Eric DeCosta is a man under constant scrutiny. Every general manger of a sports team is, but the man handling the Lamar Jackson saga over the previous months was probably watched closer than most.
And unlike a lot players in the modern era, general managers don’t have social media accounts to defend themselves and usually don’t have interviews about themselves. Most media sessions involving a general manager are usually updates on team specific news, rarely being asked about their personal side of the story.
DeCosta got the chance to speak a little more freely yesterday, in a YouTube interview with PFT owner Mike Florio, who’s had some outspoken opinions about Lamar Jackson’s contract situation. Here’s some key moments from the interview.
Balancing act for agentless-deals
One of the first questions DeCosta received from Florio regarding Lamar’s contract was how to avoid contracts with players that don’t have agents that look like the team took took advantage of the players. DeCosta said that was something the team thinks a lot about and speaks together.
“That can really be a disaster for the team in a lot of ways...you’ve got a bunch of [players] downstairs who expect that you’ll be fair with players and if there’s any kind of implications that we’ve taken advantage of a player would really not be ideal.” DeCosta continued on to explain they want to support players in this regard. “the biggest thing is being honest, communicating as best as possible and trying to be fair...encouraging the player to get as much help as they can...maybe it’s an attorney, maybe it’s the union, maybe it’s whoever but it’s a tough thing to go at it totally alone.”
Lamar is a good agent
Florio brought up Lamar’s rookie deal, asking if that was hard to do without an agent. DeCosta explained that he wasn’t part of that process. Ozzie Newsome, the general manger then, and Pat Moriarty who was the organization chief financial officer at the time, now Senior Advisor to the GM, worked the deal. DeCosta noted that Lamar was prepared for that and understood the process for a rookie deal, asking good questions.
He then went farther in depth in Jackson’s knowledge on the subject. “I will say this, Lamar you know is a good agent from the standpoint of he asks the right questions.” This was a curious point as Florio himself, and many others, often stated that Jackson had to get himself an agent for this to work out. “He’s aware of different mechanisms and issues with the contract language terms, types of structures and things like that. He’s done his homework and with all of that stuff and he’s a very very smart guy, savvy, and he did a great job overall”
Non-Exclusive was a mutual decision
When Lamar received the Non-Exclusive tag, a large outcry from national media members not close to situation claimed the Ravens disrespected Lamar. That using the Non-Exclusive instead of the Exclusive showed a lack of commitment and belief. DeCosta spoke on the thought process for that decision.
“We thought it was important that Lamar have a chance to kind of see what his market might be if he wanted to, if he wanted to investigate that.” It sounds as if the DeCosta and Jackson had discussions about using the Non-Exclusive tag and it was something Jackson himself was interested in.
The Ravens were ready to cover offers
The Ravens let Jackson go on the market with the tag and felt prepared. “We felt like we were in a position to...match most deals and that if a team were willing to do a deal that we couldn’t match, would be very hard for a team to do that deal.” DeCosta reminded Florio that the Ravens already had $32 million in place plus more room operate, whereas most teams don’t have that placeholder built into their cap space. “If they do [offer Jackson a deal], maybe just maybe the deal is something we can match, which makes life easier for us.”
DeCosta did state earlier that he was shocked a little that nobody made Jackson an offer despite considering the Non-Exclusive a “calculated gamble”.
No other QB contract impacted deal
Florio brought up the Deshaun Watson deal and the Jalen Hurts deal and asked which of those deals impacted the Jackson situation more. DeCosta brought an interesting twist and claimed it was the Ravens original offer in September to Lamar that got leaked that truly inspired this contract for Lamar.
“The framework was was there with that deal back in September and allowed us to get to this point.” After Jackson’s contract was released, people noted the similarities with the Hurts that had gotten done weeks prior. But the Hurts deal was almost an exact replica of the contract that the Raven’s offered Lamar. It’s possible Hurts accepting that deal helped Jackson except the Ravens offer that was slightly higher.
DeCosta takes blame
Speaking into signing Odell Beckham Jr., DeCosta talked about part of the thought process for what went into offering Beckham a contract. He specifically at the end mentioned how would impact Lamar as a passer.
“How’s [Lamar] going to play [with the addition of Beckham]? We want to maximize Lamar’s ability, I’ve probably done a poor job of doing that over the last couple of years in some way and not having more receivers around him.” This is brutal honestly coming from DeCosta. One of the biggest areas people look at when assessing the lack of playoff success for Lamar is his lack of weapons compared to the other quarterbacks in the league.
To hear DeCosta speak truthfully on the subject and take accountability was shocking. It’s not too often you’ll hear GMs outright say ‘I didn’t do good enough, it’s my fault’.
DeCosta hopeful future deals will be easier
The last question Florio gave DeCosta regarded the future of negotiations with Lamar. Whether down the line for a restructure or an extension, it’s likely the Ravens will do this dance with Jackson again. Florio wondered if getting this first mega-deal done with Jackson would make it easier down the line.
DeCosta was clearly non-committal about the level of ease of the future simply quoting a song saying “you got to have faith”. But he was committal about the fact that he hopes in the future one day they would get there, meaning they had a ton of success with Jackson but for now “it’s not something I am looking forward to anytime soon. But when the time comes, if we’re in that position to be having thsoe discussions, I would say that’s a real positive.”
You can listen to the whole interview from Mike Florio to Eric DeCosta here.