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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Could Dennis Pitta replace Tony Gonzalez?

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Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta runs the ball during an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta runs the ball during an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

When the Falcons return from the NFL scouting combine, they will turn their attention to free agency.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said there has been a lot of internal discussions about the team’s free agents, but none have been offered contract extensions.

The Falcons’ list of potential unrestricted free agents include defensive linemen Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters, offensive linemen Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, Sean Locklear and Jeremy Trueblood, tight end Chase Coffman, cornerback Dominique Franks and linebacker Omar Gaither.

The Falcons also must replace tight end Tony Gonzalez.

In a report by Clifton Brown, the Ravens Insider for CSNBaltimore.com, the Falcons are considered one of the teams prepared to pounce on Pitta if he hits the free agent market March 11.

Potential suitors for tight end Dennis Pitta will be prepared to pounce if the Ravens and Pitta cannot reach agreement on a new contract. The Falcons, the Packers, and the Patriots are three teams that could be nice fits for Pitta if he ever hits the free agent market March 11.

The Ravens hope that never happens. They are trying to sign Pitta to a long-term deal before the March 3 deadline to use the franchise tag.

However, using the franchise tag on Pitta is complicated. He may challenge his designation as a tight end, saying he should be classified as a wide receiver because he frequently lines up in the slot. The franchise tag number for wide receivers will be at least $11.5 million, compared to $6.9 million for tight ends.

Pitta, who is 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, was drafted out of Brigham Young in the fourth-round (114th overall) in 2010.

Pitta has been productive when healthy. He played in 11 games as a rookie.

In 2011, he had 40 catches for 405 yards and three touchdowns.

In 2012, he had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last season, he battled back from hip surgery to catch 20 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown last season.

Over the past five seasons, Gonzalez averaged 81.8 catches, 838 yards and seven touchdowns per season. His retirement leaves a grapping hole that likely can be best filled in free agency.


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