As Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome builds his roster every season, part of the process is considering the implications for years down the road.
When drafting players and signing free agents, Newsome's focus is to build a team equipped to compete for a playoff bid every year, rather than simply going all-in for a particular season.
But Newsome made it clear during Wednesday's pre-draft press conference that he won't let planning ahead get in the way assembling the best possible team for the upcoming season.
"We have to win," Newsome said. "John [Harbaugh] and I have had this conversation. We have to win this year. That's the most important thing."
The Ravens have been one of the NFL's most consistent teams throughout their history, and Baltimore has made the playoffs in all but one season since Harbaugh arrived in 2008. The success has led to continuity on the personnel side and with the coaching staff, a rare occurrence in today's NFL.
"The teams that don't win this year, then something normally gets changed – the general manager, the head coach, players – something happens," Newsome said. "But if you win, you've got a chance to at least step up to the plate the following year."
The Ravens are far from the rebuilding phase, as they came close last year to playing in their third conference championship in the last four years. Despite getting hit hard with injuries – 19 players finished the year on injured reserve – the Ravens still took the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots to the brink of elimination in the divisional-round playoffs.
The focus going into this year's draft is to find players who can make an immediate impact, like last year's draft class.
"We want all our guys to contribute right away," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "Our goal is to bring guys in here that dress and play, and if we're not doing that, we're not doing a very good job."
The Ravens still have roster holes to fill at positions like tight end, receiver, cornerback and pass rusher, but the team's brass has emphasized their strategy isn't to use the draft to chase roster needs.* *
"I just want to nail every pick. I don't really think that we have this critical need. I try not to let that distract us so much," DeCosta said.
"There have been some years where we've had holes at various positions and we always seem to find a way to replace guys and find the next man up. That's Coach Harbaugh's way. We just want really good football players. What kills your franchise is when you draft a guy and he can't contribute."