Falcons To Exercise TE Kyle Pitts’ Fifth-Year Option

While Kyle Pitts has not delivered the consistency the Falcons hoped for when they selected him fourth overall, the team has the young tight end talent now paired with a high-priced free agent quarterback (and a No. 8 overall pick at the position). They are extending Pitts’ contract through 2025 as well.

The team is picking up Pitts’ fifth-year option, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates. This will lock in the 2021 draftee to a $10.88MM salary in 2025; that number is fully guaranteed. As Pitts prepares to develop with Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr.¬†throwing him passes, the Falcons are fine locking him down for a fifth season.

Pitts’ season with Matt Ryan targeting him produced a 1,026-yard showing and ended with the Florida alum receiving an original-ballot Pro Bowl invite; that qualifies the 23-year-old weapon for the second tier on the option hierarchy. This will give Pitts a nice 2025 guarantee. The 6-foot-6 tight end remains attached to a $1.1MM base salary this season, but the option will barely increase his cap number from 2024-25. Pitts checks in at $10.47MM on Atlanta’s 2024 cap sheet.

The last time Pitts paired with a proven passer, he became just the second tight end in NFL history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie. This had not happened since the Bears unleashed Mike Ditka (1,076 yards) in 1961. It is certainly within reason, despite less impressive statistical showings over the next two years, to believe Pitts remains capable of top-flight production. Even saddled with Desmond Ridder for most of last season, Pitts caught 53 passes for 667 yards.

Terry Fontenot‘s first draft choice has not proven a strong red zone threat yet, totaling just one touchdown during his impact rookie season and six over the course of his career. The Falcons teamed Pitts with ex-Arthur Smith pupil Jonnu Smith last season; each tight end scored three touchdowns. The Falcons cut Smith this offseason. As the Falcons transition to Zac Robinson‘s Sean McVay-derived offense, Pitts will be expected to play a lead role. The Cousins acquisition, while now hotly debated thanks to the Penix pick, still presents a great opportunity for Pitts and Drake London.

Pitts is also more than a year removed from the grade 2 MCL tear he suffered midway through the 2022 season. This injury affected Pitts last season as well, as it was confirmed the top Falcons tight end was not yet fully recovered. Nearly 18 months after that injury, it should be expected Pitts will be ready to go once Cousins is cleared.

Even after Sam LaPorta‘s 889-yard showing last year, no 21st-century rookie tight end has come within 100 yards of Pitts’ 2021 performance. It makes sense for the Falcons to keep betting on Pitts’ upside, as the TE option numbers are not particularly costly. It will be interesting to see how Pitts fares alongside Cousins, as the Falcons will be monitoring — as Pitts is now extension-eligible — as they plan for a future in which Penix takes over for Cousins at some point. The team will be hoping Penix-Pitts becomes a connection down the line.

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