As the Ravens cleaned out their lockers in January after an 8-8 season, several players spoke about how they expected to be back in Baltimore in 2014.
But while Ed Dickson said Charm City will always be his “first love,” he seemed resigned to the fact that his days here were done.
Two months later, free agency hasn’t treated the athletic but maddeningly inconsistent tight end kindly. Dickson has drawn interest from teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, according to my colleague Aaron Wilson, but a lucrative contract or a prime job opportunity apparently hasn’t presented itself.
The door is open for Dickson to return to Baltimore, as Wilson reports the Ravens have offered their 2010 third-round draft pick a contract. But the 26-year-old would probably benefit from a change of scenery.
Dickson occasionally flashed big-play potential in his four years with the Ravens and his 2011 numbers -- 54 catches, 528 yards and five touchdowns -- suggested that he might develop into a pretty good starting tight end. But he produced less than that in those categories during the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined and his blocking was an issue.
Dallas Clark and Dennis Pitta -- when he returned from his gruesome hip injury -- were used as pass-catching tight ends while Dickson was more often used as a blocker, which has never been his strong suit. In 354 snaps as a run blocker, he had by far the worst run blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus, among all players at his position.
When Dickson did get a chance to run routes, he caught just seven passes that were thrown beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and he dropped five of the 43 passes that flew his way. He appeared to lack confidence, which is surprising if you have met him personally. He is outgoing and engaging and he often sports a playful smirk.
What made Dickson so frustrating to watch was that his potential was evident from the moment the Ravens drafted him (a round ahead of Pitta, whom they just rewarded with a five-year, $32 million contract). The guy isn’t a freak athlete like New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham, but he can run, leap and make explosive plays, like he did a number of times in 2011.
Dickson never lived up the hype here, but that’s not to say that he isn’t capable of becoming a decent starter. I’m just not sure he is still capable of becoming that here, where the Ravens need a tight end who can block better to complement Pitta.
Dickson is a stand-up guy who was well liked in Baltimore, and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and new tight ends coach Brian Pariani developed some good tight ends in Houston and could help Dickson.
But he would probably benefit more from a clean slate somewhere else if another team is willing to open their doors to him.