I could not be more excited to remain a Baltimore Raven. ... To be given the opportunity to continue my career here is incredible. This organization drafted me and has always stood by me — especially during my difficult recovery last season — and for that, I am extremely grateful. —Dennis Pitta
Dennis Pitta's foreseeable NFL future is set.
The Baltimore Ravens announced Friday they have agreed to a five-year contract with the former BYU tight end, who's spent all four of his NFL seasons with Baltimore.
“I could not be more excited to remain a Baltimore Raven,” Pitta said in a team statement. “There is no better organization or fan base in sports. To be given the opportunity to continue my career here is incredible. This organization drafted me and has always stood by me — especially during my difficult recovery last season — and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, sources said the deal is worth $32 million.
It was expected that Baltimore would use the team's franchise tag on Pitta if a deal wasn't reached, as Pitta was set to become a free agent on March 11. The deadline to use a franchise tag is Monday, but now that won't be necessary.
Pitta, a fourth-round draft pick by Baltimore in 2010, will remain a Raven through 2018 and continue to team up with good friend and quarterback Joe Flacco.
"The two have a chemistry that was sorely missed in the Ravens offense for much of last year," the team statement said.
Pitta's top season came in 2012, when he had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns on the Ravens team that beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
It was expected that Pitta — heading into a contract year and with leading wide receiver Anquan Boldin being traded to San Francisco — would receive an even greater role in the Baltimore offense last season.
But a hip injury in training camp sidelined those plans. Though it was feared he may miss the entire season with a fractured hip, Pitta returned for the Ravens' final four games of 2013 and had 20 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown.
“It was obvious when Dennis was out last year that we really missed him,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said in the statement. “We all admire how he fought back from the hip injury and helped us down the stretch. Having Dennis as a part of the Ravens now and in the future is exciting news for us.
“Dennis has a large catch radius and can snatch the ball in traffic. Not only is he a reliable player, but he is an outstanding person as well. Having a weapon like Dennis makes everyone on our offense better.”
Pitta's absence last year magnified his impact on the Ravens offense. According to ESPN, Baltimore ranked 31st in the league in the red zone and 20th on third down with Pitta out for most of the year.
“Dennis creates a number of mismatch problems for defenses. He makes it tough on them, and because of that, he really helps out our wide receivers,” team general manager Ozzie Newsome said in the statement. “Opponents have to always pay attention to where he lines up and where his routes take him.”
Now, Pitta will have the chance to expand his role under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who most recently was the head coach of the Houston Texans. Kubiak is known for employing the tight ends extensively in his offensive attack. Owen Daniels was a two-time Pro Bowler under Kubiak in Houston, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe had his best seasons with Kubiak in Denver. From 1995-98 with Kubiak as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, Sharpe twice had 1,000 receiving seasons and caught 27 touchdown passes during that stretch. Sharpe caught 63 or more passes every one of those four years.
“I remember studying Dennis, and I’m very impressed with him as a player,” Kubiak said about Pitta after taking the Ravens offensive coordinator position. “I know he went through a tough year this year with getting injured, but that position has always been a big part of our offense. I’m sure it won’t be any different.”
According to the Sun, a news conference is scheduled for Monday to discuss the deal.
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