Ravens GM Eric DeCosta reiterates team wants Lamar Jackson back: 'I’m optimistic'

Trades are fun, player movement is exciting especially when it involves a superstar, but there's a reason it doesn't happen that often.

Teams aren't just giving up on great players without being at the absolute point of no return. The Baltimore Ravens aren't there with Lamar Jackson yet.

At the NFL scouting combine, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was asked about quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson's contract is up, though the Ravens will use the franchise tag on him if a long-term deal can't be worked out. The Ravens can use the tag at any point until March 7, though the team is hopeful to get a long-term deal done before that deadline.

"We want Lamar here," DeCosta said.

That said, it's complicated.

"He's my quarterback, he's my guy. I love him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday. "As a coach I'm looking forward to seeing it get done. But it's not easy. It's never easy. It's the business part of it. But I'm really hopeful and excited."

Ravens don't want to move on from Lamar Jackson

The relationship between the Ravens and Jackson has been complicated for a while. The team didn't get a long-term deal done with Jackson, a former NFL MVP, before he played out the last season of his rookie contract. Jackson missed the end of the season with a knee injury. There was plenty of speculation that Jackson's slow return to the field was related to the contract questions, though Jackson said he was injured and couldn't play.

That drama led to trade speculation. But the truth that rarely gets discussed is what happens next to a team if it trades its quarterback. Put another way, if the Ravens traded Jackson, who would be their Week 1 quarterback? Trade speculation is fun for fans and media, but it's not easy to move on from an MVP-level quarterback if Tyler Huntley is your Plan B.

"You can't win in this league without a strong quarterback," DeCosta said. "That's been proven.

"Living in a world without a quarterback is a bad world to live in. There are a lot of GMs and coaches who would say that, who are living in that world right now, who are aware of that."

The best-case scenario is Jackson signing a long-term deal, and DeCosta said he is optimistic about that happening.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson's contract expired at the end of last season. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson's contract expired at the end of last season. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Ravens want a deal with Jackson

DeCosta said he is unsure if the team would use the exclusive franchise tag, which would preclude another team from negotiating with Jackson, or use the non-exclusive tag, which would allow the Ravens to match any offer sheet Jackson signs or receive two first-round picks for letting him go.

The Ravens would like to avoid the tag entirely.

"We're hopeful to get a deal done with Lamar before that happens," DeCosta said. "But sure, they're big numbers. We've known they're big numbers. We're prepared for that. We have four or five or six different plans based on what happens over the next 10 days."

If Jackson gets an exclusive tag, it sets up a potential staredown between an unhappy player and a team that isn't willing to part with an elite 26-year-old quarterback.

It's all obviously complicated, with a lot of money and the future of the franchise at stake. DeCosta might have just been putting a happy face on the situation at the combine, but he made it sound like a deal could be worked out.

“I’m optimistic," DeCosta said, via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. "We’ll see where it goes.”