Top priority Dennis Pitta is worth…
The Ravens off-season has been loaded with some big name departures as well as a few big name signings. Joe Flacco received a contract which keeps him in Baltimore for the next six years. It’s about time to lock in his best friend and possibly favorite target in 2013, Dennis Pitta.
Pitta was assigned a second round tender worth 2.023 million dollars for the 2013 season. If another team doesn’t submit an offer sheet for Pitta which the Ravens would have to match, he’ll become an unrestricted free-agent able to test the market after this season if the Ravens don’t offer him a long term deal.
After not seeing much playing time in his 2010 rookie campaign, Pitta has become a larger part of the offense in each of the last two seasons. 40 catches for 405 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. With Anquan Boldin no longer in the mix, those numbers should go up even more again in 2013. I certainly think that Pitta becomes the new favorite red-zone target.
When talking contracts, this could shape up like the Joe Flacco situation a year ago if the Ravens aren’t careful. Flacco and his agent couldn’t reach an agreement with the Ravens on a long term deal prior to the season, and both sides agreed not to discuss money in season. The rest is history. Joe Flacco becomes Super Bowl MVP and his side has the upper hand in negotiating the largest contract in NFL history. With Pitta’s growing role on the offense, a 1,000 yard, 10+ TD season resulting in a Pro-Bowl selection isn’t out of the question. Would a season like that price him right out of Baltimore, like Paul Kruger and Danell Ellerbe did for themselves? Can the Ravens afford to lose Pitta for 2014 and beyond? Is Dennis Pitta set to breakout as the next top-tier TE in the league? A lot can happen between now and then, but let’s look at some of Pitta’s TE peers.
Six tight ends were drafted ahead of Dennis Pitta in 2010. Pitta was also the last recognizable tight end taken in that class. Two of them already signed long term deals. Rob Gronkowski, eight-year, $55.2 million, $8 million signing bonus. Aaron Hernandez, seven-year, $41.1 million, $12.5 million signing bonus. You don’t need stats to show you that Pitta to this point isn’t on the level of those two men. It’s not a knock on Pitta, it’s just the system in New England which favors the short passing game and big TE’s getting the most looks in the red-zone.
The other four include Jimmy Graham, Tony Moeaki, and the Ravens own Ed Dickson, who will be in line to become free agents in 2014.Then Jermaine Gresham, the first TE taken in that draft, is FA eligible in 2015. We’ll leave Ed Dickson out of this conversation because the team prefers him for his blocking ability over his pass catching ability. Gresham as well since he is two seasons out.
Jimmy Graham will likely get Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten kind of money. Ballpark $55-60 million and a $10+ million sign on bonus. He had 1,310 receiving yards in 2011 with 11 TDs. Then fell just short of 1,000 yards (982) in 2012 with nine TDs. A slight drop off, but solid none the less. The Saints have even less cap space than the Ravens do. Maybe Graham becomes a casualty and gets to test the market. Depending on the seasons Graham and Dennis Pitta have, Graham could set the ceiling for the TE market.
Tony Moeaki has found himself in the unfortunate situation of playing for the Kansas City Chiefs which make his stats suffer a bit. This season will be a telling one for him right from the start. Anthony Fasano was brought in from Miami and will compete with Moeaki for the starting job. The Chiefs have a new coach in Andy Reid, and a QB who has found his stroke the last two seasons, Alex Smith. If Moeaki has a down year, it’s on him. If he has a good year, Moeaki could be signed by the Chiefs given their cap situation, and would fall in the lower end of the TE salary spectrum, maybe matching Fasano’s contract, four-years, $16 million, $4.5 million signing bonus.
So where does Dennis Pitta fall in that salary range as of today? Not as high as Witten, Gronk, or Graham will be, but not as low as Fasano either. I would even put his worth higher than Martellus Bennett, who signed with the Bears for four-years, $20.4 million, $4.5 million signing bonus. To narrow the range I think today that Pitta could be placed between Greg Olsen on the low end (five-years, $22.8 million, $2.5 million signing bonus) and Heath Miller on the high end (six-years, $35.3 million, $4.25 million signing bonus). Granted, Miller signed his deal in 2009, but has remained durable, and excels at both run blocking and pass catching.
In my opinion, I would make Pitta a deal sooner rather than later. Call it five-years, $30 million, $5 million signing bonus. Stagger the base salary over the five years, something like $1MM, $3.5MM, $4.5MM, $8MM, $8MM. In this situation for 2013, the $1 million base salary and the $1 million bonus would replace the second round tender of $2.023 million, thus saving $23,000 against the cap. Every little bit helps.
It’s cap friendly, it puts $6 million in Pitta’s pocket this year, and it ensures he won’t play his way out of the Ravens price range in 2013. Win, win, win situation.
Special thanks goes out to Chris Miller (Miller192) for making sure I have the RFA contract rules correct.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]