MARCH 4: Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link) and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (all Twitter links) have provided the financial details on Pitta’s deal. The deal includes $16MM in guaranteed money — an $11MM signing bonus, plus guaranteed base salaries of $1MM and $4MM in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The deal will be worth $3.2MM on the cap in 2014, followed by year-by-year hits of $6.2MM, $7.2MM, $7.7MM, and $7.7MM.
FEBRUARY 28: The Ravens have reached an agreement with prospective free agent Dennis Pitta on a five-year contract, the team officially announced today. The deal is said to be worth $32MM, for an average annual value of $6.4MM. The new contract will keep Pitta off the open market, and save the club from having to use its franchise tag on him.
Pitta, 28, underwent hip surgery in 2013 that forced him out of action for nearly the entire season. The veteran tight end returned in Week 14 and caught 20 balls for 169 yards and a touchdown in his last four games. While it wasn’t the performance he wanted in his contract year, Pitta exhibited his value to the Ravens in 2012, setting career-highs in receptions (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (7). He also scored three times during Baltimore’s playoff run, including a TD catch in the team’s Super Bowl win.
After accepting his restricted free agent tender for $2.023MM last offseason, Pitta was a candidate for the franchise tag this time around. However, designating the BYU product as their franchise player could’ve been problematic for the Ravens, since Pitta, like fellow free-agent-to-be Jimmy Graham, probably would’ve filed a grievance in an attempt to earn a higher pay check. Since he split out as a receiver for more than half his snaps in 2013, Pitta would have had a case to earn the franchise salary for a receiver ($11MM+) rather than for a tight end (less than $7MM). Instead, the two sides reached a compromise, agreeing to a long-term contract with a per-year salary in the ballpark of the tight end’s franchise figure.
Since the Saints are unlikely to let Graham get away, this agreement means there likely won’t be any top-tier free agent tight ends available when free agency begins in March. Jermichael Finley, Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers, and Brandon Pettigrew are among the top options expected to draw interest from clubs in need of a tight end, assuming they hit the open market.
As for the Ravens, they cleared nearly $5MM in 2014 cap space yesterday by parting ways with fullback Vonta Leach and linebacker Jameel McClain, creating additional flexibility and opening the door to re-sign Pitta. With an agreement in place for their tight end, the Ravens can shift their focus to locking up another key free agent, left tackle Eugene Monroe.
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter) first reported that Pitta and the Ravens had reached a five-year agreement, and was also first to report the overall value of the contract. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link) and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) added details along the way.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.