AFC North: Dennis Pitta

The announcement that the Baltimore Ravens will release nose tackle Terrence Cody brings up the 2010 draft, which will not be remembered fondly by a franchise known for making the right moves. Cody was among the misses by the Ravens in a draft that didn't produce many impact players.

The Ravens traded down in the first round that year when they should have found a way to trade up. Pro Bowl wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (No. 22) and Dez Bryant (No. 24) were selected just before the Ravens were on the clock at No. 25.

This was also the draft when the Ravens didn't have tight end Rob Gronkowski on their draft board because of medical concerns. Gronkowski has turned into a three-time Pro Bowl player who has scored 54 touchdowns in five seasons.

The Ravens ultimately traded out of the first round, getting picks in the second, third and fourth rounds from the Denver Broncos, who chose quarterback Tim Tebow at No. 25 overall. That allowed the Ravens to regain some picks after they sent their original third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

There is only one player who remains from that 2010 draft, and it's unknown whether tight end Dennis Pitta will play after hip surgeries two straight years.

Here is a look at the Ravens' selections in the 2010 draft:

Second round: LB Sergio Kindle. The Ravens gambled on a prospect with several red flags and lost. Kindle fractured his skull when falling down a couple flights of stairs before his first training camp, and played a total of three games in his disappointing career. All he has to show for his NFL career was one tackle and one drunken-driving arrest.

Second round: Cody. He was supposed to be the long-term replacement for Kelly Gregg, and he only managed one season as a full-time starter. Cody struggled with his weight early in his Ravens career and injuries toward the end of it. He played one game in 2014 before being released.

Third round: TE Ed Dickson. He looked like a rising prospect in 2011 when he broke out with 54 catches and five touchdowns. But a lack of confidence and unreliable hands led to 46 catches in his final two seasons with the Ravens. Dickson signed with Carolina last offseason as a free agent.

Fourth round: TE Dennis Pitta. He became one of Joe Flacco's most trusted targets in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl season, when he set career-highs in catches (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (seven). Since then, he's been limited to seven games in two seasons because of hip injuries. The Ravens expect an update on Pitta's status for 2015 in a few weeks.

Fifth round: WR David Reed. It looked like Reed was going to be an electric returner after leading the NFL in kickoff returns (29.3) as a rookie. But fumbles and injures derailed his career with the Ravens. He was traded during the summer of 2013 to the Indianapolis Colts, and he spent the 2014 training camp with the San Francisco 49ers before being released prior to the start of the regular season.

Fifth round: DT Arthur Jones. This is one of the Ravens' late-round success stories. Injuries in college caused Jones to fall in the draft, and the Ravens landed a two-year starter. He was arguably the Ravens' best defensive lineman in 2013, which priced him out of the Ravens' range. Jones signed a five-year, $32 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) with the Colts last offseason.

Sixth round: OT Ramon Harewood. He spent his first two seasons on injured reserve before starting five games at guard in 2012. A year later, Harewood was cut by the Ravens after struggling with knee problems in training camp. He's had several tryouts but he hasn't been on an NFL roster since getting cut by the Denver Broncos in June 2014.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh's tone regarding tight end Dennis Pitta seemingly went from cautiously optimistic to just being cautious.

Pitta, who has suffered serious hip injuries in each of the past two seasons, saw a couple of specialists last week, and Harbaugh said he couldn't give any updates right now.

"I did get kind of an overview of that report from our trainer that I wouldn’t really want to share until Dennis has had a chance to kind of consider all of the ramifications of it," Harbaugh said. "But I think we’ll have something on that in a couple of weeks, kind of on Dennis’ time frame. We’ll see where that goes.”

Harbaugh indicated in early December that he expects Pitta to make a full recovery, and he said at the end of the season that he was "cautiously optimistic" about his return in 2015.

The Ravens are financially committed to Pitta even if he can't play in 2015. Pitta's $4 million salary is guaranteed unless he chooses to retire, so the Ravens will keep him around whether he's playing or on the physically unable to perform list or injured reserve.

Pitta, 29, became one of Joe Flacco's most trusted targets in 2012, when he set career-highs in catches (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (seven). Since then, he's been limited to seven games in two seasons because of hip injuries.

