Mike Preston: With Ravens promoting Eric DeCosta, there will be few changes

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti announced Friday at his annual news conference that Eric DeCosta will be replacing Ozzie Newsome as general manager at the end of next season, a move that probably stunned and paralyzed the fan base of Baltimore.

But very little will change.

Newsome told The Baltimore Sun that he will still basically make the personnel decisions for the team as far as the draft and free agency, and he will still be in the building every day once DeCosta takes over as general manager.

Any talk of his retirement or demise is premature.

DeCosta’s promotion was all part of the negotiations between Newsome and Bisciotti four years ago when Newsome was near the end of his contract.

“I don't know what my title will be, but I still we be a very big part of the organization, I'll be in the building and working with the team every day as usual," Newsome said. "This is all part of a five-year plan that I worked out with the owner near the end of my contract.

“Eric will have the title of general manager, which is part of the transition, but there will be very little change. Right now, my focus is on getting ready for the draft, the combine and free agency.”

The move makes perfect sense for the Ravens. For the past couple of offseasons there have always been rumors about DeCosta, 46, getting offers from other teams to become their general manager. This year, the Green Bay Packers asked the Ravens permission to speak with DeCosta but he didn’t get an interview.

DeCosta’s appeal has waned in recent years, but at least the Ravens will keep Newsome’s heir apparent around when Newsome, 61, finally does retire.

“I think it’s pretty evident by the fact that we’re getting called every single year to try to get him, and it’s just a matter of it’s time,” Bisciotti said. “There are people running other franchises that got the jobs because Eric wouldn’t take it, and this year was the Packers.”

The biggest development that came out of Bisciotti’s news conference was that the Ravens were going to hire more senior scouts to work within the personnel department. That will be a major improvement for this team.

The Ravens have struggled in recent years with losing scouts such as Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, Ian Cunningham and T.J. McCreight. All four currently work in the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles, who play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday. They had 55 years of working experience combined in Baltimore.

The lack of experience was showing up on the field on Sunday afternoons. The Ravens haven’t drafted many playmakers in recent years and have had two first-round busts, with safety Matt Elam in 2013 and receiver Breshad Perriman in 2015.

You can miss on fourth- and fifth-round picks, but not with firsts and seconds. Those are almost unpardonable sins. DeCosta, the current assistant general manager, and Newsome have taken their share of criticism in the past and rightfully so.

But maybe they can get their old edge back like when they were drafting first-rounders such as linebacker Peter Boulware, linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Chris McAlister.

“When you fail on those picks, it costs you in wins and losses, and it costs you in salary cap,” Bisciotti said. “Every one of those players that have underperformed in the early rounds, you can take a look at our roster and see where we have filled in with high-priced people in response to their underperformance. So it is significant, and we spent a lot of time in Jupiter talking about that.

“I think that in retrospect, you can say 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. I think that it shows that we have not done a very good job of filling in for senior people with senior people. So that’s something we’re going to address starting right now.”

Despite the future promotion, Newsome might want to put DeCosta back on the road more. He, along with senior personnel assistant George Kokinis, were better when they were evaluating players in person instead of sitting in the office.

An upgrade in personnel would help a team that had a boring offense and couldn’t consistently finish off opposing teams defensively. The Ravens were still only two plays away from making the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

A lot of times, general managers get too much credit for their selections because they make the final decisions.

But general managers make decisions based on the scouts and their evaluations. The Ravens have decided they need more experienced grunt guys and they managed continuity, which is big in Bisciotti’s world.

They are keeping around the iconic Newsome, the most well-liked person in The Castle, and hopefully building for the future.

“I think he has learned from Ozzie. I think he’s a great leader with the scouts,” Bisciotti said of DeCosta. “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.”

Overall, it was a win-win situation for the Ravens.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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