On Tuesday night, Trae Young broke Eric DeCosta’s heart. The Ravens general manager, a Massachusetts native and Boston Celtics fan, was watching with escalating anxiety as the star Hawks guard helped rally Atlanta late in Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff game. At about 9:53 p.m., Young hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with little time left in an eventual 119-117 win over Boston.

Just as the enormity of the Celtics’ collapse dawned on DeCosta, he got a text. It was from Lamar Jackson. The Ravens quarterback told him a contract extension was possible. After two-plus years of difficult negotiations, they were finally close to a deal.

At 9:59 p.m., Jackson tweeted a GIF of SpongeBob SquarePants. If anyone else in the world knew then what was behind the cartoon character’s toothy grin, it was probably DeCosta.

View post on Twitter

“I said back to him, ‘Lamar, you just saved my night,’ " he recalled late Thursday night, hours after Jackson had agreed in principle to a five-year contract extension with the Ravens. The deal is reportedly worth $260 million, with $185 million guaranteed, making it one of the biggest deals in NFL history.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Just hours before the start of the draft, at a point in the offseason when most teams table contract discussions, the Ravens had secured the future of their most important player. It seemed inconceivable that only a month earlier, Jackson had requested a trade.

“Sometimes you just need time,” DeCosta said at a news conference in Owings Mills. “These things develop, and as I said … sometimes these things can happen in two weeks, and sometimes it takes two years. And this was on that scale. But I think I know that our appreciation and love for Lamar has really never wavered. But it was business as well. …

“Sometimes, with family, things can get tough, and we all feel that sometimes when you’re in a fight with your parents or a sibling or you’re trying to figure something out, and it’s like the emotion of it. And there was definitely some emotion. But in the end, we’ve been blessed to have Lamar as part of this organization for a long time. We’ve won a lot of football games. I think he feels this place is special, too.”

DeCosta called his negotiations with Jackson “very unusual” and “unique,” and not only because Jackson was representing himself in contract talks. There were moments when DeCosta asked himself what he was doing, or whether he could speed up the discussions, or how he could “make everybody happy.” The process was unprecedented. It wore on him.

“Honestly, I have to say: I hope I never have to be a part of that type of negotiation again, because of the time, because of the emotional aspect,” DeCosta said. “Because Lamar’s such a special player, and what that means to our club and to the city. We feel that, certainly. So I think we’re all very, very happy.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Said coach John Harbaugh: “I didn’t know if it was going to work out with Lamar being there, for sure. You just never know. You can’t know that, but I believed it would.”

After a stretch of unproductive talks, and then a period with no communication, the reconciliation process began. On April 13, the Ravens signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year deal. At his introductory news conference, there was renewed optimism about a peaceful resolution. DeCosta and Harbaugh reiterated their commitment to Jackson, whose opposition to a return seemed to be fading.

On April 17, the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts agreed to a five-year, $255 million contract. That seemed to set the framework for Jackson’s megadeal in Baltimore. He’d already heard a handful of proposals since becoming eligible for a contract extension in 2021. This last Ravens offer, though — that was the one that worked for everyone. It was good enough to unbreak DeCosta’s heart. It was good enough to make SpongeBob grin. It was good enough, finally, to get a deal done.

“When you negotiate, a lot of times, you just kind of edge forward towards progress,” DeCosta said. “Sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it’s slow. But you’re just trying to make progress every single time to find that sweet spot. Of course, you look at every single deal that gets done. … That’s how you kind of build out the parameters for what you think is fair.

“The market is what the market is. John says it all the time; that’s the market. But I think that the way that we feel about Lamar. It’s the ‘market-plus,’ if that makes sense. Like, we’ve seen Lamar. We’ve won lots of games with Lamar. We’re around him all the time. And we do feel that he’s the best quarterback in the NFL. And I think this contract reflects that.”


Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

More From The Banner