Kyle Pitts

Latest On Falcons’ Planned Roles For TE Kyle Pitts, RB Bijan Robinson

Kirk Cousins will be one of the key figures to watch at the start of the 2024 season as the Falcons’ new quarterback. Plenty of the team’s offensive success will of course depend on the play of tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Bijan Robinson, though.

[RELATED: Falcons Pick Up Pitts’ Fifth-Year Option]

Both former top-10 picks faced massive expectations upon entering the NFL. Pitts had a strong rookie showing, but that was followed up by underwhelming campaigns in 2022 and ’23. The 23-year-old was known far more for his pass-catching abilities than his run blocking coming out of college, and to little surprise new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson is interested in keeping that element of his skillset a key component of his usage.

“He has so much flexibility with what he can do even as an in-line blocker, then he’s split out wide,” Robinson said when speaking about the hybrid role Pitts is taking on this spring (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “There is just a lot of versatility…. He’s learning basically two different positions. There is some tight end, and there is some receiver. He’s got a lot on his plate, and he’s handling it really well.”

The Florida alum’s usage in the slot increased year over year with the Falcons during Arthur Smith‘s tenure as head coach. Pitts earned a Pro Bowl nod for his output in 2021 (68 catches, 1,026 yards), but injuries limited him to 10 games the following year. In 2023, he rebounded to a degree with 667 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, but the arrival of Cousins under center could unlock further production. It is interesting, though, that traditional tight end usage will still be an element of his deployment in a new scheme.

Atlanta had a 1,000-yard rusher (Tyler Allgeier) in the fold last offseason before selecting Robinson eighth overall. That move marked the third straight year in which the team used its top selection on a skill-position player (having added wideout Drake London in 2022). Robinson’s usage – 12.6 carries per game – was lower than many anticipated during his rookie campaign, but he expects that to change moving forward.

“Yeah, so I’m going to be more of a runner that does everything else,” the Texas product said (video link via the Journal-Constitution). “Like not as much… but it’s like runner first, like I did in college, and then still having that access to go to receivers, having that access to do creative things out of the backfield, more so like how they use Christian [McCaffrey] down there in San Francisco…. So that’s kind of what their plan is here.”

Robinson received 86 targets last season, playing a notable passing role (albeit in an offense which fared poorly at the quarterback spot). His 58 receptions ranked second on the team, and despite adding Darnell Mooney to the receiving corps Robinson should still be expected to produce out of the backfield in 2024. More of a dual-threat usage would certainly add to the likelihood of that happening.

Atlanta ranked 26th in scoring last season, and improvement in that respect would go a long way toward a postseason berth in 2024. The manner in which both Pitts and Robinson are used will be a key element in those efforts as well as an interesting storyline to follow for the team as a new scheme is implemented.

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’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.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag
  • Players who achieve any of the following will receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

Kyle Pitts Not 100% After Knee Surgery

The Falcons have reassembled their skill-position corps from the Matt Ryan era. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus are gone, having departed during the Terry FontenotArthur Smith partnership. But Kyle Pitts represents a link to that period. And the Ryan exit has provided a line of demarcation for the former top prospect’s career.

With Ryan at the controls in 2021, Pitts approached Mike Ditka‘s rookie tight end receiving record by totaling 1,026 yards in 17 games. Only Jeremy Shockey (2002) has come within 300 yards of Pitts’ total as a rookie. In the 14 games since, Pitts has accumulated 477 yards on just 39 receptions. The move from Ryan to Marcus Mariota affected Atlanta’s passing attack, and Desmond Ridder now ranks 31st in QBR. But Pitts is also attempting to close the book on a significant injury rehab process.

A grade 2 MCL tear in Week 11 of last season shut down Pitts midway through a disappointing campaign, and while the former No. 4 overall pick was on the field to start this season, Smith confirmed his top tight end is not yet fully recovered.

Look at him, obviously he’s out there. Again, there are no perfect timetables,” Smith said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter. “But there are certain things, you see him and he’s doing really well right now and there are certain things that he can’t [do well]. It’s been a journey back. He’s going to get there.”

Pitts has cleared 45 receiving yards in a game just twice since the start of last season, but in addition to his pass-game inconsistency, his blocking ability has impacted his usage, Albert Breer of notes. Never exactly drafted to impact the game as a run blocker, Pitts does grade poorly in that department for a run-oriented team. Pro Football Focus ranks Pitts as the league’s fourth-worst run-blocking tight end this season.

Although Smith had not yet implemented his full offensive plan in 2021, that setup certainly benefited Pitts compared to the post-Ryan plan. The team brought in Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson in the two ensuing offseasons, leading to the increased run commitment. The Falcons’ 559 rushing attempts led the NFL last season. They are only 13th in rush attempts this year, however. But Pitts has failed to clear the 65% offensive snap barrier in two of Atlanta’s four games. Trade acquisition Jonnu Smith also posted a six-catch, 95-yard effort against the Jaguars. Pitts has not hit six receptions or 95 yards in a game since his rookie year.

