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Monday, February 17, 2014

Ravens and tight end Dennis Pitta battling franchise tag

By on 2/17/2014 01:00:00 PM

The Baltimore Ravens have been making headlines the past couple of days with the restructuring of linebacker Terrell Suggs' contract and the unfortunate arrest of running back Ray Rice.  In the shadows of the Ravens' bigger news, a new struggle has been brewing with tight end Dennis Pitta.  Negotiations between Pitta and the Ravens regarding a franchise tag have "not made substantial progress", according to

Pitta will be entering free agency in a couple of weeks unless he and the Ravens can work out a new contract or negotiate exactly which position, if any, will be listed on a franchise tag.  The Ravens' evaluation of whether to use the franchise tag on tight end Dennis Pitta is complicated by the uncertainty of exactly how much it would cost. Would Pitta fall under the franchise tag number for a tight end or a wide receiver, a difference of nearly $5 million?

The 28 year old tight end was an instrumental factor in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl winning season, recording 61 passes caught for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season.  In the playoff run for the eventual Super Bowl ring, Pitta accounted for 163 yards and three touchdowns to help the Ravens become the 2012 world champions.

Coming off an amazing 2012 season, Pitta suited up for the first padded preseason practice of 2013 and suffered a devastating injury on day one.  He dislocated and fractured his right hip, sending him straight to the bench for the majority of the season.  Pitta returned to the field in week 14, on a December 8th game versus the Minnesota Vikings. In the last four games of the season, he produced 169 yards and one touchdown.

Thibous via Wikimedia Commons
Now the struggle of negotiations have started, and the Ravens are trying hard to figure out just what to do with Pitta. If the Ravens franchise Pitta this season, they'll owe him $6.7 million with the tight end designation. However, with Pitta lining up quite a bit at receiver, the former Brigham Young standout could make a case that he should be tagged as a receiver, which would cost the franchise $11.5 million instead.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month that it was "possible" that the team would franchise Pitta, but that obviously wouldn't be ideal for the tight end, who wouldn't get the long-term security that he seeks, or for the Ravens, who have several holes and not a whole lot of salary cap space to address them.

A similar situation is happening now in New Orleans, with tight end Jimmy Graham in the same battle as Pitta.  One thing that should help Pitta avoid the tag is the fact the Ravens just reached an extension with linebacker Terrell Suggs. This will free up some cap room and give the Ravens more money to spend. Hopefully for all parties involved, the decision will be made quickly and fairly, and without an arbitrator needed to help with negotiations.

With the Ravens ending their season at 8-8 last year, it's easy to see how important the absence of Pitta was for an offense that struggled in each game.  Ravens camp has made it clear that they do want Pitta in 2014, but too many questions remain on exactly how to retain the explosive tight end.

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