Other than Pitta, the only Ravens tight end currently under contract who played for the team last season is rookie third-round pick Crockett Gillmore. Owen Daniels, who finished third on the Ravens with 48 catches for 527 yards, is an unrestricted free agent.

Phillip Supernaw, who played six games, is an exclusive-rights free agent and can be retained if the Ravens tender him a contract. The Ravens also signed two tight ends to future-reserve deals this offseason: Allen Reisner and Konrad Reuland.
CINCINNATI -- Three storylines to watch Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium:

Ravens without Daniels: Baltimore announced Friday it would be without another one of its key offensive weapons at tight end. The news had to have been embraced with wide-open arms by the Bengals. That's because now with Owen Daniels, the Ravens' top reserve tight end behind the already-injured Dennis Pitta, out for Sunday's game, Baltimore is forced into moving around a few pass-catching pieces and moving around other reserves to fulfill its offensive needs. Specifically, Crockett Gilmore -- who has been targeted just three times this season -- will take Daniels' spot in the rotation. Although he was lauded earlier this week by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Gilmore still isn't expected to give the Ravens the quality minutes, receptions and blocks that the other two might have. Whereas the Ravens were able to run plays in two-tight-end and H-back sets during the teams' first meeting in September, they may have difficulty executing those plays without the likes of Pitta and Daniels. Both tight ends were among Baltimore's leading receivers in the Week 1 tilt.

With tight ends causing drama for the Bengals the last three weeks in particular (they have allowed five tight ends to catch 24 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns), this could be a good reprieve for the defense. Watch to see how often the Bengals blitz without Pitta or Daniels playing, and look to see how well they cover Gilmore.

Getting to Flacco: Pressure has been a problem for the Bengals' defense in recent weeks, especially when it comes to their defensive line. Tackle Geno Atkins finally factored statistically into a sack, credited this week for assisting Carlos Dunlap with a sack on Indianapolis' Andrew Luck last week. It will be incumbent on the Bengals this week to shake off the problems they have had in getting to quarterbacks, particularly with the Ravens featuring a newly healthy offensive line. For the first time in six weeks, both offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are expected to play alongside one another. Their addition in the rotation should give Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco blind-side protection he hasn't had much this season.

In the season opener, the Bengals had great pressure on Flacco, sacking him three times. Only one defense this season has made him look as bad as the Bengals did: the Colts.

Offense needs fun: Bengals players on both sides of the ball this week have remarked about how devoid of fun their locker room has been the last three weeks. As defensive end Wallace Gilberry said, it's caused tension with respect to urgency and the need to be successful and win. The best way to not play tense and tight is to simply have fun. That's precisely what the Bengals did during practice Thursday and Friday when, for the first time since Marvin Lewis has been head coach, they played music. It seemed to make players looser. We'll see Sunday if it has any impact. More than any group, the offense needs to take the "fun" message to heart Sunday. If that means getting back to trick plays that work or using players in other inventive and creative ways, then so be it. During last week's 27-0 shutout loss, the once-entertaining offense clearly wasn't having any fun.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The entire Baltimore Ravens organization celebrated O.J. Brigance's 45th birthday after Friday's practice.

Brigance, the Ravens' senior adviser to player development, was told he had five years to live when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. That was seven years ago.

[+] EnlargeO.J. Brigance
AP Photo/Steve RuarkO.J. Brigance, the Ravens' senior adviser of player development, in February 2013. Brigance celebrated his 45th birthday with the team Friday.
Each passing birthday for Brigance has been more than celebrating a day. It's celebrating his fight against the debilitating disease.

Before bringing Brigance into the cafeteria, coach John Harbaugh told the players about how Brigance kicked his team's butt on special teams and called him "the strongest man in the building."

The players and coaches gave Brigance a standing ovation when he arrived in a wheelchair and sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

"Even though he doesn't stand on his two legs, he stands above all of us," Harbaugh told reporters. "We think he's a great leader and we look to him everyday for strength and encouragement. I think he's the heart and soul of what we're about with the Ravens."

Brigance has become an ambassador for the battle against ALS, a progressive and fatal disease that shuts down nerve cells responsible for movement but doesn't impair the brain or any of the senses.