This profiles as a pivotal Pitts season. The Falcons must decide on the Florida alum’s fifth-year option in May 2024. While this regime has plenty invested in Pitts, the highest-drafted tight end since the AFL-NFL merger, the soon-to-be 23-year-old pass catcher has skidded off track early. The talented receiver’s performance going forward this season will be rather important for his earning potential.

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts Expected To Be Healthy By Week 1

The start of the Desmond Ridder era on offense in Atlanta will include several questions about the quarterback’s ability to retain the full-time starting role. He is likely to have one of the team’s top skill-position players available to start the season, though.

Head coach Arthur Smith expects tight end Kyle Pitts to be fully healthy in time for Week 1, as detailed by Scott Bair of the team’s website. No definitive timeline is in place at the moment, but that confidence is of course positive news for the Falcons and their highly-touted seam-stretcher.

Pitts has been dealing with a hamstring issue, a separate ailment from the MCL tear he suffered in Week 11 of the 2022 campaign. The latter injury cost the 22-year-old the remainder of his second season in the NFL, and prevented the Year 2 jump many were expecting him to make in terms of production. Returning to full health in time for the fall could set Pitts up for a strong showing in 2023, however.

The Florida product entered the league with massive expectations as the No. 4 pick in his draft year. Pitts earned a Pro Bowl nod after recording 68 catches and 1,026 yards as a rookie, although he was only able to find the endzone once in 2021. His touchdown total doubled last season, but Pitts’ catch percentage (47.5%) and yards per reception average (12.7) both took signficant steps back compared to the previous year.

Atlanta made a number of moves to upgrade their defense during free agency, but they turned to the draft once again to add playmakers on offense. For the third consecutive year, the Falcons used their top selection on a skill-position player (Pitts in 2021, receiver Drake London in 2022 and running back Bijan Robinson this past April). That trio will be leaned on heavily as the team looks to return to the postseason, though trade acquisition Jonnu Smith will provide the Falcons with a veteran at the TE spot who can contribute in run blocking in particular.

Bair notes that the Ridder-led offense will likely involve more balance compared to the pass-happy scheme used with Matt Ryan under center and the very run-heavy approach employed with Marcus Mariota at the helm for most of last season. That should leave plenty of targets available for Pitts, whose participation in training camp starting later this month will be worth watching closely.

Falcons Rule Out TE Kyle Pitts For Rest Of Season

Kyle Pitts underwent knee surgery Tuesday, and the second-year tight end will not return this season. Falcons HC Arthur Smith ruled out the former No. 4 overall pick from coming back this year.

This is not an especially surprising outcome for Pitts, who suffered a torn MCL in Week 11. He will now have several months to concentrate on knee rehab; Smith said the team is not concerned about this issue lingering into 2023.

Wednesday’s news ends a fairly frustrating season for Pitts, who entered the year after becoming just the second rookie tight end (after Mike Ditka 61 years ago) to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. In Atlanta’s run-oriented offense this season, Pitts amassed 356 yards and two touchdowns on 28 receptions. Pitts, 22, remains a central part of Atlanta’s long-term plan; he is signed through the 2024 season and can be kept on his rookie contract through 2025 (via the fifth-year option).

The highest-drafted tight end since the AFL-NFL merger, Pitts finishes his 2022 season having eclipsed 45 receiving yards in just two games. The Falcons needed plenty from Pitts as a rookie, having traded Julio Jones and having seen Calvin Ridley leave the team midway through the season. The Florida product delivered in a Matt Ryan-centered offense. The Falcons trading Ryan and signing Marcus Mariota soon after turned out to have major ramifications for Pitts, who will aim to move back on track in 2023.

With the Falcons racking up dead money and expected to continue their rebuild, third-round rookie Desmond Ridder was expected to make at least a cameo this season. But the Falcons are unlikely to bench Mariota until they are out of playoff contention. Given the way this year’s NFC South race is unfolding, that may not happen for a while. No Falcon pass catcher has totaled more than 500 receiving yards through 11 games; top-10 pick Drake London has 41 catches for 438 yards.

Falcons Fear Torn MCL For TE Kyle Pitts

3:47pm: In a move which comes as little surprise given the severity of the injury, the Falcons have placed Pitts on IR, per a club announcement. He will miss at least he next four games as a result.

11:35am: The Falcons appear to be in line for an extended absence from one of their top young players. Following an MRI on Monday, tight end Kyle Pitts is believed to have suffered a torn MCL, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

Rapoport notes that the injury, if confirmed, will require surgery. Pitts will seek a second opinion on the matter before deciding on his next steps. In any case, this news marks a major blow to Atlanta’s passing game, one which was already lacking in accomplished pass-catchers. Pitts was in the midst of a down year in terms of production compared to his Pro Bowl rookie campaign, but he nevertheless ranks third on the team in receiving yards in 2022.

Last year’s No. 4 pick entered the league with massive expectations as the highest-drafted tight end of all-time. He delivered last season, with 68 catches and 1,026 yards. With only one touchdown, though, he had plenty of room to improve heading into Year 2. He has found the endzone just once this season, however, and eclipsed 80 receiving yards in a game only twice. A hamstring injury kept him sidelined for Week 5, his first missed game in the NFL.

This latest ailment will be far more detrimental to the Florida product and the Falcons’ offense, of course. Atlanta ranks 31st in the league with an average of 171 passing yards per game, owing in part to the effectiveness of their rushing attack and in part to a distinct of playmakers in the air. Rookie wideout Drake London leads the team with 409 receiving yards, and will likely be forced to take on a larger role in the passing game moving forward.

With a lengthy – if not season-ending – absence looming, the Falcons will likely turn to a committee approach to replace Pitts at tight end. MyCole Pruitt logged a season-high 31 offensive snaps yesterday with Pitts exiting the contest. Parker Hesse is also in line for an increased workload for the remainder of the campaign, though that pair has combined to make just nine catches so far in 2022. Sitting at 5-6, the Falcons are still in the race for the NFC South title, but their playoff hopes have taken a serious hit.

Falcons Rule Out Kyle Pitts For Week 5

The Falcons will be without two of their difference-making skill players in Week 5. After placing Cordarrelle Patterson on IR, Atlanta ruled out Kyle Pitts for its game against Tampa Bay.

Pitts is battling a hamstring injury that led to three practice absences this week. The Falcons will give their highly drafted tight end more time to heal up. This will be Pitts’ first missed game as a pro.

Patterson, Pitts and Drake London represent the Falcons’ top weapons, and although Pitts is not on pace to match his strong rookie season just yet, he is obviously a critical part of the franchise’s present and future. The absences of Pitts and Patterson will challenge Arthur Smith‘s offense against the Buccaneers.

The league’s highest-drafted tight end since the AFL-NFL merger (No. 4 overall), Pitts has 10 receptions for 150 yards through four games. Last year, the former Florida dynamo delivered one of the best rookie seasons in the position’s history — a 68-catch, 1,026-yard offering — to secure a Pro Bowl nod and establish himself as Atlanta’s passing-game centerpiece for the foreseeable future.

This will make for an adjustment for the Falcons, who have won two straight. Traditional running backs will replace Patterson, with rookie Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley in place as Atlanta’s top runners. Free agency addition Damien Williams joins Patterson on IR. The Falcons have former UDFA Parker Hesse in place as their No. 2 tight end. Despite his undrafted status, Hesse played 87% of the Falcons’ offensive snaps in Week 4. The Iowa product has three receptions for 32 yards this season.

Falcons Sign First-Round TE Kyle Pitts

The Falcons now have their highest first-round pick since Matt Ryan under contract. Kyle Pitts signed his four-year rookie deal, complete with a fifth-year option, on Tuesday, Scott Bair of tweets.

Pitts’ fully guaranteed deal is worth $32.9MM, with a near-$21MM signing bonus included, Mike Garafolo of tweets. That $32.9MM guaranteed at signing leads all tight ends, surpassing Jonnu Smith‘s recent Patriots contract. Pitts’ fully guaranteed amount also exceeds All-Pro Travis Kelce‘s by more than $10MM. While the 2011 CBA did away with monster rookie contracts, Pitts’ deal dwarfing accomplished tight ends’ guarantees serves as an exception on this front.

Atlanta chose Pitts fourth overall, making the 6-foot-6 prospect the highest-drafted tight end in the common draft era. Pitts will be expected to make an impact immediately. Although tight ends often take time to develop as pros, the Falcons’ Julio Jones trade stands to put Pitts in a prime position to contribute in Arthur Smith‘s offense in his first season.

Pitts rocketed onto the NFL radar over the past two seasons. In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 slate, the Florida pass catcher posted 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games. Pitts, who will not turn 21 until October, caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five TDs as a sophomore in 2019.

Atlanta was linked to quarterbacks at No. 4 overall for a stretch, but the team opted to extend the Ryan era and give him a potentially elite weapon. Pitts will be a vital part of Smith and GM Terry Fontenot‘s rebuild effort.

Ten First-Round Picks Remain Unsigned

This year, NFL teams have been quick to tackle their rookie paperwork. Still, there are a decent number of unsigned draft picks remaining, including ten of this year’s first-rounders: 

In a sense, this is a sign that things are back to normal in football following the pandemic. For example, by June 12th of 2019, 22 first-round picks had put pen to paper, with 222 rookies inked on the whole. However, around this time last year, there were just two first-round picks officially in the fold – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown.

Offset language and similar minutia could be holding these ten deals up, but there’s no reason to panic. In all likelihood, these rookie contracts will be squared away before the start of training camp this summer.