Ozzie Newsome, the architect of a pair of Super Bowl winners during his two-plus decades as general manager of the Ravens, is stepping down after the 2018 season.
Assistant GM Eric DeCosta, whom multiple clubs have attempted to lure out of Baltimore as their own general manager over the past several seasons, will take Newsome's reins. DeCosta will have control of the 53-man roster, owner Steve Bisciotti said, but Newsome — who was the NFL's first African-American general manager — will remain with the club in a different front-office role.
Bisciotti also revealed on Friday that he considered making a head-coaching change at the end of Baltimore's 9-7 campaign, the 10th led under John Harbaugh. That seemingly suggests Harbaugh, who was hired by Newsome in 2008 and has compiled a 94-66 regular-season mark, will enter the 2018 season on shaky ground.
Under the guidance of Newsome, the Ravens have won four division titles and made 10 playoff appearances, including winning both Super Bowls (XXV and XXLVI) in which they appeared. But Baltimore is coming off its third consecutive year of missing the playoffs.
Newsome, a Hall of Famer himself as a former player, spent the franchise's first two draft picks on LT Jonathan Ogden (enshrined in Canton in 2013) and Ray Lewis, who's very likely to join Ogden on his first ballot this year. Newsome in subsequent drafts found fellow future Hall of Famers — Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs — to help form the nucleus of a pair of Super Bowl champs and one of the best defenses in NFL history.
However, while Newsome's fast ball drafting on defense has remained strong, he's struggled in recent seasons to replenish the pipeline on offense, particularly at the skill positions. Baltimore ranked last in the NFL in passing this past season and 31st in yards per play, as Joe Flacco suffered from a dearth of pass catchers — the byproduct of high-profile draft misses, including WR Breshad Perriman and TE Maxx Williams, among others.
DeCosta, who has been with Newsome and the organization since its inception and has long been thought of as the successor to the "The Wizard of Oz," turned down GM interviews with the Jets and Titans in recent seasons. He began as an entry-level employee in Baltimore and ascended to Newsome's right-hand man, which should help one of the NFL's more stable franchises maintain success and continuity in a largely seamless transition.
Our Eric Edholm reported earlier this week that Newsome's Ravens — who have spent 13 of their past 17 Day 1 and Day 2 draft selections on defense — will go heavy on offense this spring. It'll be fascinating to see if Newsome, who has found plenty of great offensive linemen but not playmakers, can go out on a high note.