“The Competition” is a BaltimoreRavens.com series that breaks down every position battle leading up to training camp.
Dennis Pitta (6-foot-4, 245 pounds): Pitta is coming off a breakout season where he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s developed into one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets, and is a reliable pass catcher with great hands. Pitta will be counted on even more now that Anquan Boldin is no longer on the roster. A increased role during a contract year may result in a boost in production this season.
Ed Dickson (6-4, 255): Dickson saw his involvement in the passing game decrease last season, and he finished the year with 21 catches for 255 yards and no touchdowns. He’s hoping to get more involved in the passing game, like he was in 2011 when he caught 54 balls. Dickson is a versatile tight end who is also a key piece in the blocking game. The Ravens are expected to heavily utilize two tight end sets this year, which could create opportunities for Dickson, who is also finishing the final year of his rookie contract.
Billy Bajema (6-4, 259): The nine-year veteran had a limited role last season in his first year with the Ravens. He worked as the No. 3 tight end, and was used on offense as an extra blocker in goal line packages. Bajema didn’t register a catch in his eight games last year. The Ravens re-signed him just before the start of mandatory minicamp after initially letting him test the free agent market.
Alex Silvestro (6-3, 260): Silvestro spent last season on the practice squad after the Ravens picked him up in November. Silvestro, who can play tight end and defensive end, was cut by the Patriots before coming to Baltimore. He will likely be competing for one of the final roster spots, and his contributions on special teams will be critical in making the roster.
Matt Furstenburg (6-3, 244): The Ravens signed the Maryland product as an undrafted free agent, and he’s hoping to earn his way onto the roster with a strong training camp. The Ravens reportedly gave Furstenburg one of the biggest signing bonuses of any of their undrafted players, showing their interest in him. He was known mostly as a blocker in college, but he had a strong combine where he displayed impressive athleticism that could make him a receiving weapon.
This race appears pretty much set at the top of the depth chart. Pitta and Dickson have been the top two tight ends for the last two seasons, and that appears to be the case again in 2013. The Ravens gave both players restricted free agent tenders, meaning that they will be playing this year on one-year contracts unless they strike new deals prior to the season. A big season could set both players up for significant paydays next offseason.
Behind Pitta and Dickson, Bajema, Silvestro and Furstenburg will compete for the No. 3 job. That position is mostly a blocking role, and Bajema seems to have the edge based on prior experience. The playing time is limited on offense for a No. 3 tight end, so the deciding factor in that battle will likely come down to who ends up performing the best on special teams.