BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Ravens executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta offered a knowing smile as he was asked the first question at his end-of-the-season press conference.

To the surprise of no one, the media wanted to know about a contract extension for star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.

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DeCosta said Friday it was an “unusual negotiation” because he’s dealing with Jackson instead of an agent, adding he would not divulge the details of any conversation he had with a player.

But he did reveal he and Jackson have talked about a new contract five or six times over the last year.

“I think at this point I would say we’re working at Lamar’s pace,” he said. “He’s comfortable where we are right now. I think he feels that we have a lot of unfinished business.”

After narrowly missing the playoffs during an injury-plagued 2021 season, which included Jackson effectively missing the final five games, DeCosta said his quarterback is focused on winning the AFC North and a Super Bowl championship.

Asked if he was dealing with Jackson’s mother, Felicia Jones, who served as her son’s manager entering the NFL Draft in 2018, DeCosta indicated he was talking with Jackson directly.

“I’ve always spoken to Lamar. It was made clear to me early on in the process that Lamar and I would work together,” he said. “And so that’s been the case, and he and I have a great relationship. I’m very proud of the relationship that we have.”

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Last April, the Ravens picked up Jackson’s fifth-year option three days before the May 3 deadline. The team’s No. 1 quarterback will reportedly make $23.016 million in 2022.

The bone bruise Jackson suffered and some of his mid-season struggles haven’t changed the team’s desire to sign a long-term deal. Season-ending injuries to running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill before the first snap, and the loss of left tackle Ronnie Stanley after one game, presented “turmoil” for the offense, DeCosta said. He still believes the unit has a lot of upside, which is driven in large part by team’s dual-threat signal-caller.

“He’s the right person to do it, he’s beloved, he’s a phenomenally talented player,” DeCosta said. “And he makes us better.”

The $23 million price tag won’t be enough of a hit to the Ravens’ salary cap to prevent the team from being active in the offseason.

“We’ll be flexible. We’ll have an ability to make some moves. We can certainly take on that amount,” DeCosta said. “Based on who Lamar is and what he has to offer, that’s not a huge ticket for a quarterback of that ability, and of that personality and what he brings to the table for the team.”

As for a deal beyond the 2022 season, DeCosta said he and Jackson have a “great” line of communication and the quarterback can reach out about negotiations at any time.

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“He can text me at any point, and we will operate based on his urgency,” he said. “And so that’s basically where we stand.”

Brandon Weigel