Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta made a compelling argument Wednesday on why the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham shouldn't be penalized for being given the franchise tag for a tight end rather than a wide receiver.
"He gets labeled as a tight end, and for whatever reason, that somehow decreases his value," Pitta said after signing his five-year, $32 million contract. "I don’t understand that part of it. I think he’s been a top producer in this league, certainly on his team, [and] led his team in catches, yards, touchdowns. Why all of a sudden, because he’s labeled as a tight end, does that devalue his stock?"
Even though you would expect a tight end to support one of his peers, it's strange that Pitta spoke out so strongly about this. Pitta's new contract averages $6.4 million per season, which is in line with the franchise tag for a tight end ($7 million) and not a wide receiver ($12.3 million). The deal he signed suggests Pitta agrees with the current value of tight ends.
Pitta ended up with $16 million guaranteed, which is a good chunk of money for a tight end, but it's only $4 million more than what he would've earned in one season if he successfully won a grievance to be tagged as a receiver. Perhaps this is a case where Pitta believes tight ends should get paid more like receivers but he wasn't confident others would feel the same way.
"More power to [Graham], I think it’s something that he should challenge because it's not right that he can catch more touchdowns and more yards than maybe someone who is classified as a wide receiver, yet because he has that tight end label, now all of a sudden his value is cut in half," Pitta said.
Here are some other takeaways from Pitta's news conference:
Pitta feels fortunate to sign this type of a deal only seven months after having emergency surgery on his hip. "There were a few weeks after my surgery when I didn't know if I would play football again, which is a tough pill to swallow," Pitta said. "To be able to sit here now, to have an opportunity to be on the field and be with this team for a few more years to come, it's a blessing."
There will be no Joe Flacco-like celebration for Pitta after signing his deal. “I probably won't go to McDonald's after this," said Pitta, alluding to the fact that Flacco stopped for some McNuggets after reaching his $120.6 million deal a year ago before adding, "No, I didn't get Joe Flacco money, so he will still be paying for dinners."
Pitta acknowledged he wasn't at full strength when he returned in December. "I didn't have any pain and I felt good playing, but kind of that quickness and that explosion wasn't all the way back, which was expected," Pitta said. "Typically, you don’t regain that in four months after surgery, and so that’s something that I continue to work on, and I've been training and trying to get that to 100 percent, which I'm close.”
There are plans for Flacco to meet with the receivers and tight ends before the team officially begins its offseason program. "I know that's something Joe wants to get done," Pitta said. "He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we're going to be doing. So, I'm sure we’ll get that ironed out in the next few weeks.”