No long-term prognosis on Pitta: Harbaugh was told that tight end Dennis Pitta 's hip surgery was successful but he didn't have many details. When asked about Pitta's long-term future, Harbaugh said. "I have no information on that." Pitta was placed on injured reserve this week after injuring his hip Sunday in Cleveland. It's the same right hip he had surgery on last year.

Guy fits Ravens defense: The Ravens believed defensive end Lawrence Guy would work well in their defense after seeing the physicality he played for the San Diego Chargers on tape. "We got final confirmation from Double J [former linebacker Jarret Johnson, who now plays for the Chargers]," Harbaugh said. "We texted him and he gave us his stamp of approval. He said, 'He's got Ravens-like qualities.' So, that was all we needed to hear at the end." Guy was signed by the Ravens to provide depth at defensive end because Chris Canty has missed practice all week with a knee injury.

No change in Steve Smith: There has been no difference in wide receiver Steve Smith in practice this week compared to his previous ones, according to Harbaugh. Smith is playing the Carolina Panthers on Sunday after spending 13 seasons with that organization. "He's been the same. He's worked hard. He's been in great spirits," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, the game means something to him. It means a lot to him. It would anybody. But he's in a positive state and he's got good feelings about those guys over there. He wants to do well."

Ravens thinking of Bengals' Still: Harbaugh acknowledged the 4-year-old daughter of Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still at the start of his news conference. Still's daughter had a cancerous tumor removed Thursday. "We wanted to wish her all of our prayers and all of our thoughts," Harbaugh said. "We pray for healing from this disease. She's going to make it."

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Every fantasy owner wants to know who is going to replace Dennis Pitta now that the Baltimore Ravens tight end underwent season-ending hip surgery.

You're probably not going to like the Ravens' answer.

"We're going to play our good players," Harbaugh said. "So, who's on the field is going to depend on who are good players are and how the coaches decide to attack."


What does that mean? The Ravens will go with a committee approach of tight end Owen Daniels, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and wide receiver Marlon Brown.

All of these options can collectively help fill Pitta's void in the red zone and on third downs. Since 2011, Pitta has scored the second-most red-zone touchdowns on the Ravens with eight and has the second-most third-down catches with 46.

Here is what each of the replacements can provide:

TE Owen Daniels: He won't get much separation at this stage of his career, but he knows the offense better than anyone. This is his ninth season with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. He's also gained the trust of Joe Flacco with his toughness over the middle. Much like with Pitta, the biggest concern with Daniels is durability. He's missed 26 games the previous five seasons.

FB Kyle Juszczyk: The 2013 fourth-round pick is the option who has the most breakout potential. Juszczyk led the Ravens in catches in the preseason, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak compared him to James Casey, who caught 34 passes and three touchdowns with Kubiak two years ago. What will help Juszczyk get on the field is his versatility. He can play every skill position, from fullback to tight end to wide receiver. Plus, he's the answer to a trivia question. Juszczyk is the first Harvard player to catch a touchdown passion the NFL since Pat McInally on Dec. 21, 1980.

WR Marlon Brown: He was primed to regress this season. The Ravens added more weapons in the passing game, and Brown uncharacteristically dropped a lot of passes in offseason workouts and training camp. Still, it's hard to dismiss Brown's 49 catches and seven touchdowns as a rookie last season. His size (6-foot-5) makes him a great target in the red zone. Brown's playing time will increase if the Ravens go from a two-tight end offense to a three-receiver one.

This is the second straight year where the Ravens have to replace Pitta after he had hip surgery. Last year, the Ravens attempted to address his loss by signing Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark. It's safe to say the Ravens are in a much better position to handle losing Pitta this season.

CLEVELAND -- The Baltimore Ravens' players said they couldn't dwell on Dennis Pitta's apparent hip injury during the game. But soon after the Ravens' 23-21 win, the Ravens made it clear that the tight end was in their thoughts.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele tweeted: "This one's for you brother. We prayin for ya."

According to multiple media reports, Pitta has suffered a dislocated hip. He is scheduled to undergo tests Monday to determine if it's fractured.

This is the same right hip that Pitta had surgery on last year.

“It’s not easy. Dennis, he’s a good friend, he’s a good teammate. And he’s a hell of a player," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "No matter who it is, it’s tough to see that happen, especially when it looks like it might be what it is or it might be serious."

