OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- New Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta wants C.J. Mosley to return, but he declined to say whether the team will use the franchise tag on the four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker.
"I think everything's on the table right now," DeCosta said Wednesday in his first news conference as Ravens GM. "I certainly hope that C.J. is back. I believe in my heart that he will be. Talent wins in the NFL, and he's a Pro Bowl linebacker, so we're going to do everything we can to make sure C.J. is back on the team."
Mosley, 26, was the leading tackler for the NFL's top-ranked defense and is Baltimore's most high-profile free agent this offseason. He is one of two players to record at least 500 tackles, eight sacks and eight interceptions since he entered the NFL in 2014 (Carolina's Luke Kuechly is the other).
A long-term deal for Mosley certainly would average more than $10 million per season, which is what the top five inside linebackers are making. The highest-paid middle linebacker is Kuechly, who signed a five-year, $61.8 million deal ($19 million signing bonus) in 2015.
It would cost Baltimore around $15 million to put the franchise tag on Mosley. That would take up over half of the Ravens' current projected cap space in 2019.
"Good football players should be paid, and C.J.'s a good football player," DeCosta said. "There's no doubt about it. You can get caught up in these types of positions that guys should get paid -- you should pay the left tackle, you should pay the corner but not pay the defensive tackle or not pay the inside linebacker, and that's all well and good unless somebody rushes for 250 yards against you."
The biggest knock on Mosley has been his pass coverage. But Mosley saved the Ravens' season in the final regular-season game in 2018, intercepting Baker Mayfield to clinch Baltimore's first playoff berth in four years.
"There are limitations with the money, but C.J. wants to be back and we want him back," coach John Harbaugh said earlier this month. "So, I think that's a really good formula for a player coming back. I'm just not even going to entertain the possibility right now that that wouldn't happen, and just assume it's going to happen."
DeCosta was more vague when discussing the future of some of the veteran players. Baltimore will have some salary-cap decisions to make with safety Eric Weddle ($6.5 million in cap savings), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith ($9.5 million) and Brandon Carr ($5 million) and wide receiver Michael Crabtree ($4.66 million).
"Again, I think we want to have the best players we can that we can fit in under the salary cap," DeCosta said. "We want to have a 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 on the field playing September 2019."