In Part II of this five-part interview, Eric DeCosta discusses the rationale behind the Earl Thomas signing, the qualities that attracted the Ravens to Mark Ingram and why the low risk signings of Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray and Michael Floyd make sense for the team.
The signing Earl Thomas was a bit of a surprise – a splash signing that the Ravens typically aren’t part of. What qualities drew you to Thomas and how do you see the tandem of Thomas and Jefferson working together?
ED: Earl first of all, is a guy that we scouted at length coming out of the draft when he came out of Texas. Just a sensational defensive football player who really fits the mold of the traditional Baltimore Raven-type player. He’s a playmaker, aggressive personality, fast, alpha leadership on the field.
We played against him several times since he’s been in the league and I’ve always been impressed with him – what he brings to the table in terms of secondary play but also his total defensive play. In terms of looking for players who we thought could impact our defense this year after we lost C.J. and Suggs, Za’Darius and Eric, I think Earl just stood out as the one guy that could come in and not just pick up some slack, but pick up a lot of slack.
He has a tremendous appetite for the game of football – his passion is quite evident. He’s a playmaker on the back end with ball skills; he’s a good support player; he’s a blitzer. And he’s a guy that other guys can follow. So, we’re very excited about what he brings to the table. We got a chance to watch him last week compete a little bit and the one thing that we saw last week is his speed and his burst and his ability to accelerate to the football.
We’re very, very excited about that. Most really good defenses have a player like him and we think he fits us very well.
How do you expect the tandem of Thomas and Tony Jefferson to play off each other?
ED: Earl is a guy who can do a lot of different things. He can play multiple roles. Tony can play multiple roles as well…and I thought Eric [Weddle] could do that as well. There are so many different types of players. Eric Weddle is probably one of my favorite players that we’ve ever had here just from a personality perspective, his leadership ability – everything that he brought to the table in terms of a leader on the field and off the field, in the locker room and then there’s his ability as a football player.
So, with Earl coming in, obviously no two players are exactly alike but having seen Earl, we love what he can bring on the back end as a high safety. His ability to play multiple spots and his ability to play very, very fast as a guy who can do a lot of different things for you. We just think he complements our defense extremely well.
Tony is another guy that can be used in different roles. Both guys have great leadership ability as vocal guys. They can get people lined up and also lead by example on the field. We love our backend. Personally, I believe that we have one of the deepest secondaries in football and hopefully that helps us to win some football games this year.
Mark Ingram has over 7,600 yards to go with 55 TDs during his 8 seasons in the league. He is 29 years old, with plenty of tread. What most attracted you to Mark?
ED: We think he’s a really good scheme fit for our offense. Some of the stuff that he did in New Orleans with their offense, really kind of fits in what we do. Again, a guy that we knew about. We scouted him coming out and he was a player that we really liked. And what’s interesting about Mark is that for a guy that is established in the league he’s a good fit for us because he hasn’t beaten his body up with a tremendous amount of carries.
He’s been part of a rotation. His best football has been probably over the last 4 or 5 years. He’s a guy that before Alvin Kamara went to New Orleans, he was very much used in the passing game. He’s got great feel as a route runner and that’s a very underappreciated part of his game. He runs hard, has vision, he’s been a productive player and for the most part he’s been durable guy. And also, a player that we knew a lot about.
His Alabama ties – this is a guy that felt like we knew inside and out personality wise. We also had a chance to vet him using players like Willie Snead and Ben Watson who know Mark extremely well. It was clear to us when we brought him in – a great fit personality wise. We’ve had success with unrestricted free agents and oftentimes a big part of that is personality and we saw that with guys like Brandon Carr and Eric Weddle. If they’ve got the right kind of mentality they’re a great fit for us. We think Mark is that type of guy.
ED: Those things take place over a period of weeks and months and some of those discussions really started, even going back as far as April before the draft – early April, talking to the agents, kind of gauging their interest levels. We try to find guys that have veteran leadership, guys that have a history of good play, intriguing guys. What do they bring to the table? How do they fit? Personality. We had a chance to really vet those players – get to know their personalities.
And then look at the value. How much value could the bring to the team? What’s their upside? What is the cost going to be and then in each case, with all three of those guys – obviously we knew what Pernell brings to the table. We love what he did last year although he had just a small sample size of about 250 plays or so. We love what he did last year for Washington. We love his personality. He knows our scheme, he knows this building and that was an easy move for us to make.
In terms of Shane Ray, he’s a guy that has had a checkered career with injuries, but again, a guy that we scouted out at length when he came out and another skill set where this guy can play as an outside linebacker, as a Sam backer – he can drop, he can cover, he can rush the passer. He’s got a good motor. We think he fits us very well.
And Michael Floyd is a guy that is probably one of the better blocking receivers in the game. He’s had some success over the years. He’s also had some adversity that he’s overcome. We’ve got a relationship with him through one of our assistant coaches who coached him in high school and so we know a lot about Michael. We felt like, again, it was a very low risk signing. All three of these guys were low risk signings with high upside.
We’re excited about it and as you alluded to, all three of these guys were good signings because they don’t count against the comp pick formula. So, we had a chance to bring some veterans in was very attractive to us.