The clock is ticking.
In 15 days NFL free agency will begin. In 12 days teams can begin negotiating with free agents. Regarding the franchise tag, the Ravens have only one week to use it if they wish to do so at all this year.
Last week we took a look at which wide receivers could fit Baltimore’s budget and scheme. Could any current Ravens fill that role?
Tight ends Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark as well as wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss are all unrestricted free agents and have all been used in third down situations.
Dickson, Clark, Jones and Doss combined for 112 receptions last year (including 17 of 20 yards or more) and six touchdowns. In 2012, Pitta made 61 receptions (including 8 of 20 yards or more) and seven touchdowns.
When he last played a full season (2012), Pitta had more receptions, yards and touchdowns than any of those other four players. That shows you how valuable he is to this offense. In my opinion, he’s the most important free agent the Ravens are pursuing.
How much do they need to pay him to keep him? What if he gets the franchise tag?
There has been talk about Pitta receiving the wide receiver franchise tag, due to the fact that he often lines up as one.
Folks, don’t buy into that. It’s going to be hard enough for Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (the best in football) to gain that distinction, much less Pitta. But the question of how much it’s going to take to keep Pitta in Baltimore is a fair one.
Last year Pitta made $2.023 million as a Raven. If he stays in Baltimore, expect that yearly cap figure to triple. He’s too good and too young to be offered less.
The average cap number among the five highest-paid tight ends from last year was $4.939 million. The Ravens should be able to afford that, especially considering the salary cap is expected to increase from $123 million to between $130-132 million by March 11.
As a reference to his importance to Baltimore’s success, look at how similar Pitta’s stats are to those of Anquan Boldin.
During the Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl XLVII title, Boldin came up huge. He made 22 receptions for 380 yards (17.3 average) and four touchdowns. Pitta made 14 receptions for 163 yards (11.6 average) and three touchdowns in that same postseason.
With Boldin gone and Ray Rice’s future uncertain, Pitta will have the opportunity to put up even better numbers as he figures to be, at worst, the second option on pass plays.
The Ravens have their third down/red zone threat already on the roster. His name is Dennis Pitta. He also happens to have a great relationship with Joe Flacco, which is significant.
If you’re telling me that kind of player isn’t worth $6 million a year, in a year when the salary cap could increase as much as 6.8 percent, I don’t believe you.
Speed is found in the likes of Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson. Re-signing Pitta completes Baltimore’s passing game.
In my opinion, he’s the most important player the Ravens can sign in free agency this year.