Pitta was carted off the field late in the second quarter, when he lost his balance and collapsed to the ground without being hit. He has been one of Flacco's favorite targets in the red zone and on third downs.

"It’s going to be rough over the next day or two, just thinking about it and talking to him and seeing how he feels about it," Flacco said. "I know last time he got hurt, he was pretty optimistic about everything. It will be interesting to talk to him. It’s tough.”

With the expected loss of Pitta, the Ravens will rely more on tight end Owen Daniels, wide receiver Marlon Brown and fullback Kyle Juszczyk as intermediate targets in the passing game.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are historically one of the most-hated teams that play at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium every season. There is bitterness that remains even though it's been 18 years since Art Modell relocated the team to Baltimore.

This time, when the Ravens play at Cleveland on Sunday, emotions could be running even higher. It marks the Ravens' first road game since the video surfaced showing Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer, now his wife, in that elevator.

Even though Rice is gone from the team, there could be more ill will against the Ravens than usual.

"We always anticipate it being hostile," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "And with everything that’s gone around in this organization and in the NFL, we expect that to be ramped up a little bit. So, it won’t come as a surprise if it is.”

This was expected to be Rice's first game back when he was originally suspended for two games. But the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL then suspended him indefinitely on the day the latest video was released.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs doesn't buy into the notion that the Rice aftermath will create a more raucous road atmosphere for the team.

"We’re not too worried about that," Suggs said. "We know we’re going to be hated. This is the NFL. Every team is going to hate you."

The Ravens have typically fared well in Cleveland, where they hold a 10-5 all-time record. They've won five of their last six games there, but they lost last season when playing on the road was a challenge.

Their road record was 2-6 in 2013 (their worst in coach John Harbaugh's six seasons), with their only wins coming at Miami and Detroit. Half of those road losses were by a field goal.

"Getting that confidence for us has been seeing how we do in a hostile environment," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "Getting a win up there [in Cleveland] would be huge for our team."

The Ravens went 0-3 on the road in the division, and they haven't won away from home in the AFC North since November 2012 at Pittsburgh. There's a feeling in the Ravens' locker room that they need this road win after dropping a home game to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opener.

"All good teams have to be able to go on the road and win, and certainly that’s a challenge we’ll face this week," Pitta said. "Personally, I like playing on the road. I think it’s fun to be able to go into an environment where people don’t really like you."

By the numbers: Ravens Week 2

September, 11, 2014
Here are some numbers to remember for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens (0-1) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0):

3: Teams that failed to record a sack in Week 1, which includes the Ravens, Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons. The Ravens pressured the quarterback at the second-lowest rate in Week 1 (12.8 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

4: Wins by Joe Flacco in his past six games against the Steelers. He has completed 61 percent of his throws over that span, throwing seven touchdowns and one interception.

8: Number of seasons since the Ravens have started 0-2. That's the fourth-longest streak in the NFL. Only the Denver Broncos (14 seasons), New England Patriots (12) and Chicago Bears (10) have longer streaks.

11: Rushes by running back Justin Forsett in the season opener. That's five more attempts than he had all of last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Forsett received 54 snaps at running back while Bernard Pierce (eight snaps) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (three) combined for 11.

16.5: Number of times Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (in 23 meetings). It's the most sacks of Roethlisberger by any NFL defender. But Suggs has just one sack in his past four games against Pittsburgh.

18.1: Points per game allowed by the Ravens since the start of the 2008 season, which was John Harbaugh's first in Baltimore. Only the Steelers (17.7 points) have allowed fewer points than the Ravens.

23: Joe Flacco's interceptions since winning the Super Bowl. That's the second-most by an NFL quarterback since the start of the 2013 season. Only Eli Manning (29 interceptions) has thrown more.

30: Receptions by Dennis Pitta in his past five games. It's the second-most by a tight end in that span. Carolina's Greg Olsen has the most with 31 receptions.

44: Career 100-yard receiving games for wide receiver Steve Smith. That is 11th in NFL history. He needs one more 100-yard game to tie Isaac Bruce.

129: Consecutive games played by punter Sam Koch, tying him with linebacker Jarret Johnson for the longest streak in Ravens history. Koch will set a team record Thursday night.

