The Ravens traded up in the second round to get the draft's top tight end in Maxx Williams, then addressed the position again in the fifth round with Nick Boyle. For the first time all offseason, the Ravens are in a spot where they're set at tight end regardless of what Pitta decides.
Baltimore has a pass-catching tight end in Williams who can stretch the field more than Pitta can. The Ravens added a strong blocking tight end in Boyle. And they used a third-round pick last season on Crockett Gillmore, who falls in the middle of the skill sets of Williams and Boyle.
If Pitta chooses not to play, the Ravens don't have to chase another aging tight end as they've done in past years with Owen Daniels, Dallas Clark and Visanthe Shiancoe. If Pitta is coming back, he'll bring experience to a young group and the Ravens will carry four tight ends.
General manager Ozzie Newsome insinuated that no one should read too much into the Ravens choosing two tight ends in the same draft for only the second time in their 20-year history.
"Dennis is what it’s going to be, and I still don’t know what’s going to happen with him," Newsome said. "But Maxx Williams was way ahead of anybody that we had on the board when we picked him, and [Nick] Boyle was the same way. What John [Harbaugh, head coach] said, we have a very tight end-friendly offense, so having one or two is not enough. You need three or four or maybe even a fifth one if we can find a way to keep him, because we want to maintain the continuity of the offense in the way they want to attack people by having the tight ends on the field.”
This is how any successful organization should handle this delicate situation. The Ravens aren't writing off Pitta. In fact, there's no one rooting more for Pitta to play after undergoing surgeries on the same right hip in consecutive years. Baltimore is paying Pitta $4 million this season whether he is catching passes from Joe Flacco or sitting out the entire season because his 2015 salary is guaranteed.
But Ravens officials have said they don't expect to hear Pitta's decision on whether he's playing until the summer, and Pitta said nine days ago that it's too early to make that call after participating in the team's offseason workout program. Even if Pitta wants to play, there are no guarantees that he'll hold up for an entire season. He has missed 25 games the last two seasons.
Getting back Pitta would be a bonus, and the Ravens are now in position to think of it exactly that way. The Ravens don't need Pitta to play in 2015 because of their shrewd work in the draft. If Williams and Boyle live up to expectations, tight end will be a position of strength for the foreseeable future.