What We Know About Pitta's Restructured Contract And His Biggest Obstacle Ahead
Shortly after the not-so-big news that Dennis Pitta will attempt a comeback in 2016 (he pretty much said as last November), more interesting news broke that Pitta agreed to a restructured contract.
We don't know the full details behind Pitta's new contract structure. But we know whatever "significant" pay cut he took from his $5 million base salary, he will have a chance to make up in incentives, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Pitta's previous cap hit was a reported $7.2 million, and it could now be as low as $3.2 million. That includes the existing $2.2 million in bonus proration (that can't be removed), plus the reduced base salary. One possible reduction is lowering that base salary from $5 million to $1 million, says Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland.
If it went that low, the restructured contract would save the Ravens almost as much money ($4 million vs. $5 million) as cutting him after June 1.
McFarland's right. The Ravens could still release Pitta. This reported contract restructure does not guarantee his spot on the 53-man roster. After all, the man did dislocate and fracture his hip twice in the last three years.
The biggest obstacle still remains. It's the same obstacle that he couldn't overcome in his 2015 comeback attempt: receiving clearance from Ravens doctors.
Pitta is expected to participate in offseason workouts beginning Monday, and there's a good chance he'll impress coaches just like he did during his three-week practice window last year when he was on the physically unable to perform list.
But things won't get interesting until this summer.
"Ultimately, team doctors and the Ravens' top decision makers will have to be comfortable with the idea of Pitta returning to the field, and that wasn't the case last season during his brief practice window," wrote Zrebiec.
Added ESPN's Jamison Hensley: "It's commendable that Pitta is so determined to play again. He could have retired at the end of last season after making $16 million in guaranteed money. But he indicated last year that he doesn't want his career to end with him getting carted off the field. Time will tell whether he will be able to take that next important step in his comeback."
Examining Release Of TE Chase Ford
The Ravens announced they released tight end Chase Ford yesterday, the same day Pitta reportedly restructured his contract. But Pitta isn't the only person to affect that decision.
As Zrebiec pointed out, the Ravens' signing of Ford to a $1.67 million restricted free agent tender happened when the tight end position was looking very thin.
At the time, the Ravens didn't have veteran Benjamin Watson on board and last year's starter, Crockett Gillmore, was expected to have surgery on both of his shoulders. They also knew Nick Boyle was suspended for 10 games.
"But recent weeks have brought positive developments to their tight end group, and ultimately made it easier for them to move on from Ford," wrote Zrebiec.
Watson was signed, Gillmore only needed surgery on one shoulder to allow for a quicker return, and the Ravens will experiment with moving big-bodied wide receiver Darren Waller to tight end.
So even if Pitta can't return, the Ravens will have plenty of other options.
Will Ravens Pick Up Matt Elam's 5th-Year Contract Option?
Remember when the Ravens picked up cornerback Jimmy Smith's fifth-year option on his rookie contract in 2014? It was the team's way of keeping a highly-valued first-round draft pick before trying to lock him up with a long-term contract.
Well, it's time for the Ravens to decide if they want to exercise that fifth-year option on first-round safety Matt Elam after drafting him in 2013.
"The New Orleans Saints became the first of what should be many teams who pick up the fifth-year option on their 2013 first-round picks. The Baltimore Ravens probably won't be among them," wrote Hensley.
"It would be surprising to see the Ravens exercise that option on disappointing safety Matt Elam before the May 2 deadline. There's a good chance he'll be remembered as the biggest first-round bust in the Ravens' 20-year draft history, even surpassing quarterback Kyle Boller and wide receiver Travis Taylor."
If the Ravens picked up Elam's option, his salary would be determined by the average of the 25 highest-paid safeties. That would mean Elam would make between $5.5 million and $6 million in 2017, says Hensley.
Not only does Zrebiec agree with Hensley, but The Sun writer wonders whether Elam will make the team this year. He is scheduled to make a reported $1.327 million in 2016.
"It's not a given, at least in my mind, that Elam even makes the regular-season roster to start the 2016 season," wrote Zrebiec. "He'll come to training camp as the fourth or fifth safety behind Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis and perhaps even Terrence Brooks."
Will Ravens' Draft Pick Be In Chicago?
The league released its list of 25 prospects expected to be selected Thursday night in the first round of the NFL Draft and will be at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago.
With the Ravens picking No. 6 overall, most of the players projected to them will be in attendance … except for one.
Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Vernon Hargreaves and Ronnie Stanley will all be there. The one name missing from the list is DeForest Buckner, the defensive end out of Oregon who is frequently linked to the Ravens in mock drafts.
Todd McShay's Three-Round Mock Draft
Todd McShay's three-round mock draft will be met with more smiles than the one from Pro Football Focus, which has the Ravens taking offensive linemen with their top two picks.
Keep in mind, this isn't the ESPN draft analyst's prediction of what will happen, but rather a projection of what should happen based on team's biggest needs.
McShay goes all defense with the Ravens' top-three picks.
Round 1 (6): Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Round 2 (36): Artie Burns, CB, Miami (FL)
Round 3 (70): Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, West Virginia
"Bosa is the best available player at No. 6," wrote McShay. "He's not a perfect scheme fit, but who cares? He shows the relentlessness and instincts shared by most top-level NFL pass-rushers.
"With cornerback Lardarius Webb getting older and Jimmy Smith coming off a so-so season, Burns is an enticing upside play in Round 2. He has the length and raw coverage ability to develop into a good outside starting cornerback. Kwiatkoski would give Baltimore another instinctive run defender to pair with C.J. Mosley."
Will Ravens Take Flyer On Developmental QB?
As quarterback prospects visit teams across the league, analysts are starting to wonder if the Ravens would pull the trigger on a late-round developmental quarterback this year.
"Don’t dismiss that as a possibility, even though the Ravens recently restructured and extended the contract of their franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco," wrote CSNMidatlantic.com's Clifton Brown. "Developing a young quarterback is never a bad idea if you see one that you like."
The Ravens currently have Ryan Mallett on the roster and he is expected to be the backup in 2016, but he'll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Expect Baltimore scouts to do their homework on several developmental quarterbacks, including Georgetown's Kyle Nolan, Stanford's Kevin Hogan, Michigan State's Connor Cook and Michigan's Jake Rudock.
"I don't see the Ravens taking a quarterback earlier than the fourth round," wrote Brown. "However, the Ravens have four fourth-round picks, and two sixth-round picks.
"Having the right backup quarterback, who can win a few games when the starter goes down, can make or break a season. Having Flacco and Mallett does not guarantee that the Ravens will not draft a quarterback."