PITTA PARTY TAG MAY PROVE EVEN MORE COSTLY
Last week it was reported that the Ravens were considering placing the franchise tag on tight end Dennis Pitta this offseason if a long-term contract cannot be agreed on before the deadline on March 3rd. The franchise tag for a tight end is slightly over $6.7 million ($6.709M) which is relatively reasonable for a player who proved to be as important to the team as Pitta did.
The issue, however, is that when Pitta returned from his hip injury in December, he ran 79.7 percent of his routes out of the slot receiver position. This rate was the highest among all tight ends in the NFL, and may allow Pitta to be instead considered as a wide receiver. The franchise tag for a wide receiver this offseason is about $4.8 million more at $11.539.
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is also a candidate to receive the franchise tag after leading the league with 16 touchdown receptions, and Graham would likely challenge how he is designated if the Saints do in fact tag him. The league states that how positional tags are determined “will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays.”
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun explained, “If Graham was to file a grievance before an NFL special master if he’s franchised as a tight end, any ruling would impact how other tight ends in his situation like Pitta are dealt with. That would have a negative potential impact on the Ravens’ salary-cap outlook.”
The best course of action for both sides would likely be to reach a long-term agreement, because Pitta’s injury stopped him from having an impressive statistical season, while his absence did show the Ravens just how critical he is to the success of the passing attack.
In previous seasons, the Ravens have had assistant coaches hold up signs or even different colored hats to communicate with the offense from the sidelines. In the 2013-2014 season one of the main forms of communication was quarterback Joe Flacco’s calls of “Alaska! Alaska!”
Unfortunately for Flacco and the Ravens, many of the Ravens’ opponents from last season also got used to hearing the “Alaska” call, and it led to the Ravens having to burn more timeouts than they would have liked. This offseason, head coach John Harbaugh is planning to add more of a code and a higher degree of secrecy to the calls.
Harbaugh felt that the communications last season were good overall, but were susceptible to technical issues. Harbaugh said, “There are some times when the phone goes out and you’ve got to signal something in. We had a few timeouts early in games when the phones went out and the clock was running down.”
Harbaugh knows that other teams study what the Ravens say each week, and also acknowledged the Ravens pay attention to the talk of other teams as well. He knows it benefits the Ravens to say as little as possible, and is expected to make the necessary changes for next year.
POTENTIAL OPTIONS AT WIDE RECEIVER IN DRAFT
One of the areas expected to be addressed early in the draft this year by the Ravens is wide receiver. The draft is full of capable receivers this year according to CSNBaltimore.com’s Clifton Brown, who wrote, “The wide receiver position is deep in this year’s draft, and that is good news for the Ravens.”
While it seems unlikely that Sammy Watkins of Clemson will make it out of the top 10-15 picks, other realistic options include Mike Evans of Texas A&M, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, and Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt.
Evans has been linked to the Ravens in recent mock drafts, and some scouts believe he has an opportunity to have the best career of any receiver in the draft. Evans is 6-5 and weighs 225 pounds, which allows him to generate separation on almost every play, while regularly making tough catches in traffic.
Benjamin has the body of a tight end, as he is listed at 6-5 and 235 pounds. His wingspan is what makes him special, and he displayed good speed and short-area quickness, something the Ravens would appreciate in the red zone, where they struggled mightily in 2013.
Matthews is a cousin of the all-time great receiver Jerry Rice, and is regarded as a better football player than an athlete due to his average acceleration speed but still impressive 19.0 yards-per-reception average. He is big, at 6-3 and 205 pounds and had an impressive amount of one-handed catches last season. Matthews plays with a physicality the Ravens would appreciate.
BRINGING SIZZLE TO THE TABLE
When the Ravens sent owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh to talk to the press last week at the annual “State of The Ravens” press conference, one topic discussed was the future of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs had a very strong start to the season in 2013, picking up nine sacks in the first eight games, but had only two in the final eight. His salary-cap number in 2014 will be $12.4 million, and 2014 is also the last year Suggs will be under contract. If the Ravens believe that Suggs is not worth the money, they will not hesitate to move him, according to Newsome.
Suggs is reportedly looking to extend his contract anyway, according to ProFootballTalk.com, and Newsome also noted that he has been in frequent contact with Suggs, which suggests the parties are already working towards an extension.
Suggs has watched the Ravens make tough decisions in recent years, as franchise players like Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin both left after last season. Suggs has said in the past that he never wants to leave Baltimore, so hopefully the two sides can agree to an extension soon.