Ravens Camp Report: Day 14

August, 11, 2014
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • The play of the day came from an unlikely source. Backup linebacker John Simon made a leaping one-handed interception toward the end of practice. Simon, a 2013 fourth-round pick, is known for his toughness but he often struggles to make plays in space.
  • Biggest rule for all rookies: Don't tick off the owner. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro almost did that Monday, when his parents parked in owner Steve Bisciotti's parking spot (which stands out because his initials "SB" are on it). Security had to get Campanaro to point out his parents in the crowd so the vehicle could be removed before Bisciotti arrived for practice.
  • With both backup defensive ends out for the season, DeAngelo Tyson took over that spot and made a nice play in his new role. Tyson leapt up and authoritatively knocked down a pass with both hands.
  • It was surprising to see wide receiver Torrey Smith fielding punts. Smith brings explosive speed and sure hands to that role. But it's a risk to expose the team's best deep threat to getting injured on special teams. Smith also has virtually no experience in covering punts. He returned one punt in college and has never fielded a punt in three NFL seasons.
  • Rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks is getting a lot of reps in practice. He worked at nickel back with the first-team defense and moved back to free safety with the second team.
  • The Ravens and 49ers ended their three days of joint practices with a non-contact workout. This came after two days of padded practices for the teams.
  • Schedule: The Ravens are off Tuesday. They hold practices Wednesday and Thursday before wrapping up training camp Friday.
  • Injury wire: Tight end Dennis Pitta missed his second straight practice with what coach John Harbaugh described as a "little ankle sprain." Pitta did individual drills for about 30 minutes before being told to sit out the rest of practice. ... Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) is scheduled to have season-ending surgery by the end of the week. ... Cornerback Asa Jackson (ankle) was sidelined for his second straight practice. ... Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 12th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... Guard Will Rackley (head), guard Ryan Jensen (ankle) and safety Brynden Trawick (back) also didn't practice. ... Nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... Defensive end Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
The one-year anniversary of tight end Dennis Pitta dislocating his hip passed over the weekend, and it went unnoticed by the Baltimore Ravens.

"I didn’t even think about that. Someone had to remind me of that, which I really didn’t need that reminder," coach John Harbaugh said. "That was unnecessary because let’s just look forward."

To understand the type of impact Pitta will have this season, you have to look at how the Ravens fared without him last season. The best way to measure the loss of Pitta is this: The Ravens ranked 31st in red zone scoring percentage and 20th on third-down conversion percentage with Pitta out for most of 2013.

A healthy Pitta should lead to more scoring and more extended drives. While you also can't dismiss the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin (who was traded before last season) and the effect of that on the offense, Pitta continually came up big for Joe Flacco and the Ravens inside the 20-yard line and on third downs.

Over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Pitta scored 10 touchdowns in the red zone. No other Ravens player had more than seven during that span.

During those two same seasons, Pitta caught 36 passes on third downs, which tied Ray Rice for the team lead. Only three tight ends -- Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez -- had more third-down receptions than Pitta over that span.

Pitta did play in 2013, returning for the final four games. But he didn't have the same explosion or impact because he wasn't fully recovered.

That's not the case for 2014.

"I’m out here not thinking about it," Pitta said. "It’s not giving me an issue at all; I feel 100 percent. I’m encouraged with where I’m at.”

While Pitta isn't thinking about the injury on the field, he is still "highly motivated" by it heading into this season.

"Not playing very much at all last season, you just have to kind of watch and wish you were out there, watch other people do well and wish you could be out there showcasing your abilities," he said. "So, I’m excited to have that chance this year and certainly motivated to do that.”
The Baltimore Ravens have traded back in the first round in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Could they do it again in 2014?

The Ravens will likely have the opportunity to do so. In the past, teams have wanted to trade up in the draft because of quarterbacks. This year, teams will be looking to move up to the Ravens' No. 17 spot for a wide receiver, especially if LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is sitting there.

The Philadelphia Eagles (No. 22), New Orleans Saints (No. 27) and San Francisco 49ers (No. 30) are potential trade partners with the Ravens. What could the Ravens expect to get in return? The Eagles would need to give up a third-round pick to move up five spots, and the Saints and 49ers may need to hand over second-rounders.

