Eric DeCosta does not face much of a learning curve as the Ravens new general manager.
He has been with the franchise since it relocated to Baltimore in 1996, beginning as a scouting intern. Over the years, DeCosta steadily rose through the ranks, serving as an area scout (1997-2002), director of college scouting (2003-08), director of player personnel (2009-11) and assistant general manager (2012-18).
DeCosta has also been loyal to the franchise, routinely turning down opportunities to interview with other teams.
Now, he will finally have an opportunity to put his own stamp on the club.
However, don’t expect him to deviate too far from the blueprint Newsome developed over the years.
One of the first orders of business this offseason will be dealing with Joe Flacco. Ideally, the Ravens can put together a trade for the veteran quarterback, whose salary s $18.5 million in 2019 with no future guarantees or bonus payments remaining on his deal. The Jaguars, Dolphins and Broncos have reportedly shown interest and they could absorb Flacco’s salary. DeCosta would love to pick up a third- or fourth-round pick for Flacco.
While teams know the Ravens will eventually have to release Flacco, a trade might serve in their best interest so they don’t have to get into a bidding war for his services. The upcoming draft and free-agent market is thin for quarterbacks this offseason.
DeCosta will also have to turn his attention to the Ravens’ 19 pending free agents:
— LB Terrell Suggs
— WR John Brown
— LB C.J. Mosley
— QB Robert Griffin III
— TE Maxx Williams
— DE Brent Urban
— RB Ty Montgomery
— LB Za’Darius Smith
— RB Javorius Allen
— CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
— RB Alex Collins
— LB Patrick Onwuasor
— TE Nick Boyle
— OL Matt Skura
— G Jermaine Eluemunor
— DT Michael Pierce
— WR Quincy Adeboyejo
— RB De’Lance Turner
— RB Gus Edwards
The biggest decision will center around Mosley, who earned his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl this season. Mosley’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, will likely test the market to maximize his client’s value. The Ravens had the league’s No. 1 defense last year and Mosley was the leader of that unit. Mosley would be an attractive target for numerous teams around the league. The Ravens, though, have several young, talented linebackers, including Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor, that could help fill the void in the middle of the field.
The Ravens also must decide if they want to resign the 36-year-old Suggs, who said he wants to continue playing. The veteran linebacker started strong but appeared to tire over the second half of the season. DeCosta has tough decisions to make to free up some salary-cap money and Suggs could be expendable.
Other aging players that could be could salary-cap casualties include cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr; receivers Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead; Pro-Bowl safety Eric Weddle; and guard Marshal Yanda. This will be some tough decisions for DeCosta, especially with Smith and Yanda, both of whom have played their entire careers in Baltimore.
The Ravens have the 22nd overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. It’s imperative that DeCosta begin his tenure with a strong selection. The Ravens have suffered from a couple of busts in the first round, most notably Matt Elam and Breshad Perriman, and can’t afford to make that same mistake this year. The Ravens need to add playmakers, and DeCosta won’t deviate from the team’s philosophy of choosing the best-player available.
Players already linked to the Ravens at No. 22 are:
— Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson
— Fellow Crimson Tide, running back Josh Jacobs
— Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor
The Ravens are committed to Lamar Jackson as the quarterback and they will use parts of this year’s draft to build around him.
Finally, DeCosta will almost certainly meet with John Harbaugh about a possible extension. The Ravens have already said they are committed to the head coach, who also pledged his loyalty to the team.
One of the most intriguing offseasons for the Baltimore Ravens is underway.