Tight end Dennis Pitta signed a five-year, $32 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Pitta was a priority for the Ravens entering free agency March 11 with the possibility of using the franchise tag to retain him looming as a last resort.

"Dennis creates a number of mismatch problems for defenses. He makes it tough on them, and because of that, he really helps out our wide receivers," said Ozzie Newsome, vice president and general manager of the Ravens. "Opponents have to always pay attention to where he lines up and where his routes take him. Dennis is also a big target with very good hands, and his presence in the red zone is very important to us."

The Ravens continue rebuilding after a roster purge followed their February 2013 Super Bowl triumph, including eight defensive starters and franchise mainstays Ray Lewis (retirement) and Ed Reed (free agency).

A fourth-round pick (114th overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft, Pitta has played in 47 career games (eight starts), but missed 12 games last season with a fractured hip.

"It was obvious when Dennis was out last year that we really missed him," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We all admire how he fought back from the hip injury and helped us down the stretch. Having Dennis as a part of the Ravens now and in the future is exciting news for us.

"Dennis has a large catch radius and can snatch the ball in traffic. Not only is he a reliable player, but he is an outstanding person as well. Having a weapon like Dennis makes everyone on our offense better."

Pitta could have created a stir as a franchise player given his use in the offensive formation with the Ravens last season. With almost 80 percent of his snaps coming out of the slot, Pitta and his representatives would likely have filed a grievance to be paid the franchise wide receiver tender of $11.6 million, rather than as a tight end -- his position designation on the roster -- of $6.8 million.

Because of the hip injury, Pitta missed most of the 2013 season and caught 20 passes for 169 yards. He has 122 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Ravens, including 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.