OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- One of the biggest changes in the Baltimore Ravens' 23-year history occurs Friday, when Eric DeCosta officially replaces Ozzie Newsome as general manager.
DeCosta, 47, joined the Ravens in their first year in 1996 in an entry level position before working up the team's front office ranks, becoming assistant GM in 2012. Over the previous nine offseasons, DeCosta reportedly turned down nine teams (the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins) when they sought permission to speak to him.
Newsome, 62, the only GM in the Ravens' existence, will remain in the front office in "a significant role," the team announced. The architect of two Super Bowl champion teams, Newsome has drafted two Hall of Fame inductees (offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis) and three potential ones (safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs and guard Marshal Yanda).
Here are the key decisions facing DeCosta as he begins his run as the Ravens' top personnel decision-maker:
Trading Joe Flacco: DeCosta's first goal is to come close to recouping this year's second-round pick (which Baltimore used to trade up to get Lamar Jackson in 2018) by dealing its former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. It's conceivable that Baltimore could receive a third-round pick for Flacco. Last offseason, the Washington Redskins traded a third-round pick for Alex Smith and the New Orleans Saints sent a third-rounder for Teddy Bridgewater. Why would a team give up anything for Flacco? There's a lack of starting quarterbacks in free agency and this year's draft. If a team like Denver, Miami or Jacksonville wants an experienced passer and doesn't want to pay over $20 million this season (Flacco's salary is $18.5 million), it will have to negotiate with DeCosta.
Making a decision on C.J. Mosley: The biggest unrestricted free agent on DeCosta's list this offseason is Mosley, who has reached the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons and made the season-saving interception in the regular-season finale. He's a core leader for the NFL's No. 1 defense that could get younger this offseason. If Baltimore fails to keep Mosley, it would go against the franchise's history. Of the Ravens' 10 first-round picks who made the Pro Bowl, nine were re-signed to a long-term deal. The only exception was guard Ben Grubbs. Mosley's projected market value by spotrac.com is an average of $9.7 million per season. If Mosley goes elsewhere, Baltimore would probably pair Kenny Young with Patrick Onwuasor in the middle.
Determining salary-cap cuts: In addition to clearing $10.5 million of cap space from parting with Flacco, there are six players whose cap savings are over $4 million (and the dead money doesn't exceed it): cornerbacks Jimmy Smith ($9.5 million) and Brandon Carr ($5 million); safety Eric Weddle ($6.5 million); guard Marshal Yanda ($7 million); wide receivers Michael Crabtree ($4.66 million) and Willie Snead ($4 million). It would be surprising to see Baltimore cut ties with Smith, Yanda or Snead. There's also a chance that Weddle -- who was lured to Baltimore by a phone call from DeCosta -- could return on a reduction of his $6.5 million salary. The bigger question marks are Carr and Crabtree.
Upgrading Lamar Jackson's supporting cast: Baltimore has a good foundation with four rookie starters returning on offense. But there's plenty of work to do for DeCosta to build this offense around the new franchise quarterback. The Ravens need a big-play threat at running back (a step up from Gus Edwards), two new starters on the interior of the offensive line (left guard and center) and impact wide receivers. If Crabtree is cut and John Brown isn't re-signed in free agency, DeCosta has to find two new starting receivers and it likely will have to come in the draft, where the Ravens' record at finding productive targets has been the franchise's biggest weakness. Luring top free-agent wide receivers will probably be tough until Jackson puts up consistent numbers in the passing game.
Finding an edge rusher: There's a potential that DeCosta and the Ravens could lose 15.5 sacks in free agency. Suggs wants to play for a 17th NFL season, and he's unsure whether Baltimore will try to keep him. Za'Darius Smith could price himself out of the Ravens' range much like pass-rushers Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee did previously. That leaves highly productive Matthew Judon along with major disappointments in Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Free agency is expected to be loaded with pass-rushers like Detroit's Ezekiel Ansah, Kansas City's Dee Ford (if he's not given the franchise tag), New England's Trey Flowers, Philadelphia's Brandon Graham, Indianapolis' Jabaal Sheard (if released), Minnesota's Everson Griffen (if cut) and Miami's Robert Quinn (if released). Will DeCosta spend more in free agency than Newsome?