The Baltimore Ravens were able to get a new deal done with star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs yesterday to clear out some much-needed cap space and ensure that the “Ravens might release Suggs” rumors would come to a halt. Ozzie Newsome still has plenty of work to do, as the Ravens have three big free agents set to hit the open market in left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta, and inside linebacker Daryl Smith (among others, but these are the three biggest FAs). While the Ravens are not expected to re-sign Smith, they are fully expected to do whatever it takes to keep both Monroe and Pitta. The Ravens offensive line was a disaster last year, but the talented LT they traded for was a lone bright spot. Meanwhile, Pitta is a key pass-catchers in the offense, and Joe Flacco can’t afford to lose his most reliable target, especially when they could already use a better No. 2 WR.
Per a source close to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, Pitta and the Ravens “haven’t made substantial progress” in negotiations, and this is notable given the urgency for the Ravens to get a long-term deal done with the 28-year-old. Zrebiec reports that a debate similar to the one between the New Orleans Saints and Jimmy Graham (and Jared Cook and the St. Louis Rams last year) is brewing in Baltimore, as the Ravens are unsure if Pitta will be classified as a tight end or wide receiver, should they choose to use the franchise tag on him. If he’s viewed as a TE, then the team would only have to pay him$6.7 million under the franchise tag, which isn’t difficult to afford. But if the arbitrator making the decision likes Pitta’s argument that he’s a receiver due to his heavy usage in the slot, then it would cost $11.5 million to tag Pitta; that’s just too rich.
So the Ravens best bet is to lock up Pitta to a long-term deal, especially since his cap hit would be lower. There’s no doubt that the team wants to keep him around, but I’m sure Newsome doesn’t want to run the risk of waiting too long on contract talks, only to find that his TE is classified as a WR under the franchise tag. In most cases, the player ends up being classified as a TE, because the role of the position has changed into more of a “joker”. I doubt Pitta has a case, but the Ravens won’t want to run that risk. And again, it’s better to sign him to a long-term contract anyway, though I wonder if Pitta is reluctant to get talks going, since he might want to see this argument play out. Zrebiec reports that Pitta wants to get a deal done as well, so we’ll see if talks end up progressing soon.