Ravens' moneyball? Soon-to-be GM Eric DeCosta will lean on analytics

Eric DeCosta, left, Ozzie Newsome, center, and Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti watch practice during training camp last summer. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Eric DeCosta said he is ready to take over for Ozzie Newsome as the Baltimore Ravens' general manager after the 2018 season.

The major question behind one of the biggest changes in franchise history is how much DeCosta will deviate from Newsome's philosophy and system.

Newsome, the Ravens' only general manager, built two Super Bowl teams in Baltimore. He will be remembered for drafting 18 players who became Pro Bowlers, starting with his first two picks, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis, who became Hall of Famers.

But the Ravens haven't reached the playoffs for the past three seasons because recent drafts haven't lived up to expectations. Since Baltimore won the Super Bowl in February 2013, its drafts have produced two Pro Bowl players (linebacker C.J. Mosley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk) and featured busts like safety Matt Elam, linebacker Arthur Brown and wide receiver Breshad Perriman.

"We certainly won't do everything the same, but we're not going to try to reinvent a wheel, either, because I think what we've done has been pretty successful over the years," DeCosta told the Ravens' website. "You have your ups and downs but in general people would look at Ozzie's regime and his tenure and say it's been a smashing success. So, anybody coming into a situation like that would be foolish to try and just blow everything up and make tremendous change. That would be foolhardy. We're not going to do that."

DeCosta, 46, indicated that Newsome is probably the better evaluator, and that DeCosta has the advantage when it comes to utilizing analytics. He remembers reading "Moneyball" in 2003 while sitting in the waiting room while his daughter was born.

So, the Ravens will lean more on analytics with DeCosta in charge.

"I appreciate information," DeCosta said. "I appreciate people who can take information and either find trends, or find loopholes, or find patterns or things that we could exploit and ways of gaining advantage."

DeCosta pointed out how he wants the Ravens to be more "creative, organized and responsible" with the salary cap. Baltimore has been limited in cap space because of restructuring deals and overpaying players, which has hurt the team's ability to keep young talent and acquire top free agents.

"That's critical for us moving forward as well," DeCosta said. "I want us to be innovative with the salary cap. I want us to be ahead of the curve. I think all those things play together."

Over the years, DeCosta was repeatedly asked why he wouldn't interview for other general manager jobs. So it was a relief when he knew that owner Steve Bisciotti was going to announce on Feb. 2 that DeCosta would take over for Newsome after this season.

"I don't have to worry about other teams or worry about people saying to me, 'What are you, an idiot? You don't want to be a GM?'" DeCosta said.

DeCosta has been with the Ravens organization for 22 years, including the past six as assistant general manager. He is thankful for the opportunity to learn from Newsome before taking over, which doesn't happen very often in the NFL.

DeCosta's close relationship with Newsome is a big reason why he feels it will be a smooth transition.

"My friendship with Ozzie is a helluva lot more important than my job," DeCosta said. "I know maybe that sounds crazy to certain people, but that’s just the way that I'm wired. I really believe that I can be a great friend and also work extremely well with Ozzie."