Still, is trading back worth it for the Ravens? Let's look at the three previous times they moved back in the first round:

2008 DRAFT

The Ravens dropped from No. 8 to No. 26 and received two third-round picks (Nos. 71 and 89) and a fourth-round one (No. 125) from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens needed to trade one of those third-round picks (No. 89) to move back up to No. 18 to make sure they got quarterback Joe Flacco.

The net result of moving back was linebacker Tavares Gooden (No. 71 pick overall) and cornerback Fabian Washington (acquired for the No. 125 pick from the Oakland Raiders). Gooden started 12 games in three injury-filled seasons with the Ravens, and Washington started three seasons before being benched.

2010 DRAFT

The Ravens moved out of the first round, going from No. 25 overall to No. 43. In return, the Ravens got a third-round pick (No. 70) and a fourth-round one (No. 114) from the Denver Broncos.

Those extra picks became tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, both of whom were fixtures in the offense for the past three seasons. While Dickson is considered a disappointment, Pitta has become one of Flacco's go-to receivers.

But the top picks didn't work out for the Ravens or the Broncos. Denver traded up to get quarterback Tim Tebow, and the Ravens selected linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round. Kindle was the worst top pick in Ravens' history.

Still, the Ravens likely wouldn't have fared much better if they stayed in the first round. The Ravens were eyeing pass rusher Jerry Hughes, who struggled his first three seasons before recording 10 sacks last season.

2012 DRAFT

Like the Ravens did in 2010, they moved out of the first round. This time, the Ravens fell just six spots from No. 29 to No. 35 and received a fourth-round pick (No. 98) in return.

The Ravens were still able to get linebacker Courtney Upshaw, their possible selection in the first round, even though they dropped into the second round. That fourth-round pick became center Gino Gradkowski, who started last season but is expected to be a backup this year.
Cleveland Browns fans complained the past few years as the team sat idly by while free agency raged. The Browns fiddled while free agents burned holes in owners’ pockets.

Or something like that.

Since the 2014 version of free agency began, the Browns have spent $55.8 million in guaranteed money.

That’s the highest total in the AFC North, and following the matching of Jacksonville’s offer to Alex Mack, ranks third in the league in guaranteed money spent since March 11.

Which means the Browns rank third to the Bucs and Broncos in guaranteed money, with most of it going to Mack ($18 million reported, though the number has not been confirmed), linebacker Karlos Dansby ($12 million) and safety Donte Whitner ($13 million). The Browns started free agency with a glut of cap space, and they’ve not been shy about using it.

And they’ve spend more than $50 million in guaranteed contracts without even addressing the quarterback position.

Second in the division in spending are the Baltimore Ravens at $36.3 million, though their total does not include re-signing Dennis Pitta just before free agency began. That signing brings the Ravens' guaranteed money total to $52.3 million -- still short of the Browns.

Most of Baltimore’s money went to Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe ($19 million).

Take away those two re-signings and Baltimore’s guaranteed total of $18 million is more like a team that feels good about itself.

Same for the Bengals, a team that has made the playoffs three years in a row and feels it’s close to something good. Cincinnati has spent just $7.3 million in guaranteed money, the fourth lowest total in the league.

Pittsburgh? The Steelers never go overboard in free-agent spending and this year is no different. Their total of $8.7 million is just ahead of Cincinnati.
After the Baltimore Ravens announced the signing of tight end Owen Daniels, coach John Harbaugh said, "You guys know football. You can see where this is going.”

The direction of the Ravens' offense is two-tight end formations. It's been a favorite formation of new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak during his years with the Houston Texans, and it falls in line with the Ravens' philosophy. Harbaugh has always said the best 11 players will be on the field, and that translates to a lot of significant playing time for Daniels and Dennis Pitta.

Lining up two tight ends will be a drastic change for the Ravens. Last season, no team ran fewer plays with multiple tight ends than the Ravens (155 snaps), the result of not having Pitta for 12 games. Under Kubiak, no team ran more plays with multiple tight ends over the past three seasons than the Texans (an average of 625 snaps), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Daniels, who played eight seasons under Kubiak in Houston, predicts the Ravens will have plenty of two-tight end sets in the playbook.

"We've got the guys here to do it," Daniels said. "That always makes things tough on defenses. When you run the ball well, that makes the defenses make decisions on personnel, and you kind of go off that. I would say look for more of that in the future.”

For years, the Ravens were the traditional I-formation, power running team. Their offense revolved around Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice following a fullback and gashing defenses.

