Eric DeCosta stood at the podium at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md. Wednesday for the first time as the Ravens' general manager.
The introductory press conference ushered in a new era for the organization, and DeCosta, who started it off by recounting when he realized he was interested in scouting, has heavy decisions staring him directly in the face.
Most notably are the futures of quarterback Joe Flacco, linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, safety Eric Weddle and guard Marshal Yanda.
"That's an ongoing process," DeCosta said on the team's plan for Flacco.
"The new league year starts in March. 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 weeks. We have discussed Joe. We've discussed a lot of players on the team. 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."
If and when the Ravens decide to trade Flacco after 11 seasons and one Super Bowl, DeCosta will likely be looking to recoup the 2019 second-round draft pick they gave up in the 2018 draft to move back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson. And with the lack of first-round worthy quarterbacks in this year's draft, Flacco could be a hot commodity.
One thing DeCosta made clear during the almost 45 minutes he spent answering the media's questions, was that the team will be focused on putting themselves in a really good salary cap position in 2019 and going forward.
In addition to clearing $10.5 million in cap space by parting with Flacco, the Ravens could free up $6.5 million by cutting Weddle, $7 million with guard Marshal Yanda, $9.5 million and $5 million with cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr respectively, and $4.66 million and $4 million with receivers Michael Crabrtree and Willie Snead.
"I think we want to have the best players we can," DeCosta added. "That we can fit in under the parameters of the salary cap. We want to have a great mix of young players and veteran leadership and guys that can help us win games. And there's a lot of different formulas for that. As of right now, we're not tied to cutting anybody and we're not tied to playing with anybody. We want the best team we can field to play in September 2019."
Two of the veteran leaders the Ravens will have to try to fit under the salary cap are Suggs and Mosley, two players DeCosta helped draft.
"Good football players should be paid and C.J.'s a good football player. There's no doubt about it."
After being voted to his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons, Mosley made it clear he wants to remain in Baltimore and DeCosta noted how different their season would have ended if it weren't for Mosley's playmaking skills in Week 17.
“I certainly hope that C.J. is back. I believe in my heart that he will be.”
Now the Ravens must get to work and figure out how to make players like Mosley fit in financially. When asked about utilizing the franchise tag on the linebacker, DeCosta said "everything is on the table."
Then there is free agency to deal with.
"Right player, right price," is how DeCosta described their approach going into it. "The other thing is we're going to look at our players on our team. We'll make some tough decisions with certain players. And there's a lot of different ways we could go. We could let some guys go and free up some capital, and we may decided that's not the best thing for us to do for the football team. We may wait to do that with certain players. We may not."
While no insight was given on exact players, it is clear that DeCosta and the Ravens will be thoroughly examining all options in free agency and the draft.
"Then we may decide to draft first and see what we can do via the draft before we really do anything in free agency, which can be effective as well. I think there's a lot of different strategies that we can use. I think right now what we're trying to do is just asses the quality of the draft and also asses the quality of free agency. To rank the players from best to worst and to find, and sort of ascertain, which players really help us be the best team we can be."
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