Two days after the Ravens released wide receiver Michael Crabtree, new general manager Eric DeCosta declared that, "We've got to add playmakers," and he didn't close the door to the return of pending free agent receiver John Brown.
DeCosta spoke for 10 minutes at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in his first such session as the Ravens' general manager, and while he had no update on pending free agent linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs, he continued to express optimism that both would return.
DeCosta also predictably spent time fielding questions about quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' offense.
The Ravens are staring at another overhaul of their wide receiver position if Brown leaves as a free agent in the wake of Crabtree's release. That would leave just two receivers on the roster who caught passes last year -- Willie Snead, who led the Ravens with 62 catches (for 651 yards) and Chris Moore (19 catches, 196 yards).
DeCosta said he expects a major step forward from Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, two wide receivers who did not play a snap in 2018 as rookies. Scott, a fourth-round pick, spent the year on injured reserve, while Lasley, a fifth-round pick, was a game day inactive in all 16 games.
"We're excited about those guys moving forward," DeCosta said. "We think a good offseason's going to really pay dividends" for them.
DeCosta also suggested the Ravens will again look to bolster the receiving position in the draft.
"We'd love to bring in some young guys and have them develop a relationship with Lamar Jackson moving forward," he said.
Echoing previous comments made by DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh, DeCosta said Jackson already has been working out this offseason, and that "the OTAs will be a critical step for him. ... He made great strides last year, I think, from training camp all the way through to the end of the season, and we expect that to continue."
DeCosta added that the Ravens are on the lookout for playmakers at every offensive skill position, "guys that can work with Lamar, take some of the burden off of Lamar, and make plays in critical situations. That will always be a priority for us."
One such player would be Brown, who led the Ravens with 715 receiving yards on 42 catches last year playing on a one-year deal. Brown, a five-year veteran, has said 2018 was his favorite year as a pro, but his production dropped sharply after Jackson became the starting quarterback, totaling 10 catches in eight games (including the playoffs). He is looking for a multiyear deal this time around.
"We love Smoke," DeCosta said, referring to Brown by his nickname. "He had a really, really good season for us. I think his production dropped off a little bit when we changed the offense ... but he's a playmaker. He's got great speed. He's a humble, great person, he's a good practice player, and we want as many good players as we can bring back to Baltimore."
Certainly Mosley, who has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons in Baltimore, would fall in that category as well.
DeCosta had no update on the status of Mosley, who is set to become a free agent in two weeks, although he said, "Conversations are ongoing. The Combine's a great opportunity for us to meet with his agents. Obviously, C.J. is a critical part of our team. … We hope that we can bring him back next year, and we have expectations that we'll have some progress this week."
DeCosta didn't rule out using the franchise tag for Mosley, who led the Ravens with 105 tackles this year and is one of the most respected leaders in the locker room. But using the tag is a costly proposition -- likely close to $16 million -- and DeCosta said "our preference would always be to do a long-term deal with a player like C.J."
DeCosta also said he hopes Terrell Suggs -- the franchise's all-time leader in regular-season games played with 229, will return for a 17th season, and he said he expects veteran cornerback Brandon Carr to return as well. Suggs is a pending free agent, while Carr, who turns 33 in May, has been cited as a possible salary cap casualty.
"I would expect [Carr] to be back," DeCosta said. "I love the way he plays. He's a great leader, he's a veteran presence. ... He's got every quality that you would want."