The Baltimore Ravens are currently facing a complicated situation at the tight end position for the 2013 offseason. All three of the Ravens tight ends, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, and Dallas Clark, are slated for free agency.
The tight end position is becoming pivotal in this new era of offenses in the NFL. Tight ends give the offense more flexibility between the run and the pass, but as of late have become focused on the pass. Tight ends, which are becoming bigger and faster, are now matchup nightmares for defenses, as linebackers are often too slow to cover them and defensive backs cannot match their physicality.
The Ravens current situation:
Dennis Pitta, one of Joe Flacco’s good friends, was supposed to become a focal point of the Ravens offense this season after Anquan Boldin was traded away. After finishing 2012 with 669 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, Pitta suffered a dislocated and fractured hip during training camp. He made a remarkable recovery, however, and played the final four games of the season, finishing with 20 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Even though his stats are not flashy, they represent the chemistry he has with Joe Flacco. Some have suggested franchising him to ensure the Ravens do not lose him, but that would start a debate of whether he is a tight end or a wide receiver. Additionally, Pitta will be 29 before the start of next season, which is very old for a player coming off of his rookie contract. Make no mistake- Pitta will be a focal point of GM Ozzie Newsome’s interest this offseason.
The curious case of Ed Dickson… After notching 54 receptions for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2011, Dickson has not come close to those numbers since. He lost his starting spot to Pitta in 2012 and could not step up without Pitta in 2013. Whether or not Dickson resigns with Baltimore will likely depend on how much money he wants and who is willing to pay him.
The Ravens are not in a position to offer him a lucrative contract (nor would they want to). On a positive note, Dickson has improved at blocking with every year he has been in the league.
Dallas Clark is likely done in the NFL after a very long and successful career. A true pro, Clark was signed to fill in for Pitta after Pitta’s injury and finished the season with 31 receptions for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns, outperforming Ed Dickson. Rumors are already swirling about his potential retirement.
Free Agents of Interest:
*Note- if you're looking a list of high profile free agents such as Jimmy Graham, stop reading. The Ravens do not target those types of free agents, so this list is comprised of mid-to-low-tier players who fit the Ravens' need and price range.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
Scott Chandler’s greatest attribute is his natural size at 6’7" and 260 lbs that makes him a natural red zone target (he has caught 14 touchdowns in the last three seasons). The Ravens offense struggled greatly in the red zone this season, and Chandler could give Flacco another big target to pair with Marlon Brown. Due to his size, Chandler is also an effective blocker.
Brandon Myers, New York Giants
Myers is much more of a receiver than a blocker, as he caught 105 passes for 806 yards and 4 TDs the year before last with Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders. He struggled last year with the Giants, along with the rest of the team, but still managed 73 receptions, 522 yards, and 4 TDs. Many believe he is more effective as a number two tight end, potentially forming a nice duo with Dennis Pitta.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
Another low-risk-high-reward type guy, Fred Davis was franchise tagged not too long ago because he was that valuable to the Redskins. Throw in a couple injuries and being forgotten in RG3-land, and Davis is no longer a hot commodity. Only 28 years old, Davis is still young and still has plenty of talent.