Ozzie Newsome

AFC North Notes: Jackson, JuJu, Browns, Tate

The second of the Ravens‘ two 2018 first-round picks has changed the course of their franchise, with Lamar Jackson becoming an MVP candidate barely a year after he made his first NFL start. Ravens brass took extensive measures to keep their Jackson interest secret. While John Harbaugh has said he discussed Jackson at length with his staff and scouts leading up to the 2018 draft, Eric DeCosta said he and previous Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome did not mention their interest in Jackson to the team’s scouts or coaching staff, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. Nor did the Ravens interview Jackson at the Combine, with Newsome and DeCosta wanting to keep what turned out to be an important secret. The Ravens, however, took a risk on losing Jackson by trading back twice in Round 1. Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst at No. 25 before trading back into the first round, via Philadelphia, for No. 32.

We felt like there was a pretty good chance that Lamar might be there later in the first round, early part of the second round,” DeCosta said, via King. “We were willing, if we could, to trade back, trade back, accumulate capital and then possibly either try to trade back again or in a second round, make a play and get Lamar at that point. But, you know, it was a risk.”

“We were (nervous about losing Jackson). We were. But I think you’ve got to stay as clinical in the moment as you can, and really just go with all your best information and the plan.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Although Myles Garrett‘s appeal will take place Wednesday, the odds the Browns defensive end plays again this season appear slim. “He will not play the rest of the season,” Roger Goodell told OTG’s Gary Myers (via Pro Football Talk). “He will probably meet with us some time in the offseason. We’ll make a judgement. … Does he have remorse? Does he understand why it’s not acceptable? Do we understand what he’s going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Garrett is suspended indefinitely for striking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet.
  • Prior to the AFC North rivals’ game-ending fight, the Steelers saw wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson suffer concussions. In addition to the head injury Smith-Schuster sustained, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) the third-year receiver also sustained a knee injury on the play that ended his night. Smith-Schuster has not missed a game this season but he’s uncertain for Pittsburgh’s Week 12 tilt against Cincinnati.
  • The Bengals observed one of their emerging wideouts stretchered off the field Sunday. Auden Tate is in concussion protocol and suffered a cervical strain, Zac Taylor said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter). Tate flew back to Cincinnati with his teammates and has appeared to escape a serious injury.

Staff Notes: Newsome, Panthers, Lions

Despite ceding his post as Ravens GM to longtime lieutenant Eric DeCosta, Ozzie Newsome remains a central presence in Baltimore’s front office. He played a key role in the Ravens adding Earl Thomas, despite not having an official title. He does now. Amid a staff shakeup, the Ravens revealed (via Pennlive.com) Newsome will serve as their executive vice president. The Hall of Fame tight end and Super Bowl-winning executive will continue to advise DeCosta. This should help a Ravens team in a bit of a transition, considering Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco and C.J. Mosley are no longer with the franchise. Newsome, 63, sticking around will provide vital continuity.

Here is the latest on some front office situations around the league, staying first with more from the Ravens’ new-look staff:

  • The Ravens will now have co-directors of player personnel, moving former college scouting director Joe Horwitz and previous senior personnel assistant George Kokinis into the position. The Ravens brought in Kokinis in 2010, following a short stay as the Browns’ general manager. The Ravens promoted Mark Azevedo from his northeast area scout post to player personnel coordinator and made Chad Alexander their assistant director of pro and college personnel. Vincent Newsome will move from director of pro personnel into a senior player personnel executive position, and Nick Matteo will now oversee the Ravens’ salary cap. Matteo spent 10 years as an NFL management council exec.
  • While their staff changes were not as sweeping as the Ravens’, the Panthers have some key figures in new positions. A 22nd-year Panthers exec, Jeff Morrow will take over as Carolina’s player personnel director after heading the franchise’s college scouting department. Fourth-year Panthers staffer Eric Stokes will move into Morrow’s former role. Former Panthers wide receiver Mark Carrier, a ninth-year member of the team’s front office, will become executive director of the Panthers’ football staff.
  • Lastly, the Lions reshuffled a few roles. Dave Sears will rise from Detroit’s assistant director of college scouting to leading that department. Rob Lohman will make the same move on the pro side. Both Sears and Lohman have been with the Lions for 13 years.

Latest On Ozzie Newsome’s Role With Ravens

Ozzie Newsome had been the Ravens’ GM since the club’s inception in 1996, and he was the architect of two Super Bowl champions. Last January, Newsome announced that 2018 would be his last season as Baltimore’s GM, but it was reported that he would remain with the club in an unspecified role.

