Former Ravens coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick previews the Ravens’ draft. (Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun video)
Former Ravens coach Brian Billick spent nine seasons with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, including five with Newsome running the team's draft as its general manager.
He said he "always kind of wondered" when Newsome, 62, would step aside, but the Ravens' planned promotion of assistant GM Eric DeCosta after the 2018 season has not diminished Newsome's accomplishments.
He does wonder about the transition of power, though.
"Ozzie's just one of the greats," Billick told The Baltimore Sun at a Sports Legends Series benefit for the Casey Cares Foundation held Thursday night at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley. "Obviously, for me, he was a great partner when I was here, and Eric will do a great job. Obviously, it's always a little touchy, the transition, when you do it and specifically outline it in this way as they come into the [NFL] draft. And obviously, Eric's going to have to have a stronger say. Ozzie's going to shepherd him through that, obviously, and get through the year."
Billick, an NFL Network analyst, said Newsome's willingness to listen to his scouts and coaches is perhaps his best attribute as an executive.
"At the end of the day, obviously, he had to make the call when it came to the draft and the personnel," Billick said. "But he really did listen to everybody."
Billick also was asked about free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom the Ravens were linked to last offseason as they sought depth at quarterback behind Joe Flacco. ESPN reported Thursday that Seattle Seahawks officials postponed a workout for Kaepernick when the quarterback declined to commit to stop kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against racial and social inequalities.
"The hard thing is that in looking at any player, you have to look at the total player," Billick said. "Certainly look at the skill set. You look what their history is. You look at what their history is, both on and off the field, good and bad, and that's part of the calculus. That's simply part of the calculus. I think Colin Kaepernick is having a tough time finding a home because there are legitimate questions about his skills now, and because there is a lot of peripheral things that come with it, in conjunction with: Where are his talents? Where was his focus?"
With Flacco locked up to a long-term deal and Robert Griffin III's recent signing, Billick was skeptical that the Ravens would target a quarterback in the first round of this month's draft. But he said Newsome would do what he always strives to: Handle what he can in free agency so that the Ravens can take the best player available in the draft.
"Obviously, there are a lot of needs," he said of the Ravens. "They've got to address the wide receiver position. They've got to refortify the offensive line. The defense is in pretty good shape, but you can never have enough corners. I know that's a mantra of Ozzie's that will live forever. So there's a lot of things that they can get done with this draft, particularly on Day 1 and 2."