While it likely will do nothing to break the impasse lingering between the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta opted to solve the potential tight-end-or-receiver conundrum under the franchise tag by signing a five-year deal.
A league source tells PFT that the contract will average between $6 and $7 million per year. Multiple reports have pegged the number at the $6.5 million midpoint.
Coincidentally, that’s roughly the same ballpark as the expected tight end franchise tag for 2014.
Why did Pitta blink in the face of what could have been not $33 million over five years but more than $11 million for only one season? Because it’s hard to walk away from the security that comes with a long-term contract — especially when there was a chance his compensation under the franchise tag would have been only $6.5 million.
And so for the second straight year on the Friday preceding the deadline for applying the franchise tag, the Ravens struck a deal that allows them to avoid issuing the tender. Last year, quarterback Joe Flacco’s $120.6 million contract helped the Ravens skirt a difficult choice between exposing Flacco to the market under the non-exclusive franchise tag (someone surely would have given up two first-round picks for a crack at him) and setting the stage for paying out more than $80 million in three years via the exclusive version of the tag.
This time around, the Ravens did a deal that sidestepped the potential loss of a grievance that would have jacked up Pitta’s one-year take considerably. The next question is whether the Saints will put a large enough offer on the table in the next 72 hours to persuade Graham to give up his ability to argue that he’s entitled to an eight-figure salary in 2014 and to accept the significant long-term security that comes from a deal that splits the difference annually between $6.5 million and $11 million.
UPDATE 1:30 p.m. ET: Per a league source, the deal has a base value of $32 million over five years, which works out to an average of $6.4 million per year.