Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has already started making some of the tough decisions he believes can help Baltimore negotiate the leap from playoff qualifier to Super Bowl champion.
After releasing running back Mark Ingram and quarterback Robert Griffin III last week, DeCosta announced Monday that the Ravens won’t re-sign All-Pro long snapper Morgan Cox. The 34-year-old Cox was the initial component of a highly successful placekicking unit that includes holder Sam Koch and second-team All-Pro Justin Tucker, the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history.
Nick Moore, 28, comes at a cheaper price than Cox, who’s been sending the ball back between his legs for 11 seasons. Moore handled the job efficiently in a December game against Pittsburgh when Cox was on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Since taking over for long-time GM Ozzie Newsome, DeCosta has built playoff teams in each of his two years on the job. This season, the Ravens went 11-5 and beat Tennessee in the opening round before losing at Buffalo.
“It was not the end result we wanted,” DeCosta acknowledged. “We’ve all got to do a better job if we really want to take this thing to the next level, which means playing in the Super Bowl. That’s our goal, that’s our challenge.”
DeCosta has much to do in the months ahead. Working with a salary cap that has yet to be determined, he’ll be looking primarily to shore up the offensive line, add depth in the secondary and get another target or two for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
But there might be more cuts before DeCosta can begin to fill out his wish list of players.
“It’s hard to say because I don’t know what the cap is going to be,” DeCosta said, noting that Baltimore is currently around $15-20 million under the current figure. “We’ll be strategic, but we do have some players we definitely want to go after.”
One priority is to get an extension for Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP and the key figure of the league’s top-ranked rushing attack. Baltimore also certainly will exercise the fifth-year option on Jackson’s rookie contract by the May 3 deadline if DeCosta doesn’t have a new deal in place before then.
“My intention is to keep him in Baltimore for many, many years,” DeCosta said.
Brady: Kraft called after NFC Championship
Tom Brady heard from at least one old friend after he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game and into Super Bowl LV.
The former Patriots quarterback told NBC Sports’s Peter King that Patriots owner Robert Kraft reached out after the 43-year-old reached his 10th Super Bowl.
King didn’t have details of the conversation, but asked Brady if this playoff run feels “different from the Super Bowls in New England.”
Brady took the high road.
“It’s hard to compare—it’s not worth it comparing any of that to me,” Brady told King. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s an incredible feeling and to win a conference championship is incredible. To win a Super Bowl championship is one of the great feelings in the world. But they don’t give these away. Obviously, everything’s different this year, with us being at home. I’m sure it’ll feel like just another game, although we all know it’s just not another game.”
Brady’s comment to King isn’t the first time this season that Brady punted on speaking about the Patriots. During the Patriots’ four-game losing streak in November, Brady said he still has “a lot of relationships with a lot of teammates” from his time in New England.
“I wish everybody the best all the time,” Brady told reporters then. “I don’t ever wish for anyone to not perform at their best. I certainly wish for our team to play its best. Maybe the only team I don’t root for is the team we’re playing on that particular Sunday.
“Other than that, it’s just about us being the best we can be, working hard every day to put ourselves in a great position to be successful.”
A number of Brady’s former teammates from his days in New England took to social media to offer their own congratulations after Sunday’s game.
Brady’s parents battled virus
Tom Brady’s father, Tom Brady Sr., told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg on Monday that both he and his wife, Galynn, battled COVID-19 at the start of the season, with Brady Sr. needing hospitalization.
Noting that the father of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been hospitalized with COVID, Brady Sr. told Greenberg that he, too, had been hospitalized with COVID “for almost three weeks” at the start of the regular season.
“We didn’t even see the first two games of the year,” Brady Sr. said. “The first two games I’ve ever missed in his career because I was sick as a dog and my wife was sick as a dog. So I put my heart out to Josh Allen being able to play under such circumstances with his father in the hospital. That’s an undue burden for anybody.”
Brady Sr. said he has seen every one of his son’s games at Michigan and then in the NFL but was laid low by the virus.
“The first two games, when I was in the hospital, I didn’t even care if they were playing, much less missing a game,” he said. “It was a matter of life or death, just like if anybody goes into the hospital. It’s serious stuff, and Tommy fought through it.”
Brady Sr., who said he hoped to attend the Super Bowl, said the health issues for he and his wife — a cancer survivor — are “in the rearview mirror. We’re healthy, we’re happy and everything is good. . . . We’re just representative of 25 million Americans who’ve got this stuff so far. . . .
“For our family, starting out the season, football was the least important thing in the world.”
Allen’s father did not attend Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Bills and Chiefs as he recovers from COVID and pneumonia. He also missed the two playoff games that preceded Sunday’s game.
CDC publishes study on NFL’s COVID effort
The Centers for Disease Control published a scientific paper jointly authored with the NFL on Monday detailing efforts the league made to get through the pandemic-altered 2020 season, limiting the spread of COVID-19 among its 32 teams.
A limited crowd of about 22,00 fans will be allowed to attend the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The paper showed that from Aug. 9 to Nov. 21 approximately 623,000 COVID-19 tests were performed on approximately 11,400 players and staff members and 329 tested positive (2.9 percent).
From Sept. 27 to Oct. 10, a total of 41 cases were identified among players and staff members. Of those, 21 were believed to have resulted from within-club transmission at a single team, requiring closure of that team’s facilities.
The league then added a more intensive protocol starting in October, including the start of high-risk interaction tracing and daily testing. On Nov. 21, a league-wide adoption of the protocol was mandated though the end of the season.
Brady, Bucs a ratings hit in Boston
Tom Brady may have moved on, but locals are still tuning in to watch him go to the Super Bowl.
The Brady-led Buccaneers’ 31-26 victory over the Packers Sunday in the NFC Championship game on Boston 25 drew a substantial 36 overnight rating and 63 share in the Boston market.
Boston had the fifth-highest ratings of any market, trailing Milwaukee (48.1/77), Tampa (39.9/68), Providence (37.9/62), and Kansas City (37.1/65).
Nationally, the broadcast drew a 26.5 rating and 54 share, making it the highest-rated television program since Super Bowl LIV.
Colts promote QB coach to OC
The Indianapolis Colts promoted quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady to offensive coordinator. He will become the NFL’s third Black offensive coordinator, replacing Nick Sirianni who took the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching job last week. The other two Black offensive coordinators are Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich, whose teams will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 . . . The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired longtime NFL assistant Alfredo Roberts as their new tight ends coach. Roberts replaces James Daniel, who retired earlier this month after 17 seasons with the Steelers and 27 overall in the NFL. Pittsburgh is the sixth NFL stop for Roberts. He spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, serving as running backs coach from 2017-19 before sliding over to tight ends coach this past season. Roberts previously coached for Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.