Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome talks about the team having six cornerbacks for the upcoming season. He also talked about his journey with the Ravens and the move from Cleveland.
INDIANAPOLIS — Not the sentimental type, especially when he’s facing so many pressing issues, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged Friday that he’s enjoyed the “pats on the back” this week as he works through his final NFL scouting combine in his current role.
Yet, the 61-year-old, who will step aside after the 2018 season in favor of longtime lieutenant Eric DeCosta, is hardly oblivious to the concerns back in Baltimore about the direction of the Ravens. Newsome acknowledged at a news conference Friday at the Indiana Convention Center that he is feeling the heat to get things fixed.
“I don’t like not playing in January, and that’s something that we talk about all the time,” Newsome said. “We have to find a way to get to 11 wins. Ten can maybe get you in, but we have to find a way to get to 11 wins because we’ve proven once we get into the playoffs, we can do some damage while we’re there. I think we all should have that burden on us. But that’s part of it. That’s part of the reason why John [Harbaugh] and I, the other coaches and the personnel staff, that’s why we get up and go to work every day. We want to be like Philadelphia. We went to be the Super Bowl champs.”
Newsome is a Hall of Fame player and he has a sterling record as a front office executive. He helped build a two-time Super Bowl winner and one of the most-respected organizations in the NFL. However, the Ravens have recently been in a state of decline.
The team hasn’t gone to the playoffs in three consecutive years and in four of the past five seasons. The Ravens have a 40-40 record-season record since winning Super Bowl XLVII after the 2012 regular season.
Despite the Ravens being in playoff contention until the final seconds of the 2017 season, there were swaths of empty seats during home games at M&T Bank Stadium. Fan discontent was a prevailing topic of owner Steve Bisciotti’s “State of the Ravens” address last month.
“Not only does Steve see that, I see that. I’m there at every home game and I look around our stands and I see that it’s not the same as it was,” Newsome said. “When I get the product better on the field, I think our fans are going to show up.”
Newsome and Bisciotti decided on the team’s general manager succession plan five years ago. At the time, Newsome had two years remaining on his contract and he worked out a contract extension with Bisciotti that called for him to move into a supporting role for DeCosta after the 2018 season.
Newsome joked that his primary responsibility next year will be improving his golf handicap. Beyond that, he said he’ll still regularly be at the team facility and acting as a resource for Bisciotti, DeCosta and Harbaugh. His exact title has yet to be determined.
“I think with Eric, No. 1, he’s a very good person. He’s an excellent talent evaluator. He’s really tough on his thoughts and his opinions, but he’s not stubborn and he’s a very good listener,” Newsome said. “He’s had a chance to watch how this thing has grown, but he also understands the foundation to how this thing was built.”
For now, Newsome and DeCosta face a significant challenge this offseason in upgrading the team’s roster. The team has 12 free agents and most of the Ravens’ question marks are on the offensive side of the ball. Newsome made clear Friday that there will be a long-anticipated overhaul at the wide receiver position this offseason.
Jeremy Maclin is a potential salary cap casualty. Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) are both pending free agents and former first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman is in a “make-or-break” situation this summer, according to Newsome.
“We’re looking for the opportunity to change that [wide receiver] room in terms of personnel and the people that are in that room,” said Newsome in a comment that surely doesn’t bode well for the returns of Maclin and Wallace. “We’re going to leave no stones unturned.”
Newsome said the Ravens will be looking for both wide receivers and tight ends in free agency and the draft. It’s also not out of the question that the Ravens trade for a receiver. The Miami Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry is known to be available, although his salary demands could make it difficult for the Ravens to land him.
Otherwise, Newsome expects to have enough salary cap flexibility to make the necessary additions.
“We have come up with ideas and ways to be able to create the type of cap room that we need to go get the type of players that we want to add at this portion of the season, the free-agent aspect of it,” Newsome said.
Newsome said no final decisions have been made on cuts, but he does expect some to occur before March 14, when free agency begins. Maclin could be the team’s highest-profile release, although Newsome wouldn’t specifically comment on the wide receiver’s status. Newsome did make it sound like the team has no plans to cut veteran cornerback Brandon Carr.
“Those are decisions that are going to be made as we move forward,” Newsome said. “When we get to the 53, I can’t tell you what 53 guys are going to be on the team. But Brandon played very well for us. And he’s very, very good in our locker room.”
Another way of creating more cap space is to reach a contract extension with standout middle linebacker C.J. Mosley who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Newsome said he had brief talks with Mosley’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, at the Alabama-Georgia college football national championship game in January.
As for potentially ramping up those talks, Newsome said: “We’d like to keep all our good players.”