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Late For Work 1/10: Franchising Dennis Pitta May Cost $5 Million More Than Expected


Franchising Pitta May Cost $5M More Than ExpectedUsing Dennis Pitta as slot receiver so much could end up costing the Ravens.

If Ravens brass decides to put the franchise tag on Pitta – an option the team is mulling over – to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent, it's projected to cost $6.709 million. That's the franchise tender for tight ends.

But here's the thing. After returning from hip surgery, Pitta ran 79.7 percent of his routes out of the slot, the highest rate of all NFL tight ends, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Thus, Pitta could be considered a receiver, which would mean his franchise tag would go up by nearly $5 million to $11.539 million.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, who also lines up out of the slot, is expected to challenge how he is designated if the Saints decide to put the franchise tag on him.

"If Graham was to file a grievance before an NFL special master if he's franchised as a tight end, any ruling would impact how other tight ends in his situation like Pitta are dealt with," wrote The Sun's Aaron Wilson. "That would have a negative potential impact on the Ravens' salary-cap outlook."

How does the league determine which positional tag to use?

Per the collective bargaining agreement, the league "will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays."

Of course, none of this will matter if Ravens brass and Pitta's representatives are able to agree on a long-term deal before the March 3 franchise tag deadline.

And the Ravens have experience in this arena.

In 2008, Terrell Suggs filed a grievance to get a defensive end franchise tag, which gets paid more than a linebacker. The two sides ultimately agreed on a reported $8.5 million hybrid defensive end-linebacker franchise tag.

"Depending on what happens with Graham, this situation could bear watching going forward," Wilson wrote. "Both sides are motivated, but agreeing on Pitta's value could get complicated even if the franchise tag isn't utilized to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent."

Adopted Mom Comes To Oher's Defense

The fan consensus in Baltimore is that the Ravens can only afford to bring back one of their tackles, and if that's the case, it should be Eugene Monroe and not Michael Oher.

The stock on Oher in Baltimore is down, but adoptive mom Leigh Anne Tuohy isn't trying to hear that.

You might disagree with where Oher ranks in the league, but Mrs. Tuohy has a couple of valid points about her boy's durability and workman-like attitude.

For five years,he's repeatedly switched positions without complaint and he's never missed a start.

Plus, you gotta love a mom that stands by her son.

Did Suggs Gain Weight? Chances He'll Return?

One of the more perplexing developments of the season was Suggs' drop-off in production.

Through the first half of the season, there was talk that he was regaining his Defensive Player of the Year form after notching nine sacks in eight games. But then he slowed down to finish with two sacks in the final eight.

What happened, Jamison Hensley?

"Just with the eyeball test, you could tell Suggs picked up weight," Hensley said in an online chat. "His tackles, sacks and playing time all went down. It was a strange turn of events because Suggs came to training camp in the best shape I ever saw him in. Suggs was never a workout warrior, but he has to do a better job keeping the pounds off especially when you get on the wrong side of 30 as a player."

Despite Suggs' struggles and General Manager Ozzie Newsome's perceived ultimatum that Suggs agree to a contract extension or walk away, Hensley believes the chances are good that Suggs will return to Baltimore.

"Perhaps I'm overly optimistic on this, but I would say [Suggs' chance of returning are] well over 50 percent."

Here are a couple more questions and answers from Hensley's fan chat:

What is the biggest weakness on offense: O-line, RB or WR?
JH: "The biggest weakness for the Ravens was their offensive line. If you believe Kelechi Osemele is going to bounce back from back surgery, the Ravens still need to upgrade at center and right tackle. While these are the biggest needs, I'm not sure this is where the Ravens will find the greatest value in the first round. It wouldn't surprise me if the Ravens took a wide receiver early in the draft."

What positions should the Ravens address first in the draft?
JH: "WR, OT, TE (if Pitta isn't re-signed or tagged), DL, OLB (if Suggs is cut)."

Could the Ravens work out deals with free agent center Alex Mack or receiver Eric Decker this offseason?JH: "Both would fit the profile of players the Ravens would like. Mack was drafted in Cleveland when the GM was George Kokinis, who is back with the Ravens' front office. So, there is a connection there. There are two potential problems with both. Mack and Decker are UFAs, and the Ravens typically sign players who are cut (it doesn't take away compensatory picks that way). Plus, Mack and Decker should get big contracts for their positions, and [the] Ravens don't have tons of cap room."

