Before his promotion this month to Ravens general manager, Eric DeCosta had spent more than two decades in Baltimore. He’d worked with coach John Harbaugh since 2008. They’d won together and lost together, seen draft picks and free-agent acquisitions thrive and fail.
DeCosta said at his introductory news conference Wednesday that when word about the reported rift reached him, he considered it an attempt at “subterfuge.” It was a rare moment of tension during a media session otherwise radiating optimism and nostalgia.
“I would see that, and I would read it, and all I would think to myself is, ‘We have enemies out there who are trying to create divisions and cracks and fissures and things like that,’ ” DeCosta said. “I get it. It’s what we do around draft time. I stand up here at draft time and tell you guys things, and sometimes I have an agenda. So I get it.”
On Friday and again on Wednesday, two of the Ravens’ most important figures stood up and told reporters that everything was copacetic. Harbaugh last week said he expected a “very seamless” transition from Newsome to DeCosta and expressed excitement over the dawn of a new era. DeCosta said Harbaugh “is the only coach I want to work with.”
The two are “neighbors” at the team facility, DeCosta said, and separated by only the length of a football field back home; he joked that they live about 100 yards from each other in their neighborhood. With Harbaugh recently signing a contract extension through 2022 and the team set to rebuild its offense around quarterback Lamar Jackson, the fruits of their partnership will be evident before long. So will any strains on it. The mere suggestion of a schism was enough to irk DeCosta.
“It did upset me a little bit, I think, because it just wasn’t true, and it was a personal thing,” DeCosta said. “It wasn’t work-related; it wasn’t a game or something that would affect the outcome of a game or strategy. It was personal, and it was simply not true.”
Newsome’s role still unclear
DeCosta said Newsome, who served as personnel chief from the franchise’s inception until this month, will “play such a significant role moving forward for this organization.” He’ll have an office at the team facility. He’ll help out in the predraft process.
But details on his role in the organization, including title, are otherwise vague.
“I don’t know what his title’s going to be,” DeCosta said. “I think that’s kind of a work in progress. I refer to him as the lord of all advisers. I don’t know what he’s going to be. … To be honest with you, knowing Ozzie, I think he would have some input in that, and it’s probably the furthest thing from his mind, what he wants to be called. I don’t think he cares, to be honest with you."
Newsome’s long-standing connections would help DeCosta address some of his blind spots, he said, from the league office to help with “old-school, old-time agents.” But mainly, DeCosta said, he’s glad to have him around as a friend and adviser.
“Is he going to be here in May?” DeCosta said. “I don’t know. He’ll probably be golfing. Is he going to be here in training camp? I don’t know. Is he going to travel with the team? I really don’t know. But he’s really, really important. He’s going to help me, he’s going to help the guys, he’s going to watch tape. He’s going to participate in the meetings and all the things that he likes to do, and he probably won’t do the things he doesn’t like to do.”
» DeCosta declined to comment on whether the Ravens would exercise their fifth-year option on left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Stanley is under contract through 2019, his fourth season in Baltimore, and teams must decide by May 3 whether to pick up their 2020 options on former first-round picks who are entering the final year of their rookie contracts.
“We haven’t talked about it as an organization as much as we probably will,” he said. “We want to keep our best players as long as we can. That’s going to always be something I want to do, is keep our best players.”
» DeCosta said he was optimistic that there's a “chance” to re-sign outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith but acknowledged he would not know until free agency officially begins.
“I think the jury is still out,” he said. “We don’t really know what Za’Darius’ market is going to be. We have a lot of different ways that we can go. He had a really nice year [with a career-high 8½ sacks]. Typically, the market is usually out of control for those guys, initially out of the gate.”
» DeCosta called the team’s scouting department, which recently lost national scout Milt Hendrickson to the Green Bay Packers, “the best group in the league.” He indicated that the front office would promote from within rather than make external hires as it seeks to “empower” the department’s loyalists.