The Ravens' game plan changed last year when they were unable to run the ball. The team phased out fullback Vonta Leach and decided to spread out defenses with three wide receivers.

The Ravens' base offense is expected to evolve again after the Ravens re-signed Pitta and added Daniels. The team can go with two tight ends, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith and Rice at the skill positions.

The Ravens can be versatile with this personnel grouping. They can split out either Pitta or Daniels (or both) to have a four-wide look because both tight ends are such strong pass-catchers. Or they can line Pitta and Daniels next to the offensive tackles for a more run-heavy formation, which could also set up play-action passes.

The key to running the ball out of a two-tight end formation will be the effectiveness of Pitta and Daniels as blockers. Opening holes for the run game isn't the strength of Pitta and Daniels, although Daniels is considered a functional blocker.

Asked whether the Ravens are still looking for a blocking tight end, Harbaugh looked at Daniels and said they'll take that as an insult.

"You can’t just be one-dimensional. If you’re one-dimensional, and you can’t block, you’ll probably be out there, and you’re basically a wide receiver," Harbaugh said. "That conversation has been had. If you’re in there, and you’re a tight end, and you can’t run a route, you’re basically an offensive tackle. Everybody knows it. The ability to do both well, or at least do one thing great and the other thing adequately, you have to have that."

Harbaugh added, "Owen Daniels is a good blocker. Put on the tape, and you’re going to see a very good blocker. He understands the blocking scheme. So, I wouldn’t take that away from him. Hey, if we end up with some punishing, dominating, end-of-the-line-of-scrimmage blocker, you’ll see me smiling. But our two guys right now block really well, too.”
Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta made a compelling argument Wednesday on why the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham shouldn't be penalized for being given the franchise tag for a tight end rather than a wide receiver.

"He gets labeled as a tight end, and for whatever reason, that somehow decreases his value," Pitta said after signing his five-year, $32 million contract. "I don’t understand that part of it. I think he’s been a top producer in this league, certainly on his team, [and] led his team in catches, yards, touchdowns. Why all of a sudden, because he’s labeled as a tight end, does that devalue his stock?"

Even though you would expect a tight end to support one of his peers, it's strange that Pitta spoke out so strongly about this. Pitta's new contract averages $6.4 million per season, which is in line with the franchise tag for a tight end ($7 million) and not a wide receiver ($12.3 million). The deal he signed suggests Pitta agrees with the current value of tight ends.

Pitta ended up with $16 million guaranteed, which is a good chunk of money for a tight end, but it's only $4 million more than what he would've earned in one season if he successfully won a grievance to be tagged as a receiver. Perhaps this is a case where Pitta believes tight ends should get paid more like receivers but he wasn't confident others would feel the same way.

"More power to [Graham], I think it’s something that he should challenge because it's not right that he can catch more touchdowns and more yards than maybe someone who is classified as a wide receiver, yet because he has that tight end label, now all of a sudden his value is cut in half," Pitta said.

Here are some other takeaways from Pitta's news conference:
  • Pitta feels fortunate to sign this type of a deal only seven months after having emergency surgery on his hip. "There were a few weeks after my surgery when I didn't know if I would play football again, which is a tough pill to swallow," Pitta said. "To be able to sit here now, to have an opportunity to be on the field and be with this team for a few more years to come, it's a blessing."
  • There will be no Joe Flacco-like celebration for Pitta after signing his deal. “I probably won't go to McDonald's after this," said Pitta, alluding to the fact that Flacco stopped for some McNuggets after reaching his $120.6 million deal a year ago before adding, "No, I didn't get Joe Flacco money, so he will still be paying for dinners."
  • Pitta acknowledged he wasn't at full strength when he returned in December. "I didn't have any pain and I felt good playing, but kind of that quickness and that explosion wasn't all the way back, which was expected," Pitta said. "Typically, you don’t regain that in four months after surgery, and so that’s something that I continue to work on, and I've been training and trying to get that to 100 percent, which I'm close.”
  • There are plans for Flacco to meet with the receivers and tight ends before the team officially begins its offseason program. "I know that's something Joe wants to get done," Pitta said. "He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we're going to be doing. So, I'm sure we’ll get that ironed out in the next few weeks.”