The Ravens reached a long-term deal with one of their brightest offensive stars Monday, signing tight end Mark Andrews to a four-year contract extension.
Andrews’ deal is worth $56 million over four years and includes $37.6 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN. The extension comes on his 26th birthday and makes Andrews the NFL’s third-highest-paid tight end ($14 million per year), trailing only the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle ($15 million) and Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce ($14.3 million) in annual value.
Andrews, a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, was entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract. He had a team-high 58 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games last season, becoming the first tight end in Ravens history to produce multiple seasons with at least 700 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
“Mark is exactly the type of player we wish to keep as a Raven long-term,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in a release Monday. “He’s competitive, passionate, talented and a leader. We are so excited to have him in Baltimore for the next five years. Congratulations to Mark and his family — and happy birthday.”
Over three seasons in Baltimore, despite playing in a run-heavy system, Andrews has 156 catches for 2,105 yards and 20 touchdowns. Since 1970, the start of the NFL’s modern era, only 16 other tight ends have recorded 2,000 receiving yards over their first three seasons, according to Pro Football Reference, including stars like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Zach Ertz and George Kittle, all of whom played in more pass-oriented offenses.
DeCosta said in January that the Ravens “would be foolish to not want to try and keep” Andrews with a long-term deal. He said the former Oklahoma star is “one of the better tight ends in the entire NFL” and underlined his fit in a “tight end-centric offense.”
“He works hard every day to get better at his craft, and he wants to be one of the best ones in the game,” Ravens tight ends coach Bobby Engram said last month. “But he also attacks the playbook, and he’s really worked hard on being a better blocker. So he just wants to be a complete player, and he goes about his business every day like that.”
Andrews’ extension is the latest DeCosta has handed out to an ascendant homegrown player, following 2020 deals for left tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Securing quarterback Lamar Jackson, who’s under contract through 2022, to a long-term megadeal remains the Ravens’ top priority.
Few expected Andrews to establish himself so quickly when he arrived in Baltimore three years ago. Despite winning the John Mackey Award in 2017, given to the nation’s top tight end, he fell to the third round of the 2018 draft over concerns about his blocking ability and athleticism. He arrived at offseason workouts in the shadow of the Ravens’ top pick, tight end Hayden Hurst, who was drafted seven spots before quarterback Lamar Jackson (No. 32 overall) and 61 spots before Andrews (No. 86).
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But Andrews went on to lead all Ravens tight ends as a rookie with 552 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. In 2019, when the Ravens had the NFL’s most efficient offense, he set a single-season franchise record for touchdown catches by a tight end (10) and finished with team highs in receptions (64), receiving yards (852) and receiving touchdowns (10).
Last season, despite a slight dip in production, Andrews improved his drop rate (from 7.1% to 5.7%) and finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ No. 10 pass-blocking tight end and No. 17 run-blocking tight end, one of the few at the position to be rated so highly at both.
Andrews is one of the more popular players in the Ravens’ locker room — “So happy for Money Mark,” former Sooners teammate and current Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown tweeted Monday — and one of its hardest-working. He trained with Brown and rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman during the Ravens’ offseason hiatus in July, and was so drained after a humid joint practice with the Carolina Panthers last month that he had to be treated for full-body cramping with intravenous fluids.
Andrews’ dedication is most evident in his chemistry with Jackson, who has likened their go-and-get-it connection to “street ball.” Andrews was dominant at times throughout offseason workouts and training camp; coach John Harbaugh remarked in June that Andrews was “running routes the best that I’ve seen him run routes since he’s been here.”
When Andrews was asked whether he’d thought about his future in Baltimore, he said his focus was on self-improvement. His mantra since childhood has been constant: “Top five,” a statement of purpose about where he thinks he stands in the world, in whatever he’s doing.
“I try not to worry about the things that are not in my control,” Andrews said in June. “I love Baltimore. I love being here. I love playing here. I want to be here for the rest of my life, man. This is home for me. So that’s where I’m at. I’m just going to, as a player, be the best player that I can be for this team. …
“We all are moving in the same direction, and that’s really all that I’m worried about right now. You can’t worry about too much of the outside noise and what happens with that. I’m just going to let my play speak for itself. Obviously, I love Baltimore. I love being here, and I would love to be here for my whole life.”