Ravens Player Profile: TE Dennis PittaPosted on July 16, 2014 by Will Grabill
Height: 6' 4"
Position: Tight End
College: Brigham Young
It has been almost exactly one year since Dennis Pitta had surgery to repair his fractured right hip he suffered during training camp. He missed all but the last 4 games of the season, and his absence was a key factor in Joe Flacco only averaging 6.3 Yards Per Completion, 2nd worst in the league.
To solve some of the offensive woes last season the Ravens brought in former head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has won 3 Super Bowl titles as a coach, 2 with the Broncos and 1 with the 49ers. During his 11 seasons in which he was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos the team totaled 66,501 yards and 465 touchdowns. This averages out to 42 touchdowns per season for the offense. By comparison, the Ravens only scored 26 offensive touchdowns last season.
Kubiak's system is heavily reliant on tight end involvement in the passing game. During his 8 year head coaching tenure with the Texans the team's top tight end, Owen Daniels, averaged 48 catches and 577 yards per season. During his breakout 2012 campaign Dennis Pitta sailed over both these figures, showcasing how much of a weapon he could be even in an offense that did not work the middle of the field. In a tight end friendly system Pitta should return to form working the middle of the field and being the primary red zone target, another area the Ravens struggled with last year. In 2012, with a healthy Pitta, the Ravens scored touchdowns on 60% of their red zone attempts, compared to just 46% in 2013 with a sidelined Pitta.
Even though he only played 4 games and logged just 163 snaps last season, Pitta's performance during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns warranted a 5 year $32 million dollar contract. This included $16 million in guaranteed money, tied for most by a tight end (Jared Cook). He now holds the 8th highest contract of any tight end in the league, and is one of only 11 players at tight end to have a contract of five or more years.
His average salary in the deal is $6.4 million, a fair number given his production and importance to the offense. Other tight ends with similar salaries are Jared Cook, Marcedes Lewis, Zach Miller, and Martellus Bennett. He has very similar statistics to these players, making his contract a good value for both sides. Joe Flacco clearly missed Dennis Pitta's presence over the middle of the field last season, especially on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Flacco targeted Pitta on 26.4% of the routes he ran in 2012 and 2013, 3rd among tight ends. Their performance is often a direct indication of the Ravens success. In 2012 the Ravens were 7-2 in games where Pitta caught a touchdown pass. In his career when catching a touchdown pass the Ravens are 11-3.
Pitta has been working out all over the field this offseason to maximize his effectiveness. He has lined up split out as an extra wide receiver, in the backfield, and as a traditional in-line tight end. Gary Kubiak routinely utilizes 2 and even 3 tight end sets, so Pitta should have a chance to have an impact on almost every play.
Another key factor in his effectiveness and utilization will be the packages and players he lines up with. The Ravens now have a multitude of receiving weapons including Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, and Owen Daniels. How creative Gary Kubiak can get with these players could go a long way towards solving the woes of the Ravens offense.
Dennis Pitta now has a healed hip, a new offense, and 32 million reasons to strive to become one of the best tight ends in the game and to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore.