The Ravens are rightfully basking in their Super Bowl victory, but behind the scenes work on the 2013 season has already begun. The personnel staff has already spent countless hours scouting college players and will attend the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff also must deal with free agency, the salary cap, and the enormous issue of Joe Flacco's contract status. Newsome made clear at the 'State of the Ravens' news conference after the season that the Ravens do not expect to restructure a lot of contracts as they did after the previous Super Bowl title. Translation: There is likely to be significant roster upheaval this offseason.
Over the next few days, we’ll take a look at each Ravens position group to see who is likely to come back, who is likely to be gone, and what the ramifications are.
You can find more on the terminology (unrestricted vs. restricted free agents, etc.) here.
Note that for this analysis, we look only at players who were on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve.
We've already looked at the offensive line. Today, we tackle the tight ends.
Unrestricted free agents: Billy Bajema
Exclusive-rights free agents: None
Under contract: None
It might be daunting to see that all three of the Ravens tight ends are free agents, but the Ravens will likely sign both Pitta and Dickson to tenders that make them costly other teams, perhaps 2nd-round tenders. There's still a chance a team with a lot of cap space could swoop in and make an offer that the Ravens would have trouble matching, but that would cost a team a high draft pick if the Ravens didn't match.
It's more likely, especially in the case of Pitta, that the Ravens would match the offer and solve the cap ramifications elsewhere.
Pitta and Dickson are both finishing a rookie contract that paid less than $1 million a season. Signing them to 2nd-round tenders would cost about $2 million each, so in any case they both are going to be getting nice raises.
Pitta has blossomed into one of Flacco's top receivers, not to mention one of his best friends on the team. He finished the regular season with 61 catches, tied for second-most on the team, for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, all career highs by far. He was one of Flacco's favorite targets on third down. He also caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Dickson's numbers dropped off sharply this season, as he finished with 21 catches for 225 yards, down from 54-528 in 2011. But he was still an integral part of the Ravens offense.
Bajema operated as the No. 3 tight end, seeing action only sparingly and occasionally filled in as the backup fullback. The Ravens will let him go, and find a veteran, third tight end at a bargain price during training camp. That's how Bajema wound up in Baltimore.