January 04, 2012

While Jeff Fisher has quickly emerged as the most sought-after head coaching candidate available, with multiple teams expected to bid for his services, he has nothing on Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta in terms of marketability this month. Considered the heir apparent to longtime Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome, DeCosta this week has attracted the interest of four teams that are looking for new GMs, league sources say.

At least three of those teams -- St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis -- are believed to have sought permission Wednesday to interview DeCosta for their vacant general manager job in the coming days. A fourth team, Oakland, also has DeCosta on its radar screen and is shortly expected to seek Baltimore's permission to include him in their search.

DeCosta, 40, is one of the most highly regarded young personnel executives in the NFL, and the Ravens have twice rewarded him in recent years with better contracts and increased responsibility in return for him staying with the organization. He is known to love working with Newsome and for Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, and given that he has long considered some day being Baltimore's GM his dream job, it will likely take an exception offer to lure him from the Ravens. But with four teams potentially creating a unique sense of leverage in regards to his marketability, sources say DeCosta is grappling with the reality that he might generate an offer he can't refuse.

In the next two to three days, sources say DeCosta will decide whether or not he will interview anywhere, but if he does so, it is believed he will be prepared to leave Baltimore if a credible offer is forthcoming. The Ravens (12-4) have a first-round bye this weekend and will open the playoffs with a home game against a still-undetermined opponent on Sunday, Jan. 15. It is Baltimore's fourth consecutive season in the postseason, which is now the league's longest current streak with Indianapolis missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Chicago is thought to be the most attractive potential landing spot for DeCosta, but there are factors that might appeal to him with both the Rams and Colts as well. All three teams have solid and patient ownership situations, and attractive starting quarterback options. The Bears fired general manager Jerry Angelo on Tuesday after 11 seasons on the job. The Rams and Colts both made front-office dismissals on Monday, with St. Louis firing both head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney, and Indianapolis stunning the NFL with the firing of vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris Polian.

In addition, the Raiders are conducting a search to add a general manager position to their now Al Davis-less front office, and on Wednesday reportedly began by interviewing Green Bay director of football operations Reggie McKenzie. The Packers personnel man is also thought to be a likely GM candidate in Chicago.

While it's conceivable Chicago could make an offer that entices DeCosta to leave Baltimore, the team he has worked 16 years for, ever since the Ravens arrived from Cleveland in 1996, it's still considered unlikely given his loyalty to Biscotti and his familiarity with the franchise. Baltimore could perhaps again act pre-emptively in the coming days in a bid to retain the in-demand DeCosta, enhancing his title or contract situation in exchange for remaining in town as Newsome's eventual successor.

If the Ravens lost DeCosta to the Bears, the departure would no doubt sting Bisciotti and Baltimore even more so than if he chose to join another team. The Ravens and Bears were involved in a contentious on-the-clock first-round trade that went bad last April, leading Bisciotti and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh to charge the Bears front office and ownership with dishonesty and a lack of integrity.

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