Tight end Dennis Pitta agreed to terms on a five-year, $32 million deal with the Ravens.
Pitta was a priority for the Ravens entering free agency March 11 with the possibility of using the franchise tag to retain him looming as a last resort.
"Dennis creates a number of mismatch problems for defenses. He makes it tough on them, and because of that, he really helps out our wide receivers," said Ozzie Newsome, vice president and general manager of the Ravens. "Opponents have to always pay attention to where he lines up and where his routes take him. Dennis is also a big target with very good hands, and his presence in the red zone is very important to us."
A fourth-round pick (114th overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, Pitta has played in 47 career games (eight starts), but missed 12 games last season with a fractured hip.
"It was obvious when Dennis was out last year that we really missed him," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We all admire how he fought back from the hip injury and helped us down the stretch. Having Dennis as a part of the Ravens now and in the future is exciting news for us.
"Dennis has a large catch radius and can snatch the ball in traffic. Not only is he a reliable player, but he is an outstanding person as well. Having a weapon like Dennis makes everyone on our offense better."
Pitta could have created a stir as a franchise player given his use in the offensive formation with the Ravens last season. With almost 80 percent of his snaps coming out of the slot, Pitta and his representatives would likely have filed a grievance to be paid the expected franchise wide receiver tender of $11.6 million, rather than as a tight end -- his position designation on the roster -- of $6.8 million.
Because of the hip injury, Pitta missed most of the 2013 season and caught 20 passes for 169 yards. He has 122 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Ravens, including 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.
--Video released of the incident involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancee Janay Palmer -- in which she was knocked unconscious at a New Jersey casino according to a summons -- was reviewed by general manager Ozzie Newsome and most of the team's administrative staff.
"I did online just like everybody else did and it doesn't look good," Newsome said. "I'm going to reserve my thoughts. ... The whole video needs to be reviewed."
TMZ released security footage that shows Rice moving a limp Palmer out of an elevator and onto the casino floor.
Newsome said Saturday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium that coach John Harbaugh and Rice had at least three conversations and the team's security and player development personnel is engaged with Rice daily.
Newsome, who has not spoken directly with Rice, said there is another side of the story that he has not heard yet.
"I have not spoken to Ray yet. I've been here since Monday because of some competition committee meetings," Newsome said.
"In any of those situations, it's very concerning. Up until we get all of the facts, we will allow the process to run its course. John said it best yesterday: we will let the facts determine the outcome.
"They have gotten his side of the story, I have not. I don't know if anybody here has had the opportunity to talk to Ray. I don't know if a different story is going to come out. The video is what it is."
Yet, Newsome said he "feels good" about Rice's side of the story after talking to Harbaugh and other staff, and he also applauded what Rice has done since the incident. Newsome said the Ravens will bow to the NFL if discipline is necessary.
"As a league, we have a conduct policy," Newsome said. "Being a member of the league, we will follow that from A to Z. Up until we get to that point, right now he falls under that personal conduct policy with the league."
Rice's Tuesday court date was postponed. Harbaugh expects Rice to be back with the team in 2014.
"The facts will determine the consequences, always," Harbaugh said Friday. "That's always the case, right? It's a process. We have to see how it goes."
But Harbaugh does not foresee it going as far as Rice losing his job with the Ravens.
"I haven't seen anything that would remotely make me think that," he said.
Harbaugh said he discussed the incident with Rice on Monday and expects the Pro Bowl running back to participate in the Ravens' voluntary workouts.
"Ray and I are real close," Harbaugh said. "We have been for a long time, so it's an easy conversation to have. I love Janay. She's a great person.
"The two people obviously have a couple issues that they have to work through, and they're both committed to doing that. That was the main takeaway for me from the conversation. They understand their own issues. They're getting a lot of counseling and those kinds of things, so I think that's really positive. That was the main takeaway."
--A first-round draft pick in 2013, Ravens safety Matt Elam has a full-time job that paid him $3.7 million as a rookie. But starting Thursday, he was hard at work at the Finish Line sports apparel store as a part-time employee in their Gainesville, Fla., mall location.
