OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Standing all alone at the podium during his first news conference as the Baltimore Ravens' new general manager Jan. 30, Eric DeCosta recounted a career arc that had angled upward toward this moment for more than two decades, but he also pointed toward the future and acknowledged some tough, looming roster decisions that now fall squarely on his shoulders.
DeCosta has been with the organization since its infancy, working his way up through the personnel department and operating as Ozzie Newsome's assistant general manager since 2012. Now he succeeds the legendary Newsome, who watched DeCosta's news conference from the back of the auditorium alongside head coach John Harbaugh.
Newsome will remain with the organization in a "significant" though still undefined role, but all key decisions now rest with DeCosta, 47, who called being an NFL GM "a dream of mine since I was 6 years old."
DeCosta recalled the franchise's early days, when as an intern he would organize boxes of video tapes in the team's former, fledgling headquarters in Owings Mills, or how he would take former head coach Ted Marchibroda's car for oil changes, scoping out a good deal so he could pocket the change.
Now, admittedly, the dollars involved are much greater, but the mission is still about getting the most bang for the buck, always a critical factor in a league framed by the salary cap.
Toward that end, DeCosta faces a host of critical roster questions, some of which he touched on during a 40-minute news conference that featured his family in the front row and many organizational employees on hand as well.
Chief among the roster decisions are the future of quarterback Joe Flacco and several potential free agents or cap casualties among the Ravens' top-rated defense, including linebackers C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith, cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Eric Weddle.
With dynamic Lamar Jackson firmly entrenched as the Ravens' quarterback after leading the Ravens to a 6-1 record during their final seven regular-season games, Flacco's time in Baltimore is essentially over. The Ravens would like to trade the former Super Bowl MVP, but if that doesn't happen, he will almost certainly be released given his $26.5 million cap hit for 2019.
DeCosta called Flacco's situation "an ongoing process," and said the organization is more focused right now on draft prospects and free agency.
"It's like playing chess," DeCosta said later as he discussed the Flacco situation. "You need different options. … All it takes is one team. If there's one team interested, yeah, we'll probably trade him. If there's nobody interested, we'll have to make another decision, but I will say this: This league craves quarterbacks. And Joe Flacco has won a lot of games. … Every year, coaches and GMs get fired because they don't have a good quarterback. So we'll just see how it all shakes out."
As for Mosley, DeCosta expressed optimism that the pending free agent, who has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons, will return to anchor the Ravens' defense once again.
The Ravens could use the franchise tag on Mosley, but that would cost roughly $15 million toward the cap. Such a move would limit what DeCosta and the Ravens could do to shore up other areas of the team.
"Everything is on the table right now," with Mosley, DeCosta said. "I certainly hope that C.J. is back. I believe in my heart that he will be. We're having those discussions now. We've got several different strategies in place. We're in the business of keeping our good football players. Talent wins in the NFL, and he's a Pro Bowl linebacker, so we're going to do everything we can to make sure C.J. is back on the team."
Other decisions, including Suggs, Smith, Weddle, and the draft strategy are also on a lengthy to-do list for DeCosta, but he said this team, which finished 10-6 and won the AFC North title, is "headed in the right direction roster-wise."
"We can always improve at every position across the board," DeCosta said. "And that's what we do in scouting, that's what we do in player personnel and coaching. … Certainly, there are some positions that probably we need some additional help, but I've been pleasantly encouraged by some of the younger payers and the growth that they've made."
Now, for the first time in franchise history, that growth, and the roster building, is up to someone not named Ozzie Newsome.
DeCosta said he will continue to ascribe to Newsome's "right player, right price" mantra in free agency, and has two decades of experience working alongside Newsome to draw on.
"He basically took a 25-year-old kid who had no experience in the NFL, who was so different from him, and gave me a chance and accepted me," DeCosta said. "He and I have always been so different in a lot of ways but so aligned. It's been a special relationship in my life. I've learned a lot of football, but more about being a good person. I am extremely happy that Ozzie's going to play such a significant role moving forward for this organization."
While the succession plan from Newsome to DeCosta was announced a year ago, DeCosta noted that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti first approached DeCosta back in 2007 about the possibility of becoming the GM one day. That is one reason DeCosta has spurned offers from other teams in the past.
"I promise," DeCosta said, "that I will justify the Bisciottis' faith in me going forward."
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