Now, that role is becoming a bit clearer. As Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes, Newsome’s voice still carries plenty of weight in the Ravens’ front office. He doesn’t have an official title, and new GM (and longtime Newsome lieutenant) Eric DeCosta has Newsome’s old office and the final say on roster decisions, but Newsome is plenty involved in the draft and free agency process.

Hensley observes that Newsome was instrumental in closing the deal with Earl Thomas last month — he has a good relationship with Thomas’ agent — and is doing a great deal of work on this year’s collegiate prospects.

Indeed, without the daily administrative duties of a GM, Newsome has watched more college tape than he has in the last several years. DeCosta said, “I think he’s really enjoying it. He’s grinding tape. He had a great time at the combine. He’s really been a valuable resource for me in terms of discussing players and what do you see. I think he’s really having fun with it.”

It remains unclear how involved Newsome will be on draft day, but DeCosta acknowledged that his mentor is likely to have a say on nearly every pick. And while head coach John Harbaugh reiterated that what DeCosta says goes, it can’t hurt to have someone as respected as accomplished as Newsome as a sounding board.

Newsome is under contract at least through 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

GM Change Impacted Terrell Suggs’ Decision To Leave Ravens

The Ravens’ defense will look considerably different in 2019. While C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle helped anchor the past few units, Terrell Suggs was a cornerstone Raven for more than 15 years.

Suggs departed Baltimore for Arizona, where he grew up and played in college. But had Ozzie Newsome not followed through with the plan of stepping down as Ravens GM, Suggs said he would probably have re-signed with Baltimore.

Through and through I’m an Ozzie Newsome guy,” Suggs said during an appearance on Fox Sports’ Skip and Shannon: Undisputed (via NBC Sports Baltimore). “Once I knew Ozzie was going to step down as GM, you know, I kind of had to question my future in a Ravens uniform.”

Newsome’s exit strategy became official in February 2018. Longtime lieutenant Eric DeCosta is now running the Ravens’ front office. New starters will take their places on the 2019 Ravens’ defense. Mosley had started on the past five Baltimore defenses, Weddle the past three.

Suggs said he had considered this move for a while and added that the Ravens’ decisions on other veteran stalwarts this offseason affected his choice. Although news of Mosley’s Jets agreement did not emerge until after Suggs decided to leave, the Ravens opted to let the off-ball linebacker test the market.

I actually decided before — I hadn’t slept in weeks. I was going to go back to Baltimore because it was the safe thing to do,” Suggs said during Undisputed of his initial instinct, before reconsidering and opting for Arizona (via BaltimoreBeatdown.com). “I loved and respected that organization so much that I had to remove myself out of the situation.”

The 36-year-old edge defender signed a one-year, $10MM deal with the Cardinals. He initially caught Newsome’s attention while playing at Arizona State in the early 2000s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Packers, LaFleur, Ravens, Brown

It’s a four-year deal with a fifth-year option for the Packers and Matt LaFleur, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). LaFleur is a fast riser who is becoming a head coach for the very first time, but he appears to have solid job security in Green Bay. The financial terms of the deal are not yet known, but it would not be a surprise if he was on the lower end of the scale given his age and lack of experience at this level.

Here’s more from the North divisions:

  • Ravens wide receiver John Brown says he’d love to return in 2019, but he’s unlikely to accept a one-year deal this offseason (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). Brown, 29 in April, had a bit of a resurgence in Baltimore with 42 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.
  • Ozzie Newsome is transitioning out of his role as the Ravens‘ GM, but he isn’t retiring, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic hears. Newsome will remain under contract with the Ravens for the next couple of years, though his title and duties are not yet known. Per the succession plan, longtime assistant Eric DeCosta will take over as GM from here.
  • The Lions parted ways with VP of football operations Matt Harriss, who was touted as a salary cap expert. To take his place, the Ravens have hired Mike Disner. Disner spent the last six seasons with the Cardinals and was directly involved in their cap planning, so he appears to be a natural replacement.

AFC Notes: Browns, Allen, Ravens, Broncos

Quarterbacks have justifiably dominated draft-centric Browns conversations this offseason, but Joe Thomas‘ retirement has left a hole the franchise hasn’t had to worry about since the Romeo Crennel regime. And as of now, the Browns have shifted Shon Coleman from right to left tackle, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com notes. With Chris Hubbard having been signed to play right tackle, the 6-foot-6 Coleman — a 2016 third-round pick who started all 16 games at right tackle last season — Coleman finds himself with either an opportunity to replace a legend or on the verge of being demoted. An anonymous NFL exec, per Pluto, does not believe John Dorsey will go into training camp with Coleman stationed atop the Browns’ depth chart at left tackle. Pro Football Focus preferred Coleman’s pass-blocking work to his ability to open running lanes, bestowing a middling overall grade upon the young blocker, but Coleman’s 14 penalties were the most among tackles last year.

Thomas replacement Spencer Drango, a 2016 fifth-rounder, gave up 11 sacks — most in the league in 2017. The exec floated the idea of the Browns trading down from No. 4 and selecting a tackle, but the team holds the Nos. 33 and 35 overall picks that could be used on a tackle without sacrificing prime first-round real estate.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Contrary to a previous report, the Jets do not have a Josh Allen visit scheduled, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. However, Gang Green brass did trek to Wyoming this week to observe a private workout. The Jets have been linked to Allen for months, and several team officials “love” the 6-foot-5 quarterback’s skill set. Allen has also been connected to the Browns and is among the four passers visiting the Giants next week.
  • As he did for Texans owner Bob McNair‘s deposition in his collusion lawsuit, Colin Kaepernick attended those of Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. The Ravens duo’s depositions have been completed. The team was linked to Kaepernick in 2017 but did not end up signing him. Conflicting reports came out over the past several months regarding Harbaugh’s interest in Kaepernick, who led two of Jim Harbaugh‘s best 49ers teams. The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III, who also did not play football in 2017, this week.
  • The Broncos cut ties with Britton Colquitt before the 2016 season because his salary was escalating out of the franchise’s comfort zone, but now they’ve landed Marquette King. He will make $2MM per year on average. King also confirmed there was a bit of a revenge measure associated with his signing with perhaps the Raiders’ biggest rivals. “I just wanted to find the best place that I thought I would fit,” King said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “I think there is somewhat of a revenge factor in there, too.” King punted for Dennis Allen– and Jack Del Rio-coached teams from 2012-17, but unlike the former Denver defensive coordinators, new Oakland HC Jon Gruden wasn’t a fan of the punter’s personality. King said the Broncos did not ask him to tame down his antics.
  • Expect the Broncos to try and get what they can for incumbent punter Riley Dixon, Klis notes. The Syracuse product selected in the seventh round in 2016 has two years remaining on his rookie deal, but being a punter coming off a down season, it’s possible the Broncos may simply have to waive Dixon. Klis observes a trend in Denver ditching or demoting core members of its 2017 special teams units, which struggled. ST coordinator Brock Olivo was fired after one season, Dixon has now been replaced and ex-UDFAs have been brought in to compete with Brandon McManus and long snapper Casey Kreiter.

Ravens Notes: Crabtree, Ryan Grant, Free Agency

Baltimore made a big splash in free agency on Friday, signing veteran receiver Michael Crabtree a day after his release from the Raiders. The move potentially gives the team a go-to, possession receiver that it hasn’t had in a number of years.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said as much after the completion of the three-year deal worth up to $21MM. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec (Twitter link): “Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game. He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball.”

Newsome remembers well, as Crabtree has topped 80 yards in three out of four regular-season meetings with the Ravens and has posted five touchdowns. That included a three-score outing vs. the typically stingy defense in 2016.

Known for utilizing his big arm early in his career, quarterback Joe Flacco has worked closer to the line of scrimmage in recent years and has posted at least a 64% completion rate in each season in 2015. That is likely to continue with a reliable option like Crabtree joining the hold.

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • Despite signing both John Brown and Crabtree, Newsome hasn’t ruled out a return to the fold for Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweets. According to Hensley, the team has been in contact with both receivers.
  • Newsome said the team would have pursued Crabtree regardless if the team signed Ryan Grant or not,” Zrebiec tweets. The team voided a contract with the former Redskins wideout after he failed a physical.
  • Sticking with Grant, Newsome said via Zrebiec on Twitter: “I did not get the results of Ryan’s physical until about 4 o’clock yesterday.” He said the team consulted with many doctors around the country. “It’s not a football decision. It’s a medical decision that I had no control over.”
  • Before news of the Crabtree signing hit, Newsome said the team could add two or three more quality football players, Zrebiec tweets. Recently, Pro Football Rumors listed Baltimore’s top three offseason needs and named adding receiver help, beefing up the pass rush and fortifying the secondary as the team’s top goals. It checked No. 1 off the board with the Crabtree move.

Ravens Did Not Violate Rooney Rule

Last week, the Ravens announced that general manager Ozzie Newsome will step down in 2019, allowing longtime assistant GM Eric DeCosta to take over. Although the position has been filled without first interviewing a minority candidate, the Fritz Pollard Alliance has confirmed that the team is not in violation of the Rooney Rule. Eric DeCosta (vertical)

Under Rooney Rule protocol, when a club has established a firm succession plan that involves an internal coach or executive replacing a departing head coach or general manager, no external search is required,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement (via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun). “Examples of such circumstances include Jim Caldwell‘s succession of Tony Dungy as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Mora‘s succession of Mike Holmgren as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. DeCosta’s pending succession of Newsome does not violate the Rooney Rule. The FPA salutes Ozzie Newsome for his groundbreaking tenure with the Ravens and congratulates DeCosta on his pending promotion.”

The succession plan has been in the works “over the last five years,” according to Newsome. Michael David Smith of PFT first reported that the move was not in violation of the Rooney Rule.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Front Office Notes: Ravens, Panthers, Broncos

We heard yesterday that longtime Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will step down from his role following the 2018 season. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun passed along a quote from the executive regarding the move (via Twitter):

“I will remain as the Ravens’ GM through the 2018 season and continue my role directing free agency and the draft,” he said. “After that, Eric (DeCosta) will take over as our GM and assume all the duties that come with that, including heading our personnel department and directing free agency and the draft. I plan to remain with the Ravens in a significant position in personnel and help us win more Super Bowls. We have planned this succession over the last five years.”

Let’s take a look at some more front office notes from around the NFL…

  • The Panthers‘ interview with general manager candidate Martin Mayhew took place on Friday, the club announced today. Mayhew, the Lions’ GM from 2008-15, has spent time with the Giants and — currently — the 49ers since being fired in Detroit. Meanwhile, reports had indicated Titans executive Ryan Cowden may be a candidate for the Panthers’ general manager vacancy, but no interview has been scheduled to this point, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. In sum, Carolina’s contenders include Lake Dawson (Bills), Jimmy Raye III (Texans), Mayhew, and incumbent interim GM Marty Hurney, who is viewed as the frontrunner for the position.
  • The Panthers are seemingly on the market, and commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters (including NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport) that the NFL believes Carolina is a great market. Ultimately, the commissioner believes the organization’s current ownership is looking for a buyer that will keep the team in Charlotte.
  • Goodell confirmed that the Broncos have been operating “in full compliance with league guidelines” in regards to the Broncos’ ownership structure through the Pat Bowlen Trust. “They are in compliance with our rules. They have been very thoughtful. They have done a terrific job of leading that franchise over the last several years as Pat’s focused on his health issues,” Goodell said (via Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com). Bowlen stepped away from his role back in 2014 so he could focus on his fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The trust was established to ensure that franchise would continue to run smoothly in his absence. Goodell did point out the the trustees will ultimately have to decide who the primary owner will be.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome To Step Down In 2019, Eric DeCosta To Take Over

The Ravens’ front office will have a new chief in 2019. Next year, longtime GM Ozzie Newsome will step down, allowing assistant GM Eric DeCosta to take over, owner Steve Bisciotti announced (via Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun on Twitter). Joe Hortiz/Jon Harbaugh/Matt Elam/Ozzie Newsome/Eric DeCosta (Featured)

DeCosta has been chased by rival teams for years now, but he has rebuffed many of those advances. Recently, DeCosta rejected an opportunity to interview for the Packers’ GM vacancy, yet another indication that a promotion was in his future. In building this succession plan, the Ravens have found a way to retain one of the league’s most sought-after executives while doing right by Newsome.

I get a chance to work with my friends,” DeCosta said in 2015 when asked why he has stayed with the Ravens despite overtures from other teams (via Zrebiec). “Every day, I come in and work with my friends. I think it’s a relationship business. In the end, personal ambitions aside, all you have is really your reputation and your friends and your enjoyment in life. And I love Baltimore, the community…My wife is from Baltimore. I’ve been here 20 years, my kids go to school here. It’s great. I sit with these guys every day and give everybody a hard time, get a chance to play jokes on everybody every day, and it’s just fun. I enjoy work. I enjoy coming in here. We have a great owner, awesome stadium and best fan base in the country. So, what more do you want?

Finally, DeCosta will have the chance to run his own show. Meanwhile, Bisciotti says Newsome – who constructed two Super Bowl winning teams in Baltimore – will remain with the team as a consultant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.