In 2016 Dennis Pitta made a triumphant comeback to the NFL after what were almost two full lost seasons thanks to devastating hip injuries.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Ravens believed themselves to be incredibly deep at the tight end position, and rightfully so. The group contained veteran Benjamin Watson fresh off of a career year, the promising trio of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle, as well as Darren Waller.
At the juncture of late July/early August, Pitta was essentially an afterthought amongst this group due to the severe nature is his injuries. Go figure, he turned out to be the only impact player of that whole group throughout the past season, but if a recent report from NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo is to be believed, that impact may not count for much.
One to watch: Ravens may balk at $5.5m due for TE Dennis Pitta in '17, sources say. After a career-high 86 recs, could be a free agent.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 23, 2017
While I won't necessarily argue with some of the logic behind this decision, I'll put it simply by saying that this would just be a flat out foolish move.
For varying reasons, just about every tight end on the Ravens aside from Pitta had their fair share of issues staying on the field. But the guy who has fractured and dislocated his hip multiple times? He played in sixteen games, netting multiple catches in every single one en route to 86 total catches for 729 yards and a pair of scores.
While I staunchly believe Pitta should remain in purple and black next season, I don’t totally disagree with the reasons that Garafolo is reporting that the Ravens may be ready to move on. $5.5 million dollars is a lot of cap space to give up to a 31-year-old tight end who has had some serious injury issues in the past. However, there are factors in play that ought to keep him in the picture in Baltimore for at least another season.
The main (and most important one) is the connection that Pitta has with Joe Flacco, and the fact that something like that is hard to replicate. With Steve Smith Sr. riding off into the sunset, Flacco already lost his favorite target outside of the numbers from the past three years. If the Ravens do indeed move on from Pitta, he will lose his favorite target in between the numbers going all the way back to 2012.
We have seen what happens when the Ravens front office ignores the importance of the pass catcher position, and the results haven't been pretty. All they have to do is look back to 2013 when they shipped Anquan Boldin off to San Francisco, which coincidentally is right when Pitta’s injury issues began.
The results were disastrous, and could repeat themselves if the Ravens lose two of their top targets in the passing game from 2016. Since one of them already retired, they'd be wise to hang onto the other one.