The curtain will open on an important two-year window for the Ravens on Thursday night.
That’s when Eric DeCosta will make his first pick in the NFL draft as the team’s new general manager. It will also open a crucial two-year time frame for this organization as far as stability.
Over the next two years, DeCosta has to prove himself as a GM, Lamar Jackson has to establish himself as a legitimate NFL quarterback and head coach John Harbaugh has to show the team is moving in the right direction and has become a serious contender for a Super Bowl title.
If not, the Ravens might be in for a rebuilding session.
DeCosta was rumored to be a top candidate for several GM jobs when he was working under former GM Ozzie Newsome. They formed one of the most successful tandems in the league, but now DeCosta has to prove he can manage his own department.
But regardless of what happens in free agency, NFL teams are still built through the draft and DeCosta has to show he can build a top team like Newsome, who won two Super Bowls with the Ravens in the 2000 and 2012 seasons.
DeCosta, though, won’t be totally responsible for the Jackson experiment, regardless if the young quarterback becomes a success or failure. Jackson will go on Newsome’s resume. But if Jackson struggles in the next two seasons, then DeCosta has to go out and find another franchise-caliber quarterback. That’s not easy, and if you need proof, go check out the Ravens’ failures at the position before the arrival of Flacco in 2008.
At least the Ravens are willing to put Jackson in the best position to succeed. They’ve recreated the offense more into a run-first mode and the passing game will be shaped around Jackson’s mobility and athleticism in the pocket.
Harbaugh, 56, who recently agreed to a four-year extension, has to find a comfort zone in working with DeCosta as well as Jackson and piece together a team that has some good young talent in tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, Jackson, running back Gus Edwards, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., cornerback Marlon Humphrey and linebackers Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor.
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The Ravens were eliminated in a wild-card playoff game last season by the Los Angeles Chargers, but few thought they could go far with Jackson as the starter. During the next two years, DeCosta, Jackson and Harbaugh need to show that team officials made the initial right moves in 2018.