The Ravens aren't mathematically out of the hunt for their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, but they didn't do themselves any favors by losing to the Chicago Bears in overtime on Sunday.
The loss was the Ravens' fourth in the past five games, bringing their record to a disappointing 4-6 this season.
Given the struggles along the offense, one thing is for certain — the Ravens miss tight end Dennis Pitta.
Fracturing and dislocating his hip during the first week of the preseason, Pitta was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. Unable to play prior to Week 6, Pitta may return to the 53-man roster when cleared by the team's medical staff.
Earlier this month, head coach John Harbaugh said that Pitta was "closer than ever" to returning to the practice field, but the question has to be asked if Pitta should return at all this season.
Playing under a restricted free-agent tender, guaranteeing his $2.023 million salary, Pitta will be a free agent following the end of this season. Given his accomplishments prior to his injury, Pitta will receive a substantial amount of money before he takes the field next season. His value may have slightly decreased due to the significance of his injury, but someone will end up paying him, and it's assumed that Pitta wouldn't want to play elsewhere, given his relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Ravens know what they're getting from Pitta, and they also know their playoff hopes are fading. Sure, Pitta would instantly upgrade the offense, but is the risk of him further injuring himself for a long period of time worth more than the reward of having him on the field?
If the Ravens continue to struggle, the franchise may also tip their hands as to their future intentions with Pitta. If the playoffs are unfortunately out of reach and the team keeps Pitta of the 53-man roster, it's likely that they're going to put their best foot forward to re-sign him. If Pitta is playing in what may be determined as a meaningless games, perhaps Pitta's big payday could be too rich for the Ravens taste, especially given that nearly one-third of the their salary cap allowance will be consumed five players.
The Ravens could find themselves in a similar position as the Saints will be with Jimmy Graham, trying to pay a player as a tight end, even thought they're primarily used as a wide receiver. Whatever the case may be, the first priority is winning games and hoping that Pitta continues to recover at an expedited pace.
No matter what, it's evident the Ravens keep Pitta for seasons to come. Sometimes, the best move is not making a move at all — that'll depend on how they perform over their next three games in Charm City.
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