It was around this time two years ago when an Internet meme got championship validation. As his Rams cruised around a jubilant Los Angeles in their Super Bowl parade, general manager Les Snead boldly wore a shirt with his own face, emblazoned with the (highly unofficial) team motto that year.

“F— them picks.”

Snead had been wheeling and dealing that season, sending three picks to Detroit for QB Matthew Stafford, two picks to Denver for LB Von Miller and two picks to New England for RB Sony Michel, among other moves. Snead’s sentiment was to cash in as many future chips as possible to give the Rams a chance at Super Bowl glory in one special season.

Maybe one day soon, the Ravens will have a parade in Baltimore again. But it won’t be because general manager Eric DeCosta threw his picks to the wind.

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It’s just not how the Ravens operate. Although the pain of an AFC championship loss might make some fans restless for bigger, bolder moves, the organization seems to handle disappointment the way it always has.

The Friday after the 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh were still feeling the sting. Harbaugh had trouble putting the letdown into context because he hates losing at all, period.

“Anytime we lose a game, we take it hard,” he said. “So we took that one hard, too.”

Expect evolution in the Ravens’ offense. Harbaugh accepted the critique of the underutilized run game and said he had an animated conversation with Lamar Jackson in which they shared ideas and concepts to take into next season. “I’ll say that we both are [in] lockstep.”

But if you’re thinking the Ravens should swing trades with their draft picks to make the most of their Super Bowl window — which is very clearly wide open — not only are they unlikely to do that but DeCosta, respectfully, does not believe in “windows.”

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“I don’t really subscribe to the idea of windows opening and closing,” he said. “I’d like to believe that, with careful roster building and good drafting and development of players, the window is going to always be open.”

The Ravens Way, when it comes to star-level, game-changing talent, has almost always been to develop from within. It’s not just players, either. Harbaugh’s choice of Zach Orr as defensive coordinator jibes perfectly with the franchise’s belief in its own evaluation process and culture. Orr first came to the franchise in 2014 as an undrafted free agent.

“He was very, very quick to key and diagnose, and he played with a passion, and he was just relentless to the football,” DeCosta said with a smile, thinking back to old player notes on Orr. “Those qualities make a great coach, so I have no doubt that Zach is going to be a great defensive coordinator and probably, if I had a crystal ball, a head coach someday.”

The Ravens believe, as much as any team, that they know how to find their guys. DeCosta has seven draft picks this spring with a chance at another compensatory pick. Expect him to use most, if not all, of them.

“Fundamentally, we are always going to be focused on the draft. I mean, look at our history,” he said. “In the last couple of years, we have traded draft picks for players, in some cases, but generally, we’re going to be a draft-centric team.”

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Admittedly, comparing Snead’s philosophy to DeCosta’s is not apples to apples. The Rams’ biggest trade was to secure a franchise quarterback who would get them over the top. The Ravens have their franchise quarterback in Jackson — it’s his escalating contract that will make team construction more difficult in the coming years, from $32.4 million against the cap next season ballooning to nearly $75 million by the last year of the deal in 2027.

That’s going to leave less in the pot for free agents, including re-signing really good players. It has seemed for a while now that linebacker Patrick Queen is set to test the market, and he struck a contemplative tone when cleaning out his locker Monday. DeCosta declined to elaborate on the team’s plans for Justin Madubuike, who could see a bonanza in free agency if the Ravens don’t use the franchise tag on him.

Guard Kevin Zeitler is one of many Ravens free agents this offseason. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Kevin Zeitler? Jadeveon Clowney? Odell Beckham Jr.? Kyle Van Noy? Geno Stone? DeCosta isn’t showing his hand, but it’s a good bet that many of those names aren’t returning given the team’s salary cap situation.

It might sound dire, but look how the Ravens replenish — they hit on draft picks to an absurd degree.

The 2022 class is already more than pulling its weight behind Pro Bowlers Tyler Linderbaum and Kyle Hamilton, but also contributors such as Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar and Daniel Faalele. Zay Flowers looks like a star in the making, and Trenton Simpson and Tavius Robinson, despite limited reps on the field, showed encouraging flashes. Ravens-drafted players were at the core of a 13-4 regular season this year, and they have helped the team earn two No. 1 seeds in DeCosta’s tenure.

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It’s true that perhaps the most impactful addition of the last few years was Roquan Smith, whom the Ravens traded their second- and fifth-round picks for. If another All-Pro becomes available at a position of need, DeCosta said, “we’re going to look at that very closely.” But one way to adapt to tightening cap space is to hoard draft picks, which will bring in cheaper players under team control.

It was telling that the first stop DeCosta made after the Sunday loss at M&T Bank Stadium was to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The work begins anew once the season ends, and the draft is the lifeblood of an organization that knows how to use it.

Even though DeCosta admitted it was hard to lose a co-worker and friend in Joe Hortiz, who was hired to run the Chargers’ front office this week, he was still focused on this critical stretch. The Ravens have often found the gold flecks in the NFL draft process, and as they double down on keeping the same approach that got them one game away from the Super Bowl, everything depends on it.

“At some point, you get to the point where you have to play with who you have, and you have to draft well, and you have to hit on players, and we’ve done that the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve seen the emergence of a lot of younger players, and that’s going to continue.”

The Ravens just have to keep throwing strikes — the most crucial aspect of DeCosta’s job for the next few years. If he ever gets to roll down Pratt Street on a float, it will likely be because he never wants a pick to go to waste.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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