Owings Mills, Md. • The Baltimore Ravens and tight end Dennis Pitta reached agreement on a five-year contract Friday.
Pitta, Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2010, was set to become an unrestricted free agent when free agency starts March 11.
"I could not be more excited to remain a Baltimore Raven," Pitta said in a statement. "There is no better organization or fan base in sports. To be given the opportunity to continue my career here is incredible. This organization drafted me and has always stood by me — especially during my difficult recovery last season. And for that, I am extremely grateful."
Pitta has become a favorite option of quarterback Joe Flacco in recent seasons.
He missed most of 2013 while recovering from a dislocated and fractured hip, but he returned to catch 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in the final four games.
He had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2012 regular season and then added 14 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs in helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
"Dennis creates a number of mismatch problems for defenses," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He makes it tough on them. And because of that, he really helps out our wide receivers.
"Opponents have to always pay attention to where he lines up and where his routes take him. Dennis is also a big target with very good hands, and his presence in the red zone is very important to us."
Without Pitta for most of 2013, Baltimore finished just 18th in passing offense.
"It was obvious when Dennis was out last year that we really missed him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We all admire how he fought back from the hip injury and helped us down the stretch. Having Dennis as a part of the Ravens now and in the future is exciting news for us.
"Dennis has a large catch radius and can snatch the ball in traffic. Not only is he a reliable player, but he is an outstanding person as well. Having a weapon like Dennis makes everyone on our offense better."
The deal came a day after the Ravens terminated the contracts of three-time Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach and six-year linebacker Jameel McClain.
Saints place franchise tag on TE Jimmy Graham
New Orleans • The New Orleans Saints have placed their franchise tag on Jimmy Graham in order to protect the club’s rights to its star tight end through next season.
The move means Graham, barring a holdout, will almost certainly play for New Orleans next season for no less than the tight end franchise tag of $7.04 million.
It is also possible, under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, that Graham could be tagged as a receiver because of how often he lined up split wide from the line. That would carry a tag of $12.3 million.
Once Graham’s tag has been determined, the two sides could continue to argue that matter before an arbitrator. That appears to be the likely process as both side aim to determine precisely how much negotiating leverage they have before hammering out a long-term deal.
Similarly, the Saints use their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees in March 2012, then needed a little more than four months to work out the five-year, $100 million deal Brees signed shortly before training camp.
Like Brees, Graham is represented by Creative Artists Agency. They do not have the same agent. Graham is represented by Jimmy Sexton and Brees by Tom Condon.
The move, confirmed by team spokesman Greg Bensel, was expected as part of what is widely anticipated to be a protracted negotiation between the team and one of the best young tight ends in the NFLNext Page >
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