In his last appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine as the Ravens' general manager March 3, Ozzie Newsome acknowledged frustration over the team missing the playoffs three years in a row and vowed to remake the Ravens' receiver corps, though he predictably offered no concrete plans.
Newsome did, however, put former first-round pick Breshad Perriman on notice, saying this offseason would "make or break" Perriman and his disappointing tenure with the Ravens.
Newsome deflected questions about potential cap casualties, saying those decisions would be made in the next couple of weeks, and he said he expected a seamless transition when he steps down and his top lieutenant, Eric DeCosta, takes over next year.
Here are some highlights from Newsome's 18-minute news conference, his first since owner Steve Bisciotti announced Newsome would be stepping down after the 2018 season.
UPHEAVAL LIKELY AT RECEIVER: With Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro pending free agents, Jeremy Maclin a possible cap casualty and Perriman coming off a lost season, the Ravens face a glaring need at wide receiver, and Newsome suggested there could be wholesale changes.
"We're looking for the opportunity to change that room in terms of personnel," Newsome said.
The Ravens are coming off a season in which they ranked 29th in passing and last in passing yards per play.
If Wallace, Maclin and Campanaro do not return, the top returning receiver for the Ravens would be Chris Moore, who had 18 catches for 248 yards last year. The Ravens have been linked to Jarvis Landry as a possible trade target after the Miami Dolphins used the franchise tag on the receiver, and the Ravens are also expected to address the position early in the draft. Alabama's Calvin Ridley is considered the top receiver in the draft and the only sure-fire first-round receiver, but it is considered a deep draft for receivers in later rounds.
"We're not going to leave [any] stones unturned," Newsome said.
PERRIMAN PUT ON NOTICE: Asked about the future of Perriman, who finished with just 10 catches (77 yards) last season and was a healthy inactive in four of the last seven games, Newsome said, "It's up to Breshad. Breshad knows that." Newsome stressed that Perriman had a strong offseason last year, but then missed much of preseason with a hamstring injury and never recovered. "He knows this is his opportunity to make or break being a part of the Ravens."
Perriman, the No. 26 overall pick in the 2015 draft, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. As a first-round pick, the Ravens have a fifth-year option on Perriman but it seems unlikely they will exercise it.
NEWSOME COY ON ROSTER CUTS: Newsome declined to get into specifics on potential cap casualties, saying only, "We have some decisions that we have to make in the next two weeks. We have not come to a point where we have decided that this guy's going to be here and this guy's not, but that will occur in the next two weeks." The Ravens would clear $5 million if they cut Maclin, 29, who had a disappointing first season with the Ravens with 40 catches for 440 yards, both career lows.
Another potential cap casualty is veteran cornerback Brandon Carr. Releasing him would clear $4 million in cap space, but with Jimmy Smith recovering from a torn Achilles and Jaylen Hill coming off a late-season torn ACL, cornerback depth is an issue. "We have six corners," Newsome said, "and based on the last two years, we need six corners. We need all of 'em."
"Brandon played very well for us," Newsome added, "and he's very, very good in our locker room."
SMOOTH TRANSITION EXPECTED: Newsome said his future title wasn't clear, but he would be remaining "in the building" as a "resource" for DeCosta, who has risen through the ranks throughout 22 years with the organization. DeCosta joined the Ravens shortly after the team arrived in Baltimore and worked as a regional scout, director of college scouting and director of player personnel. He became assistant general manager in 2012 and has turned down several opportunities to interview for general manager positions with other teams. Owner Steve Bisciotti revealed at his "State of the Ravens" news conference that the succession plan from Newsome to DeCosta has been in place for the past five years.
"Number one, he's a very good person," Newsome said of DeCosta. "He's an excellent talent evaluator. He's really tough on his thoughts and opinions but he's not stubborn, and he's a very good listener."
Speaking to DeCosta's long tenure with the organization, Newsome said, "He's had a chance to watch how this thing has grown but also understands the foundation of how this thing was built."
ON THE HOT SEAT: Newsome acknowledged the frustration of missing the playoffs three years in a row and four of the past five seasons, and he said he felt much the same pressure that head coach John Harbaugh has recently. Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, the Ravens have gone 40-40 during the regular season, including 9-7 this past year.
"I don't like not playing in January," Newsome said. "That's something that we talk about all of the time. We've got to find a way to get to 11 wins. Ten can get you in [to the playoffs], maybe get you in, but we've got to find a way to get to 11 wins, because we've proven once we get into the playoffs, then we can do some damage while we're there. So I think we all should have that burden on us."