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Praise and high 'perch' for Ravens' DeCosta

Eric DeCosta will get his first glimpse of his highly regarded draft picks on the field Friday, when the Ravens kick off their first minicamp of the offseason.

Come next offseason, DeCosta could be the one who is the top prospect.

DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel, is among the hottest names when it comes to evaluating football talent and is expected to be among the coveted candidates when any general manager position becomes available.

But it's unknown whether DeCosta will follow the likes of Phil Savage, James Harris and George Kokinis and leave the Ravens. DeCosta, who joined the team as a scout in 1996, seems to be as invested in the Ravens' process as general manager Ozzie Newsome.

"Eric DeCosta is ready to be a general manager," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think he's very loyal to the Ravens, and I think they are fortunate to have him."

DeCosta declined to comment Monday when asked about his future and his prospects of staying with the Ravens.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in late March that he was "inspired" to create some incentives for DeCosta to stay after he took his name out of the running for the Seattle Seahawks' general manager opening last year. Bisciotti indicated that he would speak to DeCosta after the draft.

Could DeCosta become the Ravens' general manager-in-waiting?

"I think Eric knows how highly regarded he is in Baltimore, but when you have a guy as successful as Ozzie Newsome in the job, there's not a ton of promises that you can make," Bisciotti said. "I think Eric is smart enough to see what happened with Phil [Savage] and George [Kokinis], and he'll probably limit himself to consideration of just a handful of jobs. His relationship with Ozzie is just as solid as any relationship I've seen in the NFL. He's so happy in his job that I think it will take a perfect job to get his serious consideration. Eric is going to make a great GM someday."

DeCosta officially became Newsome's right-hand man in the war room since 2005, when Savage left for the Cleveland Browns' general manager job.

The DeCosta period has been a revitalization project on offense. Under his guidance, the Ravens rebuilt their offensive line in 2007 when they drafted Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda and selected Jared Gaither in the supplemental draft. A year later, the team found its franchise quarterback ( Joe Flacco) and running back (Ray Rice).

Sure, there have been a few misses along the way. But for every David Pittman (a third-round flop at cornerback in 2006), there's a Lardarius Webb (a third-round find at cornerback in 2009). And for every Yamon Figurs (a third-round misstep in 2007), there are players like Yanda, Antwan Barnes and Le'Ron McClain who followed him in that draft.

DeCosta's thoroughness always has him striving for better results. He once explained the Ravens' evaluation process as this, "We even grade our lunches. If I say it's a 6.2 lunch — all the guys know what that means: pretty good, but not great. A 7.5 is like the Pro Bowl; if I say the soup is a 7.5 today, everybody runs to get the soup."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh described Bisciotti's philosophy as putting as many good people who excel at what they do in the same building and have them "duke it out."

"Eric DeCosta kind of epitomizes what Steve is talking about that way," Harbaugh said. "He's a really hard worker. He's passionate about everything he does. When he likes a player, you're going to know. When he doesn't like a player, you're going to know that, too."

Harbaugh added, "I think he kind of sets the draft up for Ozzie. He organizes it. Ozzie is the decision-maker. He directs those guys. Ozzie has done a great job of training those young guys. You look at the history and legacy he's built with the DeCostas, the Kokinises, the Vince Newsomes, it's pretty special."

Some would say DeCosta is closer to Newsome than his predecessors. In DeCosta's first year as a scouting assistant, he remembers sitting alone in the stands at the NFL combine when he heard Newsome yelling to him. DeCosta was invited back to "the perch," the press box where only the likes of Dick Vermeil, Dennis Green and Mike Holmgren would sit.

It became tradition ever since for Newsome and DeCosta to hang out there together while the rest of the scouts work in the stands.

"He's a quick study, he's willing to listen, and he's not stubborn," Newsome said. "And, he's not afraid to admit that he was wrong, he is wrong, or he's seeing it the wrong way. And I think those are true strengths of anyone that can do that. He's a tireless worker — just as most of the guys are — but nobody outworks Eric from that standpoint."

Note: Undrafted Alabama running back Roy Upchurch has been invited for a tryout with the Ravens. He ran behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram last season.

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