As the Ravens have agreed to terms with Dennis Pitta on a 5-year, 32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed (reported by Aaron Wilson from the Baltimore Sun), the initial figures certainly jump off the page. After all, Pitta’s career let alone his long-term salary was in jeopardy roughly eight months ago after he suffered a fractured, dislocated right hip.
The credit goes to Pitta for not only making a remarkable recovery but gutting out the final four games of the season. Though he wasn’t at 100%, the tough-as-nails TE threw his body around in icy conditions against the Vikings. Who can forget the third-down, diving catch he made to keep one of the final drives alive in the fourth quarter? Pitta took over that drive and capped it off with TD to give the Ravens the lead.
It’s clear that the Ravens didn’t forget those moments when they hammered out his new contract at the negotiating table. They may have even overvalued him from a guaranteed salary standpoint. But there is more than meets the eye when you really analyze what this contract represents.
This is a great example of an organization sticking with a player through major adversity and ultimately rewarding him for his hard work. It’s also a great example of looking beyond statistics to measure a player’s worth.
To date, Pitta has not put up top five TE numbers. The closest he came was in 2012, when he was on a torrid streak that carried the Ravens through their Super Bowl run. It was during that stretch that you realized that he is a difference-maker.
Pitta is not a physical freak like Jimmy Graham. He’s also not an oversized, runaway train like Rob Gronkowski. When you look at some of the other TEs like Vernon Davis, Julius Thomas, and Jordan Reed, they are all more athletic. There are also better blockers out there like Health Miller and Kyle Rudolph.
But Pitta is clutch. And he’s fearless. His hands are sure and he has a knack for finding the soft spots within coverage schemes. As a redzone target, the Ravens certainly missed his presence for much of the 2013 season. As a dependable safety valve on third downs, Joe Flacco missed him too.
There is something to be said for measuring a football player based on the important plays he makes. Whenever the Ravens have needed to make a play, Pitta has been the guy they’ve turned to in many instances.
Now he has a chance to get back to the place he was supposed to be at heading into last season. Remember that time? When Pitta was projected to break out and supplant Anquan Boldin as the team’s go-to possession receiver?
If Pitta is completely healthy (and he looked like he was getting there at the end of the year), there is no reason to think he won’t flourish in Gary Kubiak’s offense. This offense has made tight ends into Pro Bowlers.
Ultimately, though, it’s not all about the stats. It’s about making an impact when the game is on the line.
Pitta will have that chance in Baltimore for years to come.