The offseason will be interesting for free agent tight end Dennis Pitta. The Ravens want him to return, but can only keep him by signing him to a new contract, or designating him with the franchise tag.
If the Ravens use the tag on Pitta by the March 3 deadline, that will give them until a July 15 deadline to negotiate a long-term deal. The one-year franchise tag for tight ends is $6.7 million. However, because Pitta often lines up as a wide receiver, it is possible that a special master could classify Pitta as a wide receiver for franchise tag purposes. The franchise tag number for wide receivers last season was $10.5 million, so if Pitta fell into that category, his tag number would be far more expensive for the Ravens.
That is another reason the Ravens are motivated to sign Pitta to a long-term deal, after his successful recovery from hip surgery. One way or another, the Ravens’ intentions are to keep Pitta, a favorite target and close friend of quarterback Joe Flacco.
“He still has the skills and the skill set to be a very productive receiver in this league,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “Going forward, we would like to have Dennis on our football team.”
Here are some other prominent NFL players that could join Pitta being tagged:
Vontae Davis, Colts cornerback – As a premier cover corner who will be just 26 years old next season, Davis is going to get paid. But which team will pay Davis, and for how much? If he hits the open market, he will command more than the $11.25 franchise number for cornerbacks. The Colts may franchise him, and try to sign him to a long-term deal by July 15.
Jimmy Graham, Saints tight end – The Saints are not going to let Graham walk. He led the NFL with 16 touchdown catches. If the Saints tag Graham, just like Pitta, he could be designated as a wide receiver instead of a tight end.
Greg Hardy, Panthers defense end – A key part of a Panthers defense that propelled them to a playoff season. They don’t want to lose him, which means they will tag him.
T. J. Ward, Browns safety – One of the best at his position, Ward is someone the Browns want to keep. If the two sides cannot hammer out an extension, he will likely be tagged.