvious one: The Ravens make sure they keep a top-five quarterback for the foreseeable future. Baltimore has proven it’s a perennial playoff team with Jackson in the lineup.
The best immediate perk for Baltimore is more cap space. Right now, Jackson accounts for 11% of the Ravens’ cap in 2022. A contract extension could cut Jackson’s cap figure this season in half because a new deal would prorate the signing bonus over the length of the deal and include a low first-year base salary. In other words, a long-term deal with Jackson would result in a major short-term cap benefit for Baltimore, which currently has $12.7 million in cap space (which puts the Ravens in the middle of the NFL).
But DeCosta said the Ravens are comfortable with carrying Jackson’s $23 million cap hit if an extension can’t be reached before the season. Jackson’s cap figure would only rank 12th in the NFL, and Baltimore can make other moves (like cutting offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva) to free up more cap space. “Based on who Lamar is and what he has to offer, that’s not a huge ticket for a quarterback of that ability and of that personality and what he brings to the table for the team,” DeCosta said.
‘Mike Was Different’
In the offseason of 2018, Macdonald was a “major contributor” in the process of rebuilding the Ravens’ defensive scheme. The following season, Baltimore’s defense finished first in yards (292.9) and second in points (17.9) allowed in the NFL under first-year defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
“Mike, on the ground floor of that rebuild, was very integral in the way we’ve built the defense and the way it runs right now,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, you saw it operate at Michigan, and we’re planning on taking that to another level as we keep building it.”
Harbaugh interviewed more experienced candidates, including one on his staff in Anthony Weaver, a highly respected former Ravens defensive lineman and former defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans. Harbaugh said all the candidates “did a great job” in their interviews, but it was Macdonald’s analytical, smart plan for refreshing the scheme he helped build that won the job.
“Mike was different in the sense that I was able to see his thought process in terms of the way he built a defense on his own,” Harbaugh said. “He took the defense and structured it and was able to teach me that, relay that to me and show me how he did it. [He showed] how he solved the problems that the college game presented [and] that the pro game presents within the structure of the defense. How he taught things, how he kind of grew the things and made some advancements in it all was just very impressive.
A record number of 106 Senior Bowl players were drafted last year, when teams said the opportunity to see prospects up close throughout the practice week and meet with them 1-on-1 was more valuable than ever because the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down so many of their visits to college campuses.
ESPN did a study using rosters provided by the Senior Bowl to see which teams had drafted the most participants from 2017-2021. The top 10 are:
1. Minnesota Vikings 22 (1 first-round pick)
2. New York Giants 20 (3 first-rounders)
2. Los Angeles Chargers 20 (1)
2. Baltimore Ravens 20 (0)
When it comes to percentage of draft picks used on Senior Bowl players from 2017-21, the Chargers are No. 1 (20 out of 36 for 56%) — including a fairly important selection in quarterback Justin Herbert.
2022 Senior Bowl: Top 10 NFL draft winners from week of practice - Daniel Jeremiah
South Carolina DE Kingsley Enagbare
Enagbare is the biggest surprise of the week. I liked his tape from this past season, when he led South Carolina with 7.5 tackles for loss (4.5 sacks), but I viewed him as a likely third-round pick. He was dominant at the Senior Bowl, especially on the first two days of practice. He played really hard, using his leverage and length to win battles. Given the way he performed over the past few days, I’ll be shocked if he’s not a second-round pick in April.
UConn DT Travis Jones
Jones was probably the most physically dominant player in Mobile. He consistently showed pure power. At 6-4 and 326 pounds, he was walking offensive linemen back to the quarterback the entire week. He’s not going to be a scheme fit for everybody, but he’s a mauling player at the point of attack. There was not much buzz on him coming into the week from the personnel evaluators I spoke to, and he made sure to get everyone’s attention once the pads were on. He generated some excitement.