Eric DeCosta will take over for General Manager Ozzie Newsome in 2019, Owner Steve Bisciotti announced during Friday’s press conference.
DeCosta has served as the team’s assistant general manager for the past six years, and it has been common knowledge that he was the general-manager-in-waiting.
However, nobody knew that team brass laid out a timeline for the transition four years ago.
“We had talked after the ’13 season and it was about Eric,” Bisciotti said. “Ozzie agreed to re-do his contract for a five-year extension, in which case he would turn over the 53 [man roster] to Eric. That’s a year away.”
Newsome, 61, has run the Ravens’ personnel department ever since the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996. He became the team’s general manager, and NFL’s first African American general manager, in 2002.
If Newsome hadn’t already been enshrined as a Hall of Fame tight end, he’d have a strong case to be voted into Canton as an executive. Newsome’s first two draft picks were Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden and soon-to-be Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
Newsome won’t entirely leave the Ravens after next season, though it’s unclear exactly what role he will have.
“Ozzie will step down as GM and has assured me that he’s not going anywhere and that he will work with me and work with Eric for a smooth transition,” Bisciotti said before cracking a joke. “He will be the highest-paid scout in America when Eric takes over next year.”
DeCosta has been in charge of coordinating the Ravens’ draft process for years, but will take over the final decisions on that as well as free agency and much more.
He’s also been instrumental behind-the-scenes in recruiting free agents such as safety Eric Weddle, wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and more.
Bisciotti said “everything” about DeCosta makes him confident that he’s ready for the job.
“I think he has learned from Ozzie,” Bisciotti said. “I think he’s a great leader of the scouts. It’s Ozzie’s department, but most of the interaction with all the scouts is with Eric. I’ve seen the way he goes about the business, I’ve seen the way he’s embraced technology and analytics and I like working with him.”
A graduate of the Ravens’ original “20/20” club of scouts who were around 20 years old making about $20,000 annually, DeCosta has moved up the ranks to area scout, director of college scouting (for six years), director of player personnel (three years) and assistant general manager.
While other Ravens scouts and executives have been lured away over the years, Baltimore has held tightly onto DeCosta.
About every year, NFL teams call to request an interview with DeCosta for their general manager openings. DeCosta has spurned them all. But when the Green Bay Packers called this offseason, Bisciotti knew it was different.
“To me, that’s the best job in the NFL,” Bisciotti said. “Working for me is the second best, but working for no owner is the best, and that’s what the Packers offered him and nobody else does.”
DeCosta checked in to make sure the agreement of him taking over in 2019 still stood, which it, of course, did.
“It’s just a matter that it’s time,” Bisciotti said. “There are people that are running other franchises because Eric wouldn’t take it.”
Bisciotti expressed satisfaction with the Ravens’ draft classes overall in recent years, but acknowledged that some early-round misses have been “statistically significant” in the Ravens’ run of four of the past five years outside the playoffs.
Part of the issue, Bisciotti* *said, is they have lost a lot of their scouting experience beneath Newsome and DeCosta. Baltimore has always had a policy of growing and promoting from within, and it’s obviously worked for a long time evidenced by DeCosta’s rise, but the losses caught up to the team.
The Philadelphia Eagles, and Chicago Bears before them, plucked now Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas, Assistant Director of Player Personnel Andy Weidl and Director of College Scouting Ian Cunningham from Baltimore in recent years. Those were all promising in-house grown scouts who are now working for the Super Bowl-bound Eagles.
“We don’t play the carousel game with the Ravens. Since Ozzie has come in here, he has developed them over many, many, many years to become really, really good scouts. When we lost those scouts, we didn’t necessarily go out and hire equal scouts to replace them. And I think that was a mistake,” Bisciotti said.
“I think, in retrospect, you can say that you can’t lose those three scouts with 30 years of experience between the three of them and then hire 25 year olds that are ready to give it the old try. … We have not done a very good job of filling in senior people with senior people, so that’s something that we’re going to address starting right now, and hopefully rebuild that on the fly.”