OWINGS MILLS - Tight ends have always been a big part of Gary Kubiak's offenses.
Anyone familar with the Ravens' new offensive coordinator knows that.
Owen Daniels was a two-time Pro Bowl selection under Kubiak in Houston. Garrett Graham had 545 yards in 2013 despite starting just 11 games. And Shannon Sharpe made the Pro Bowl five times while Kubiak was the offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos.
Knowing all of that has Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta enthusiastic.
Pitta was in Baltimore Wednesday to sign the five-year contract he agreed to last week and made his first public comments since Kubiak was hired in late January.
"What I know of the offense is watching Houston the last few years and seeing their tight ends, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, put up great statistics," Pitta said. "And it's not all about statistics, but they've been productive. They've been a centerpiece to that offense, and I feel like I can produce in that same way."
Daniels had 677 yards or more each of his four years under Kubiak in which he played at least 15 games.
Daniels only played in five games in 2013. But between Daniels, Graham, James Casey and Ryan Griffin, Texans tight ends combined to catch 216 passes for 2,350 yards and 23 touchdowns during the last two seasons under Kubiak.
In total, Houston quarterbacks targeted a tight end on 342 passes during those two years.
In comparison, Ravens tight ends were targeted on just 256 passes during that same period, a difference of almost three targets per game.
To be fair, Baltimore likely would have thrown to tight ends more in 2013 had Pitta not missed all but four games with a fractured and dislocated hip, but the Ravens actually threw to that position less in 2012 when Pitta was healthy than they did last season.
Either way, Pitta figures to be a big part of the Ravens' passing game this coming season.
"I'm excited to be able to kind of fill that role," Pitta said.
Pitta, 28, had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during his last healthy season in 2012.
The team expected him to be an even bigger factor in the passing game entering 2013, but he suffered the hip injury during training camp in late July and missed the first 12 games.
However, he did return to catch 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in the final four games despite still being limited by the hip.
The Ravens still have 12 players set to become unrestricted free agents March 11, including several Harbaugh said they are working to retain, but finding a way to keep Pitta was their top priority heading into the offseason.
"From the Ravens perspective, we couldn't be happier that we have Dennis Pitta as part of our future going forward," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a great football player and an even better person, and we plan on having a lot of success offensively as a team with Dennis catching passes for us for many years to come."