Dennis Pitta has been re-signed by the Baltimore Ravens to a five-year contract reportedly worth $32 million. It’s a crucial signing for a Ravens offense that’s also set to deal with impending free agent Jacoby Jones, and now at $6.4 million annually Pitta enters the always coveted top 10 financial bracket at his position.
But it’s a really, really, vitally important deal for someone who isn’t Dennis Pitta: Joe Flacco.
Flacco is quite fond of Pitta. I can’t confirm what they do or don’t do away from the field, though I’m sure it involves regular visits to Dave and Busters, and gleeful yelling while playing Skee Ball.
That’s likely accurate based of their tight connection on the field. Consider: Pitta appeared in only four regular-season games in 2013 because of a hip injury, yet Flacco still targeted him 33 times (including two games with 11 targets). If we extrapolate that pace over a quarter of the season to the entire year, Pitta would have been targeted 132 times, which falls only slightly below the total looks given to Jimmy Graham (142).
Sure, that’s certainly a projection based on a small sample size and it’s therefore a flawed one, but there’s precedent for the Pitta-Flacco bro love. In 2012 during their Super Bowl season Pitta was targeted 94 times, a still hefty workload for a tight end not named Graham, and it topped out at 15 throws his way in Week 2 of that year. Then during the Super Bowl run Pitta caught a touchdown pass in three of the four games. In fact, over the 24 games he’s appeared in over the past two years including the playoffs, Pitta has caught 11 touchdowns, a pace of one every 8.6 receptions. Pretty efficient for a guy who was a third option behind Torrey Smith and the since departed Anquan Boldin during much of that run.
With the Flacco-Pitta friendship now solidified, the Ravens can turn their attention to left tackle Eugene Monroe, who may be franchise tagged before Monday’s deadline. Meanwhile, if we make the no doubter assumption that Graham will remain in New Orleans either through an extension or a vicious tag fight, the rest of the tight end free agency market is predictably barren. It’s arguably led by Jermichael Finley, who’s the absolute riskiest risk/reward option due to his spinal surgery, and the discount it brings. In whatever order you’d like, he’s followed by Garrett Graham, Brandon Myers, Dustin Keller, Brandon Pettigrew, and Scott Chandler.
Oh, and about Graham (Jimmy, not Garrett): his heart grew three times its normal size today. Pitta is worth $6.4 million annually, and his single-season yardage high came in 2012 with 669. Over four seasons Graham has already logged two +1,200 yard years while scoring 41 times, and this past year he led all pass catchers with 16 touchdowns.