The Ravens have some big questions at tight end heading into free agency and the draft, but team executives are prepared to answer them this offseason.
After the Ravens brain trust spoke with media for an hour on Tuesday, it was clear improving the unit will be a priority, especially considering the offensive system is predicated upon tight-end success.
"This is a tight end-friendly offense that we watched last year," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The better the tight ends we can get on the field, the better this offense will be and the better Joe [Flacco] will play."
The plan to bolster the unit will include the following steps:
1) Attempt to re-sign veteran Owen Daniels.
2) Maintain a wait-and-see approach with tight end Dennis Pitta. Develop young players already on the team.
3) Add multiple tight ends through the draft and/or free agency.
Pitta's status for next year is up in the air after dislocating his hip in back-to-back years, and Daniels is an unrestricted free agent after his one season in Baltimore. Head Coach John Harbaugh has spoken with Daniels, and they have mutual interest in retaining their relationship.
"We've talked to Owen, and Owen says he wants to come back," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure that he and his agent will talk about what's best for them financially, and every other way, but he's very interested in coming back here."
Newsome said he spoke with trainers about Pitta's status this week, and their main message was that an answer on his availability won't come until this summer. The Ravens likely won't wait until they get that definitive answer to spur into action.
The Ravens want to re-sign Daniels and they hope Pitta can play again, but they will certainly have contingency plans in place.
"Are we going to try to add some tight ends to this offense? Yes," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said during Tuesday's press conference.
Newsome's comment made it clear that the Ravens will look outside the building to bring in new pieces over the next few months. This year's draft is considered thin at the position, but the Ravens will keep a close eye on prospects who could help the offense this fall.
The 2015 free-agent class could provide some big names like Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas if they don't re-sign with their current teams or get the franchise tag before March 10.
Having a strong tight ends unit is a priority for the Ravens, especially in the West Coast system that Gary Kubiak put into place last year. The Ravens don't plan to make drastic changes to the offense under new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman, and having depth at tight end is an important piece of the equation.
The double tight end set is common in the scheme, creating a need for both pass catching threats and in-line blockers.
The only tight end currently on the roster with any playing experience is Crockett Gillmore, who was a third-round pick in last year's draft. Gillmore was mostly used as an in-line blocker rather than a pass catcher, and he finished the year with 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Daniels led the way in the receiving department at tight end, catching 48 passes for 527 yards and four scores.
Baltimore's other in-house options are Phillip Supernaw, who is an exclusive-rights free agent after spending some time on the 53-man roster last year. The Ravens also signed Allen Reisner and Konrad Reuland to reserve/future contracts after the season to get a look at them during the offseason workouts and practices.