If you’re looking for a face to attach to a restricted free-agent market that has dried to the point that collusion seems almost obvious, how about Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta?
Tendered at the second-round level and reportedly the target of “preliminary inquiries” from multiple teams, Pitta made no visits and received no offers.
Nearly a month after the window for signing elsewhere closed, Pitta signed his one-year, $2.023 million offer to remain with the Ravens, in the hopes of parlaying a big year into a big-money, long-term deal, with the Ravens or with someone else.
Though we’re not privy to any negotiations that did (or didn’t) occur between the Ravens and Pitta on a long-term deal, Pitta necessarily had adopted the Flacco posture for 2013: Bet on yourself, and hope to cash in later.
Now, Pitta may cash in never. He has a dislocated hip, a fairly rare injury that, according to a 2003 report from Duke University, resulted in hip replacement in two of eight football players who suffered it. (One fairly prominent football player to develop avascular necrosis after a hip dislocation was Bo Jackson.) Prompt diagnosis and proper treatment is vital to saving the joint.
Pitta’s situation reconfirms that restricted free agents and franchise players should strongly consider staying away until they get the long-term security they want. Every rep, in offseason workouts or training camp, presents an opportunity for an injury that will delay or destroy the pay day the player has earned.
For Pitta, he could have refused to sign the tender and made it clear to the Ravens that he wouldn’t be showing up until he gets the contract he wants. And he could have stayed away until Week 10 of the regular season, showed up for the final seven weeks, and become a free agent (or franchise player) in 2014.
If the guy taken one spot before Pitta (Aaron Hernandez) deserved a long-term last year, Pitta definitely deserved one this year. With Anquan Boldin gone, Pitta had leverage.
He didn’t use it. And now he may never have it again.