Is there a beef between John Harbaugh and Ray Rice? It sure looked like it in the Cincy game. How does he not know that Rice wasn't in the game?JH: "RB coach Wilbert Montgomery was let go in the same week that Harbaugh said he didn't have an explanation for Rice's absence in the first half of the season finale. Connect the dots."

Caldwell Out In Washington, Felt Good About Titans Interview

Ravens Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell will not get the head coaching job with the Redskins following his interview for the vacancy last week.

Instead, Washington went with Jay Gruden, the former offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.

That leaves the Lions and Titans as potential landing spots for Caldwell.

The Lions are reportedly mostly interested in Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Caldwell just finished up an interview with the Titans this week. The team also interviewed Bengals Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer.

"I talked to Jim and he felt very good about it," Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten told Wilson. "He spent about three hours with [General Manager] Ruston [Webster] one-on-one and had a great meeting. It will all depend on what they want to do with the quarterback position and how they see it working out."

Wooten doesn't anticipate Caldwell interviewing for the Browns or Vikings head-coaching openings. The Browns want a West Coast-type offense, which Caldwell doesn't run. The Vikings only plan on bringing in two or three more candidates, and Caldwell likely isn't one.

Extra Weight Made Rice Less Elusive?

Owner Steve Bisciotti says the thing that most frustrated him was the offensive line when it came to the struggling run game.

Averaging 3.1 yards per carry hurt the offenses' ability to sustain drives, control the time of possession, convert first downs and get touchdowns over field goals.

As much as he was frustrated with the line, however, he does think Rice's weight may have hurt things too.

"With Ray, I'd be lying if I said that question hasn't come up about him being through," Bisciotti told The Sun's Mike Preston. "But I've already talked about failure and repeating failure. I have no interest in being without Ray Rice. My coaches don't want to be without Ray. I think he learned that adding 10 pounds to his frame made him less elusive, not more powerful. I think he'll come back with a vengeance, down to 210, than the 217 or wherever he is now. And if he doesn't, then we'll be making a tough decision next year, probably."

Said Hensley of that comment: "Translation: Rice gets a pass this year but the Ravens may have to rethink paying him $3 million in 2015 if he has another disappointing season."

Quick Hits

  • The Steelers will appeal if they are stripped of a draft pick for Head Coach Mike Tomlin's sideline interference with Jacoby Jones' kickoff return. Tomlin was fined $100,000 by the league for the incident. "Mike has paid the price and as far as we're concerned it should be behind us," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. [ESPN]
  • @Bengals: We have named Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator to replace Jay Gruden, who was hired as Redskins head coach. #Bengals [Twitter]
  • @RapSheet: From what I hear #SEA DC Dan Quinn is a top candidate for #Titans now. Others: Caldwell, Zimmer, Whisenhunt. Plan to wait for Bevell, too [Twitter]
  • @DetroitLionsNFL: #Lions in San Diego to interview Ken Whisenhunt for head coaching vacancy. [Twitter]
  • @sunjeffbarker: Torrey Smith shows up to see his old #Terps receivers coach Lee Hull introduced as head coach at Morgan State[Twitter]
  • @RayRice27: FYI I am not on Instagram any account with my name is fake. [Twitter]
  • @ryanmink: In terms of the WR the #Ravens have identified they want, I'm torn as to whether that's a smaller, quick slot WR or a big-bodied WR/TE. … My take on WR is it may not depend what package he comes in (big or small). Needs to beat the press, reliable hands, make plays in traffic. [Twitter]
  • @MikePrestonSun: Ravens should hire a QB coach. If they bring back Jim Caldwell as OC, they should get person to work with Joe Flacco on sidelines. [Twitter]
  • @GSheppardWR: Couldn't sleep.. 10 min Later, found myself in the Gym working on my craft. GM to my early Birds, make today great. [Twitter]
  • @diggz32 [James Ihedigbo]: Absolutely No Reason What so EVER for the NFL To Fine Me 15k for the hit!!!! ITS CLEAN! You Be The Judge!!! [Instagram]
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