"I just need to get retail knowledge," said Elam in an interview with the Ravens' team website. "I'm getting that knowledge for when it's time."
Elam said he filled out five online applications in January and heard from Finish Line, which was surprised the former Florida Gator was in the hourly rate job market.
"Everybody was surprised when I started," said Elam, the 32nd overall pick in last year's draft. "They were like, 'Why? You got enough money.' But it's not about the money. It's just me building."
Elam said he wasn't sure what his hourly pay is and the former college All-American built in plenty of time to work out on his old campus a few miles away.
--Ravens coach John Harbaugh remains guardedly optimistic about the chances of retaining tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.
The Ravens are in discussions with both pending unrestricted free agents.
"I'm very optimistic," Harbaugh said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "To my knowledge, both of those guys really want to be here and we really want them here. That's a good formula for working things out."
The Ravens could use the franchise tag to hold onto Pitta, but that's a potentially risky move because it's unclear if it would cost $6.7 million under the tight end franchise designation or $11.5 million for a wide receiver franchise classification.
Harbaugh didn't rule out the possibility of Pitta not being franchised and hitting the open market in free agency on March 11.
"I think every scenario is possible here," Harbaugh said. "The franchise tag is very vague right now, so anything could happen."
With the salary cap projected now to rise to $130 million instead of $126.3 million, Harbaugh didn't close the door on possibly keeping both Monroe and right tackle Michael Oher.
"I think there's a way, it just depends on the numbers," Harbaugh said. "It all comes down to the math. We've got more salary-cap space. So, that makes it a little brighter situation. As a coach, I would love to see that happen."
--Defensive tackle Arthur Jones is expected to be in heavy demand as a free agent and could be too expensive for the Ravens to keep.
Jones recorded a career-high 53 tackles last season along with four sacks.
"He has definitely put himself in a position that teams could definitely bid on him very high because if you put the tape on, they're going to like him a lot," Harbaugh said. "He's a football player. So how it pans out, what the numbers actually are, it remains to be seen, but he's earned that. I'm always happy when guys have an opportunity on our team. As a coach, you feel a certain sense of reward when players accomplish that because it's a big deal.
"It's probably the one contract that he'll have a chance to sign, a real big one. Guys that sign two big contracts, that's very unusual. Three almost never happens, so you never feel bad about a guy getting an opportunity. You never want to lose a good player. But from a personal standpoint, you have to feel good about that. Whether we can match that or not, that's all in the math."
--Missouri defensive end Michael Sam conducted a formal meeting with the Ravens on Friday night at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Sam is the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 11.5 sacks last season.
Sam recently made a ground-breaking announcement that he's gay. He's now on course to become the first openly gay NFL player.
"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player," said Sam, who was wearing a rainbow pin that read, "STAND WITH SAM" during an overflow press conference Saturday.
The press conference was at least as well-attended as last year's with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
"One of my friends at the Senior Bowl said to me, 'Michael Sam, I didn't know you were gay,'" Sam said. "Apparently, the media is blowing it out of proportion. There's a lot of support out there. I just want to do what I do, and that's play football."
Both Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have said the organization would have no issues with Sam and would evaluate him as a football player.
"He's been a good player, he's been in a locker room," Newsome said. "It's what you the media, what are you all going to do with him? Once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback and get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. The biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with him.
"This is something that's new to the league. We all will have to adapt to it. What I was talking about is I think our locker room has had the tendency to adapt to things a lot smoother than maybe the media does."
NFL teams were recently issued a memo reminding them about NFL workplace policies and that teams were not allowed to ask a prospect about their sexual orientation.
Sam said that all questions from NFL teams so far have been appropriate.
"All football questions," Sam said. "They asked me about my size, they asked me about if I have ever played linebacker, general questions like that."
--Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele has made enough progress after undergoing back surgery that he's expected to participate in the first day of the offensive conditioning program in April.
Osemele had a herniated disk repaired in November.
"K.O., we expect him to start the offseason program," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He's in there working out. K.O. is way far along in his training. He's doing great. He's in there every day."
The Ravens haven't decided where Osemele will line up next season. He played left guard before going on injured reserve last season and also during the Ravens' Super Bowl run after starting every game as a rookie at right tackle.
