In his new role as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, Eric DeCosta has no intention of filling the shoes of his highly successful predecessor, Ozzie Newsome.
“I have size 10½ feet and I think Ozzie is a 13, so there you go,” DeCosta said Wednesday, standing alone in front of a gathering of the media and team employees at his first news conference since taking the job on Jan. 11.
Newsome, who held the post since the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996, will stay on as an adviser. The first African-American GM in NFL history, Newsome drafted wisely and shrewdly combed the free agent market to build the Ravens into a perennial contender and two-time Super Bowl champions.
DeCosta was there for all of it. As an intern, DeCosta’s duties included taking then-coach Ted Marchibroda’s car for oil changes. The coach gave him $100 and told him to keep the change, so DeCosta found a place that charged $9.99.
“Sometimes people would think that maybe I’d be embarrassed that I started off as an intern now that I’m a GM, that I want to forget that,” DeCosta said. “To be honest with you, I cherish the fact that I could start out as a young person and really do a lot of different things.”
DeCosta moved up the corporate ladder to become assistant general manager in 2012. He began to attract the interest of other clubs, so owner Steve Bisciotti promised him a promotion after the 2018 season. Now that the job he long coveted is his, the 47-year-old DeCosta is already hard at work trying to improve a team that won the AFC North before being eliminated with a first-round playoff loss.
He has overseen personnel meetings, huddled with top team officials in Florida, attended a couple college all-star games and given plenty of thought to the draft.
“There are times I look at the challenges and they are daunting. But I’ve been blessed that I’ve had a lot of time to think and prepare for this,” he said. “Had I had gone to another team, with all new faces, new organization, new people, that would be a little more challenging.”
This job has plenty of obstacles to clear, most notably a tight salary cap and some important pending personnel decisions. Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley is a pending free agent, the status of safety Eric Weddle and guard Marshal Yanda for 2019 is uncertain and quarterback Joe Flacco is almost certainly heading elsewhere.
“If there’s one team interested, yeah, we’ll probably trade him,” DeCosta said of Flacco. “If there’s nobody interested, we’ll have to make another decision.”
Having Newsome on his side will make those kinds of choices a whole lot easier.
“I am extremely happy that Ozzie is going to play such a significant role moving forward for this organization,” DeCosta said. “It just gives me immense joy that I can still mess around with him like I do.”
Having learned so much from Newsome, DeCosta has no intention of straying from the lessons provided by his mentor.
“We’ve done a lot of really good things in the past, and we would be foolish to change things overnight,” he said.
DeCosta revealed that Bisciotti actually broached the subject of his ascension to general manager in 2007. Eleven years later, it finally happened. Along the way, DeCosta spurned several opportunities to land a GM job in another city.
“Did I have chances? Yeah. Did I have a lot? Yeah. Did I ever really consider it? Not really,” DeCosta said. “Every time I’d go to bed, thinking that maybe I would consider something, I’d wake up and say, ‘What are you crazy? You know you’re going to have the job someday that you’ve dreamed about, so just wait and make it perfect.'”