Dennis Pitta's career has appeared to be finished at several points in recent years, with chronic hip injuries and repeated setbacks leaving him with bleak odds of returning to the Ravens. Few could have predicted the impact he would make in 2016, and the restructured contract he signed with Baltimore before this season is paying dividends for the team and player alike.
Pitta, very close with quarterback Joe Flacco off the field and one of his favorite targets on it, appeared in just seven games from 2012-16, and prior to this season's opener he had last appeared in an NFL game in Week 3 of 2014. Pitta missed all of 2015 after re-injuring his hip trying to return from a significant injury first suffered in 2013, and there were tepid expectations when doctors cleared him to attempt to return for this season.
The Ravens stuck with him throughout the process, and Pitta, coming off a two-touchdown game last week (his first since Dec. 8, 2013), reworked his deal to facilitate a return in 2016, lowering his salary from $5 million to $1 million and adding $3 million in incentives to bridge the gap; he's already secured that money, per his contract. Pitta, 31, needed to catch 60 balls to max out a $1 million receptions incentive; he has already matched his career-high with 61. He also had a $2 million incentive if he played 50 percent of the team's snaps, which he is in line to achieve.
Pitta is just 170 yards short of another career high as well -- from Baltimore's Super Bowl season of 2012 -- and has been more agile and dynamic downfield in recent weeks as he has worked through his long absence and injuries.
Pitta is quietly tied for second in receptions among all tight ends (only Kansas City's Travis Kelce has more, and he has played one more game), and Pitta ranks 10th among all tight ends in yardage. He has two years remaining on his contract, worth $5.5 million per season, and his presence has been invaluable with a once-deep group of Ravens' tight ends being ravaged by injuries and suspensions.