Eric DeCosta is setting the table to take over the Ravens.
While he won’t officially step into the role of general manager until end of the 2018 season, DeCosta has long-term plans for the future of the franchise.
Part of the challenge is finding a qualified heir for quarterback Joe Flacco, who is 33 years old and has dealt with back and knee injuries over the past three seasons. The team also needs to add more young playmakers on both sides of the ball via the NFL Draft.
DeCosta already has ideas to resolve those challenges.
“I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to do in the last five years, and I think the next five years are going to really show what we can really do,” DeCosta said on a podcast posted on the team’s website.
DeCosta has worked for the Ravens for more than two decades, learning from one of the most respected general managers in the NFL, Ozzie Newsome. The two have put together some impressive drafts, but have also fallen short over the previous couple of years, which has led to a franchise downturn.
The Ravens have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons and have gone 40-40 since winning Super Bowl XLVII. The goal, beginning this year, is to get back on track.
Newsome has already made a couple of key moves by signing receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. Newsome is confident the Ravens can sign “two to three more” playmakers with the remaining salary cap. He is confident the team can get back into the playoff hunt this season.
“We have to have some other weapons for Joe [Flacco],” Newsome said. “Having a strong running game, with pass protection, if we give Joe some weapons … Then if we improve in the passing game, then maybe that will be enough to help us get over that hump – those one or two games that we need to win in order to get us into the playoffs. As I’ve stated before, once we get in the playoffs, we make some things happen.”
While Newsome certainly wants to go out a winner, DeCosta also has been keeping an eye on the future.
There appears to be some disagreement within the franchise about selecting a quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said shortly after the season that the team would definitely consider drafting a quarterback in April. However, owner Steve Bisciotti appeared to be against that idea during his press conference last month, responding “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” when asked about drafting a quarterback.
DeCosta added more clarity to the issue this week, confirming the team will select a quarterback if the opportunity arises. “I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we’re going to take him,” he said.
Some of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft include Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Allen (Wyoming), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville), according to rankings compiled by Athlon Sports & Life. The Ravens would provide a clearer blueprint for the future if they use the 16th overall pick to take one of those players.
One of the biggest challenges facing DeCosta will be dealing with the Ravens’ tight salary cap. The team has been in the bottom half of the league for available money over the past several seasons. DeCosta plans to take a new approach to managing the cap, using some of the strategies outlined by Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane in his book “Moneyball.”
“I want us to be innovative with the salary cap,” DeCosta said. “I want us to be ahead of the curve.”
For now, Newsome is still the boss and he has a myopic focus on running the team the best way he sees fit. DeCosta has one more year under Newsome’s tutelage, and despite implementing new strategies, he will also hold onto many of the concepts developed by his boss.
“You have your ups and downs but in general people would look at Ozzie’s regime and his tenure and say it’s been a smashing success,” DeCosta said. “So, anybody coming into a situation like that would be foolish to try and just blow everything up and make tremendous change. That would be foolhardy. We’re not going to do that.”