Odell Beckham Jr. said he didn’t get any assurances that Lamar Jackson will be the Ravens’ quarterback this season, but it’s evident that it was a major factor behind the wide receiver’s decision to sign with Baltimore.
“The goal was to come here and have that possibility to play with him,” Beckham said Thursday at his introductory news conference at the Ravens’ practice facility. “I’m excited for that opportunity.
“I didn’t get any assurances for anything. … To me, I was just excited about the possibility of that. My thoughts would be that he would be here.”
That is the hope of Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh as well.
DeCosta said that while he hasn’t spoken with Jackson since signing Beckham to a one-year deal reportedly worth $15 million guaranteed earlier this week, there has been communication with the quarterback since Jackson revealed in a tweet during the NFL owners meetings three weeks ago that he requested to be traded on March 2. DeCosta declined to get into specifics, however, saying, “a lot of times, the best things in life take a long time.”
While Jackson has yet to sign the $32.4 million nonexclusive franchise tag that Baltimore issued him five days after that trade request, DeCosta added that he remains optimistic that the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player will be under center for the Ravens this season. Jackson, who represents himself, is free to negotiate with other teams, but Baltimore can match any offer he signs.
“Lamar is in our plans,” DeCosta said. “Our feelings about Lamar have not changed one bit since the end of the season. We’re hopeful still that we’ll get a long-term deal done. He’s the right player for this team to lead us where we want to be.”
For Beckham, Baltimore was also where he wanted to be for reasons that extended beyond Jackson.
Notable among them is the contract he signed, the largest given to a free agent wide receiver this offseason in terms of average annual salary. Allen Lazard and Jakobi Meyers will each earn $11 million per season over the course of their deals with the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively.
But there were other factors for Beckham, who was joined in Owings Mills by a contingent of family members and was flown to Baltimore on owner Steve Bisciotti’s jet.
“I care about being great,” Beckham said. “To me, it’s always been about football. At the end of the day, I didn’t care what was going on as long as I was catching touchdowns.
“This is a team that has great talent across the board. It means a lot more to be wanted than [for] someone to love to have you. [Bisciotti] made me feel wanted. At this point in my life, that’s everything I need, to be wanted.”
It was a deal that had been in the works for months, according to DeCosta, who said the Ravens had conversations with the three-time Pro Bowl selection dating to last October.
Those talks continued through the offseason, at Beckham’s private workout in Arizona in early March and then at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, where Beckham showed up to meet with several teams, including the Jets and Ravens.
Still, the move came as something of a surprise when it was announced on Easter Sunday. The cost-conscious Ravens had little salary cap room, and the Jets, one of several teams interested in the wide receiver, were scheduled to meet with Beckham later that night.
“We went into it knowing we were the underdog,” DeCosta said. “Sometimes the underdog wins.”
Beckham’s addition, along with the perhaps increased possibility of pairing him with Jackson at quarterback, helps make the Ravens anything but.
They already have one of the league’s best defenses and offensive lines along with a strong backfield, talented tight ends and a young but promising receiving corps. Now they’re adding a receiver in Beckham who five times in his eight seasons has topped the 1,000-yard mark, something no other receiver on the roster has accomplished even once.
The last of those seasons came in 2019 with the Cleveland Browns, where Beckham had 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. His offensive coordinator that year was also Todd Monken, whom the Ravens hired for the same role earlier this year after his successful stint with two-time defending national champion Georgia.
“We had a great relationship in Cleveland,” Jackson said of Monken, adding that he’s excited to get to work with him again.
But Beckham also arrives with questions, most notably about his health after he suffered the second torn ACL of his career during the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl 56 victory in February 2022. The 30-year-old receiver hasn’t played since that game 14 months ago, missing all of last season while he recovered.
“I feel great right now; I’m still in the process of getting ready for September,” said Beckham, adding that his first few months after surgery included some “dark days” that he had to climb out of. “It’s about getting ready for that and being the best shape I can be in.”
Baltimore Ravens Insider
DeCosta also said the Ravens sent passing game specialist Keith Williams to Beckham’s workout in March.
“We saw everything we needed to see, knowing that he’s just going to improve,” DeCosta said. “What we saw is extremely encouraging.
“We’re getting someone who’s ready to explode again.”
Harbaugh was equally optimistic about Beckham’s addition.
“This move is a big move for us, but it was a move that we had the opportunity to make and he wants to be here,” Harbaugh said. “Today is a great day for the Ravens.”
Now the only question is when, or if, Jackson will join Beckham.
“Lamar if you watching,” Beckham said, smiling and waving to the cameras, “love to get to work with you.”