Eric DeCosta will take over as Ravens general manager Friday, a long-expected promotion for Ozzie Newsome’s heir apparent that marks a new era for the team’s front office.
DeCosta, 47, has worked under Newsome as the Ravens’ assistant GM since 2012. Last year, team owner Steve Bisciotti announced that at the end of the 2018 season, the last year on Newsome’s five-year contract, Newsome would cede control of football operations to DeCosta.
The Ravens said in a release Thursday that Newsome, 62, the architect of two Super Bowl-winning teams and the team’s personnel chief since the franchise’s inception, “will remain with the Ravens in a significant role,” though it’s unclear what that will entail.
At the February news conference announcing the team’s succession plan, which followed a third straight season that ended short of the playoffs, Bisciotti said Newsome would help ensure a “smooth transition” to DeCosta.
“I think he has learned from Ozzie and he’s a great leader of the scouts. It’s Ozzie’s department, but most of the interaction with all of the scouts is with Eric,” Bisciotti said. “I’ve seen the way he goes about the business. I’ve seen the way he’s embraced technology and analytics. I like working with him. I think it’s pretty evident by the fact that we were getting called every single year to try to get him, and it’s a matter of it’s time. There are people running other franchises that got the jobs because Eric wouldn’t take it.”
Bisciotti said then that the Green Bay Packers — “the best job in the NFL” — were interested in interviewing DeCosta for their GM vacancy, but that he declined. (Green Bay later promoted Brian Gutekunst to the position.)
DeCosta has long been among the league’s most coveted GM candidates. Over the past decade, he has spurned reported interest from the Packers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears (twice) and Indianapolis Colts (twice) to remain in Baltimore.
A former linebacker at Division III Colby College, Decosta has spent most of his professional career learning from Newsome. After an internship with the Washington Redskins in 1995, Decosta joined the Ravens as a scouting intern the following year, the franchise’s first. He was hired as an area scout in 1997 and promoted to director of college scouting in 2003 and then to director of player personnel in 2009.
“Ozzie has taught me a lot about football,” DeCosta said in April, after Newsome’s last draft as GM, “but more about life.”
DeCosta’s dedication to the job — a longtime friend told The Boston Globe in 2013 that DeCosta “works 20 hours a day and doesn’t even care” — helped the Ravens establish themselves as one of the NFL’s premier organizations. The team drafted Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Sam Koch, Marshal Yanda and Ray Rice during DeCosta’s tenure as scouting director.
“There is no doubt that our main plan for life without Ozzie would be Eric DeCosta as the GM,” Bisciotti told The Baltimore Sun in 2012. “He’s very happy with us and happy working with Ozzie. They have about the best relationship in football in terms of working in front offices. I’m very lucky to have both of them helping them build our team.”
Newsome is stepping aside less than a week after a bounce-back season ended in the playoffs and less than a month before former Ravens safety Ed Reed is expected to become the third Newsome draft pick elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Coach John Harbaugh honored Newsome with a game ball after the Ravens’ Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns, which clinched their first AFC North title since 2012 and first playoff appearance since 2014.
While some uncertainty remains over the future of Harbaugh, whom the team previously announced would return as coach next season but who has yet to sign a long-term extension, Newsome’s final rookie class should help DeCosta set the foundation for the team’s post-Joe Flacco era. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was 6-2 as a starter after taking over in Week 11, and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews rated among the NFL’s top rookies at their respective positions.
Former Redskins and Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly said earlier this month that in some NFL front-office circles, Newsome’s process has become a catch-all answer to executives wondering, “OK, how does somebody do this?” Now those responsibilities will fall to his protege.
“Eric is an outstanding person with great character,” Newsome told The Sun in a rare interview before this past season. “He’s an excellent talent evaluator. He’s a very good listener. He’s not afraid to express himself, but doesn’t do it in an overbearing manner. I think he will do well, but like me and every other person that has gotten in this job, you don’t know the job until you get into the job.
“Even though he’s been around it for a number of years, you don’t understand and appreciate it until you get in this position. He’ll adapt well because I think he understands that the people working with him are so important and their voices need to be heard.”