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Ravens GM Eric DeCosta expects free-agent linebacker C.J. Mosley to return in 2019

Eric DeCosta talks about his new role as Ravens General Manager and the support he has received from owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said Wednesday that the franchise is doing “everything we can” to ensure inside linebacker C.J. Mosley returns to the team next season.

Negotiations with the four-time Pro Bowl player and unrestricted free agent will be a test case of DeCosta’s stated emphasis on retaining young talent. Mosley, 26, would return if the Ravens use the franchise tag, which would keep the former first-round pick in Baltimore under a one-year deal expected to be worth over $15 million.

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But DeCosta indicated that the Ravens would prefer to sign Mosley to a long-term deal.

“I think everything’s on the table right now,” he said at his introductory news conference. “I certainly hope that C.J. is back. I believe in my heart that he will be. We’re having those discussions now. We’ve got several different strategies in place. We’re in the business of keeping our good football players. 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.”

While Mosley is unlikely to set the market for linebackers — edge rushers such as the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack, who signed a six-year, $141 million contract extension last fall, are considered more valuable in the pass-first NFL — DeCosta said the team needs good players across its roster.

A four-time second-team All-Pro, Mosley sealed the Ravens’ AFC North title-clinching win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 with a last-minute interception. Harbaugh said Friday at his season-ending news conference that he wouldn’t even “entertain the possibility” that Mosley wouldn’t be back next season. DeCosta reiterated that he’s made his value apparent, even as critics have questioned Mosley’s range and performance in pass coverage.

“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. Then all of a sudden you change the dynamic and say, ‘Oh, we should sign the inside linebacker or the defensive tackle.’

“You want to be a balanced team; you want as many good players as you can. You try to fit that in under the parameters of the salary cap as you can. But in the end, you got to win the game, and guys at different positions can help you do that.”

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