OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Tight end Nick Boyle likened the Ravens to a "first love" as the team that drafted him, and he had no desire to see that relationship end. So despite free agency looming, and multiple teams interested in pursuing him, Boyle made clear that he wanted to remain in Baltimore.
That became official March 7 as Boyle signed a new contract with the team.
Terms were not disclosed, but the NFL Network reported it to be a three-year, $18 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
It's a large contract for a tight end who has no touchdowns in four NFL seasons, has never topped 213 receiving yards and has served a pair of suspensions. But the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Boyle excels as a blocker, a vital role in the Ravens' run-first offense being developed by offensive coordinator Greg Roman for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This past season, Boyle played in all 16 games, with 13 starts, and finished with 23 catches for 213 yards.
"I think Nick's a huge piece of our offense going forward," head coach John Harbaugh said, calling Boyle "the best blocking tight end in the league, no question in my mind about that. He sets the edge, he sets the tempo, he's a physical presence out there. But he's definitely an underrated talent in the passing game."
Boyle's signing comes a day after the Ravens reportedly met with tight end Dwayne Allen, who had been released by the New England Patriots. Free agency begins March 13, and pending free agents can begin negotiating with teams March 11.
Boyle, who turned 26 last month, was expected to draw significant interest from other teams, and he likened free agency to a rubber band being pulled in different directions. But, with his wife Kristina standing near him at the Ravens facility, he said, "This is where I want to be."
"I didn't want to go to another team," he added. "I don't think Kristina did either. ... We love it here. We love the relationships."
The Ravens selected Boyle in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Delaware, and Harbaugh recalled that as Ravens officials watched Boyle's college tape, "We felt he fit us perfectly."
But Boyle's career suffered ignominy when he was suspended twice during his first two seasons for violations of the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs. That cost him the final four games of his rookie year and the first 10 games of his second season, and led a frustrated Harbaugh to say at the 2016 Scouting Combine, "If he continues to double down on dumb, he's going to be out."
Asked indirectly about Harbaugh's public rebuke, Boyle said, "I'd call myself the same thing if I was back there. I have no hard feelings. That's the truth. The truth's the truth. You can't hide behind the truth. That's something that built me today. It made me a stronger person. I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason, and [I'm] just excited to be here today."
Since returning from that 10-game suspension to begin the 2016 season, Boyle emerged as the team's top blocking tight end, a role that became magnified this past season as the Ravens turned to a run-first approach with Jackson.
Boyle played 651 snaps in 2018, about 250 more than any of the other three tight ends. (Mark Andrews ranked second at 414.)
"I have a lot of pride in what I do," Boyle said, "and whether it's catching a pass or having a really key block on a certain play, I think I get the same satisfaction out of it."
Boyle, Andrews and Hayden Hurst now give the Ravens a stable of three versatile tight ends. Maxx Williams, who played in 13 games last year, is a pending free agent.
As a third-round rookie last year, Andrews caught 34 passes for 552 yards, a franchise record for a rookie tight end and the most by any rookie tight end in the league in 2018. Hurst, picked in the first round seven spots ahead of Jackson, was slowed early in the year by a foot injury and finished with 13 catches for 163 yards.
"Our tight end group is really special right now," Boyle said. "I think we cover all the areas of what we need to do to help the team win."
Boyle said that Roman, who had been the tight ends coach the past two seasons, "does a really good job of incorporating all of us and just making us really important parts of the game plan."
The Ravens are redeveloping their offense this offseason, but multiple tight-end sets are expected to remain a key component of it.
"I'm super excited to see what [Roman] has come up with," Boyle said.
Boyle's re-signing leaves the Ravens with nine pending unrestricted free agents, including linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs. The Ravens had issued an 11 p.m. notice March 6 announcing a press conference related to the re-signing of an unnamed player, so speculation immediately swirled that the Ravens had agreed to terms with Mosley or Suggs. That clearly hasn't happened, but the Ravens haven't ruled out either or both returning.
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