"We have started thinking about that, I don't think we know yet," Harbaugh said. "The good thing about K.O. is he's got versatility. He gives you some options and then you can see where he best fits on the offensive line."
When the Ravens' season ended, Osemele was upbeat about his medical outlook.
"It's going well, I feel great," Osemele said. "I'm trying to get in as good a shape as possible for next year and work on the things I need to work on to get back on the field.
"I'm feeling pretty good about it as far as the strength in my legs is returning. The symptoms going down my leg are gone. The surgery was a success."
Meanwhile, Harbaugh said backup running back Bernard Pierce is expected back by the first day of training camp.
Pierce had rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder.
Center Gino Gradkowski underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the season.
Harbaugh said that cornerback Lardarius Webb didn't have any offseason surgeries for a sports hernia or his knee.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Ravens terminated the contracts of fullback Vonta Leach and linebacker Jameel McClain Thursday (Feb. 27).
The team saved nearly $5 million in cap space by cutting the vested veterans -- $1.75 million for Leach and $3.2 million for McClain.
"Vonta and Jameel are two of our most important players over the last few seasons, helping us to the playoffs and giving the Ravens the Super Bowl win after the 2012 season," Newsome said in a statement. "Vonta proved to be one of the best fullbacks in the league, plus he added leadership and toughness to our offense.
"Jameel is a Ravens success story who came to us as a rookie free agent. He changed positions from playing on the defensive line and outside to becoming a good inside linebacker and starter. People close to our team understand his commitment to being the best he can be and the leadership he gave on and off the field.
"There could come a point later on when we would consider bringing back Vonta and Jameel. They are our types of players."
Leach, a 10-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection, spent the past three seasons with the Ravens, earning All-Star honors twice (2011-12). Seeing action in 146 career games (79 starts), Leach originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2004. In his three seasons with the Ravens, he played in all 48 games (36 starts) and served as the lead blocker for running back Ray Rice.
"He's the big, physical fullback you like to have when you pound the ball and are on special teams," head coach John Harbaugh said. "And, who doesn't like Vonta? He's fun to be around, and his personality helped lift the energy at a lot of practices. People know we like to be physically dominating, and when we did that in recent years, Vonta was a big part of that."
McClain, a six-year NFL veteran, originally signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent in 2008. Seeing action in 87 career games (55 starts), he recorded 338 tackles (214 solo), 4.5 sacks, one interception, 10 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown) and one forced fumble. McClain's 338 stops rank 17th on the Ravens' all-time tackles chart, while he also registered a franchise-record two safeties (both during his 2008 rookie season).
"There is so much to like about Jameel, the player and the person," Harbaugh said. "He's a true leader, and his story from rookie free agent to NFL starter is one of the best in the league. You give him so much credit for finding a way to become the player he is. He's one of those guys who gets the most out of his ability. He has a lot of football left, and maybe, that could be with the Ravens down the line.
"Both of these men helped the Ravens win a lot of games and the Super Bowl Championship. We are thankful for all they gave us."
McClain earned the team's 2013 Ed Block Courage Award after returning from a spinal cord contusion injury he sustained in 2012. Missing the final three regular-season games and each playoff contest in 2012, McClain then sat out the first six games of the 2013 campaign before returning for its final 10 contests (all starts). He totaled 50 tackles (27 solo) and one forced fumble last season.
Players expected to be unrestricted in March
--TE Dallas Clark
--NT Terrence Cody
--TE Ed Dickson
--CB Corey Graham
--DL Arthur Jones
--WR-KR Jacoby Jones
--SS James Ihedigbo
--S Jeromy Miles
--LT Eugene Monroe
--RT Michael Oher
--RB Bernard Scott
--MLB Daryl Smith
WIDE RECEIVER: The Ravens lacked a complementary wide receiver to deep threat Torrey Smith and need one.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Ravens allowed 48 sacks and got shoved around at the point of attack consistently.
TIGHT END: All of the Ravens' tight ends are unrestricted free agents. Even if Dennis Pitta is re-signed, they need to replenish the position.
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