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Steve Bisciotti: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome Will Retire After 2018 Season

February 2, 2018
Change is coming at the top of the Ravens' organization, but not until next season.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti announced at his "State of the Ravens" news conference on Feb. 2 that general manager Ozzie Newsome will retire after the 2018 season and his longtime assistant, Eric DeCosta, will take over. Newsome will stay on in an advisory role after the 2018 season. 

In a roughly 45-minute news conference, Bisciotti also expressed frustration at his team missing the playoffs for a third straight season, discussed the future of head coach John Harbaugh, acknowledged mounting fan anger in the wake of missed playoffs and the national anthem protest in London, and recognized the need for playmakers for quarterback Joe Flacco.  

Here are key takeaways from Bisciott's news conference:

1. Ozzie Newsome will step down after next season.

Newsome, who has been the Ravens' front office since its inception and has officially been general manager since 2002, will retire after the 2018 season and will be succeeded by his longtime assistant, DeCosta.

Bisciotti said Newsome has had an eye on retiring in 2018 ever since receiving a five-year extension after the 2013 season. 

DeCosta has been with the organization since 1996 and steadily rose up the ranks in the personnel department from an area scout to become Newsome's right-hand man in decisions regarding assembling the roster. DeCosta has frequently drawn interest from other organizations, and did so again this year when the Green Bay Packers inquired about DeCosta's availability. 

Bisciotti said DeCosta is well respected by scouts, has embraced analytics and his value is  "pretty evident by the fact that we're getting called every single year," by teams looking to hire him away. When the Packers called this year, Bisciotti said DeCosta again wanted to make sure the Newsome five-year plan was still in place. 

2. Harbaugh has no "playoffs-or-else" mandate for next year.

Bisciotti acknowledged that he did give some "consideration" to letting Harbaugh go after the team missed the playoffs for a third straight season, but he stressed that he liked the way the team rallied late in the year. Making a change was "certainly a consideration, but not one that I was inclined to make." 

But he also said he is not issuing any ultimatums to Harbaugh, whose teams have gone 40-40 with one playoff appearance in five years since the Super Bowl.

"I'm not going to give a playoffs-or-bust edict to you all or to my coach," Bisciotti said. "He's under as much pressure probably than ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of the season."

3. Bisciotti acknowledges fan disenchantment and regrets how the London anthem protest played out, but he said the best solution is winning. 

Bisciotti said empty seats are "a concern" and stressed that the team has made investment in the stadium experience for fans, but "winning is key. … The no-shows are a way of telling us that our fans aren't pleased. You gotta win. And I hope that solves the majority of the problems."

Bisciotti said the London protest, in which several players knelt during the national anthem at Wembley Stadium in protest over comments made by President Trump, "hurt and insulted a lot of the fan base." While Bisciotti stressed that he recognized the players' right to protest, he said he wished things had played out differently in London. 

"I wish I had known about it the night before," Bisciotti said. "Would I have gone to the meeting and given my two cents? I probably would have, and I may have been successful." 

Bisciotti said he had just brief conversations with players such as Terrell Suggs and Ben Watson on the field during pregame warmup, and "there was no time for me to tell them what I thought."

Bisciotti, though, stressed that Ravens attendance issues extended beyond players kneeling in London. 

"I'm not going to put that on our attendance," Bisciotti said, "because we were talking about attendance last year, before [London] happened."

4. Flacco's back injury was a significant part of the offensive problems this year, but he remains the franchise quarterback.

More than once, Bisciotti referred to quarterback Flacco's back injury as being a critical factor in the team's offensive struggles, particularly early in the season. Flacco missed all of training camp, and the offense at one point was ranked last in the league overall. (The Ravens finished 27th overall, last in passing yards per play.) 

Bisciotti said early in the season, the Ravens were conservative and "we probably were boring" offensively, in part because they were trying to protect Flacco and his back injury, "and it showed up in some pretty ugly offensive numbers." But he stressed that an improved offensive line and a healthier Flacco were prime factors in the team going 5-2 over the final seven games.

Flacco has a $24.5 million cap figure this coming season and a $26.5 million cap figure next season. There has been speculation the Ravens will draft a quarterback early this year and begin to groom a successor for Flacco, whose contract carries $28 million in dead money if released this year, $16 million next year, but Bisciotti dismissed the notion that the Ravens are close to moving on from their franchise quarterback, who turned 33 last month and will begin his 11th NFL season this fall.

"You can think about life after Joe … But I don't know of any franchise quarterback who is retiring at age 33 ,4, 5 anymore. None of them," Bisciotti said. "That's really not something we're worried about right now. We have bigger fish to fry.

"Obviously if we could create the last half of the season, then I think maybe we'd still be playing. We're a long way off to have to worry about Joe."

5. Offensive playmakers are a critical need after a disappointing season.

Bisciotti said the Ravens "will be exploring all options" for supplying Flacco with playmakers after a season in which the Ravens' receiver corps regressed significantly from the year before.

Bisciotti noted that entering the 2017 season, Mike Wallace was coming off a 1,000-yard season, and Breshad Perriman was coming off a season with 33 catches for 499 yards, which Bisciotti called "industry standard" for a No. 3 receiver. Then the Ravens added Jeremy Maclin during the offseason. 

But every one of those players regressed significantly in 2017. Wallace led the Ravens with 748 receiving yards, the second-lowest total of his career, on 52 catches. Perriman had a lost season, with just 10 catches for 77 yards, and he was a game-day inactive for four of the final seven games. Maclin (40-440) had career-low totals as well.

Wallace and receiver Michael Campanaro are both pending free agents, while Maclin, who has a $7.5 million cap hit, could be a cap casualty. 

"We will be exploring all options in free agency and the draft for targets for Joe," Bisciotti said.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox