Ravens' Ozzie Newsome carries no title but still plenty of influence on draft

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Everyone knows this year's draft will be a historic one for the Baltimore Ravens because it will mark the first time Ozzie Newsome won't be making the final decisions.

What some tend to forget: Newsome isn't history with the Ravens.

Newsome, 63, has stepped aside to allow Eric DeCosta to take over as general manager, but he has a role in the organization (even though he never received a title). Newsome has moved out of his office so DeCosta can be a few feet away from coach John Harbaugh and has relocated to Art Modell's old office down the hall, but he still delivers a trusted voice (even though his days of news conferences are presumably over).

Without the daily administrative duties of a GM, Newsome has watched more tape than he has the last couple of years and has been able to form more opinions on this year's prospects.

"I think he’s really enjoying it," DeCosta said. "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."

Newsome made an impact last month for Baltimore in landing the team's biggest free-agent signing. He spearheaded closing the deal with Earl Thomas because he has a good relationship with the safety's agent.

How involved will Newsome be in the draft room? No one is really certain about that.

"I don’t know if he’ll be on every single pick," DeCosta said. "I imagine he would be. Maybe not in the seventh round because he likes to go work out."

For 24 drafts, Newsome built a reputation as one of the best GMs in NFL history, from his first-ever pick (offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden) to his final first-rounder (quarterback Lamar Jackson). In addition to being the architect of two Super Bowl championship teams, he has drafted 19 Pro Bowl players, three Hall of Fame players, three NFL Defensive Players of the Year and one NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Though Newsome acknowledged recent drafts have not lived up to the team's usual standards, his last one has the makings of being really good. Last season, the Ravens selected the next potential franchise quarterback (Jackson), two promising tight ends (Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst) and a starting right tackle (Orlando Brown Jr.). If inside linebacker Kenny Young and defensive end Zach Sieler take the next step, this class could produce five starters for this year's team.

After Newsome made his final pick last year, he received a standing ovation in the draft room and got hugs from DeCosta, owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and team president Dick Cass. Many in the room became teary-eyed.

Soon after, Bisciotti made the symbolic gesture of the change, switching the chairs of Newsome and DeCosta in the draft room. Besides the revised seating chart, the Ravens don't expect much to be different because Newsome is having his usual conversations about players with DeCosta and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.

"In the end, though, it will be Eric’s call, and that’s good," Harbaugh said. "I think Eric has had a huge impact on the draft up until now. He’s been a big part of it. Ozzie’s and his relationship is very unique, very special."