Ravens keep coveted TE Boyle with 3-year deal

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Nick Boyle knows more than anyone that blocking tight ends are underappreciated in the NFL.

After re-signing with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, Boyle said the general response he has heard about his three-year, $18 million deal is, "Nick Boyle, who?"

"That's a huge thing: 'Oh, they're paying this guy a lot and he didn't get a touchdown,'" said Boyle, who has yet to reach the end zone in his four-year NFL career. "Whatever they want to say, they can say. It's not hurting my feelings. I have a lot of pride in what I do. Whether it's catching a pass or having a really key block on a certain play, I get the same satisfaction out of it."

Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that at least 10 teams were interested in Boyle if he had hit the free-agent market, and one coach told Schefter that Boyle "would have been the best tight end to hit free agency in the last three years."

Boyle, who turned 26 in February, is the most underrated of the Ravens' offensive starters who were scheduled to hit free agency. He lined up as a tight end-fullback hybrid, helping Baltimore rush for an NFL-best 4,297 yards over the past two seasons (when he started a total of 24 games). His critical block last season in a 26-16 win in Atlanta sprung quarterback Lamar Jackson for a 13-yard touchdown run.

A fifth-round pick (171st overall) in 2015, Boyle is a better receiver than his numbers would indicate. Last season he caught 23 passes for a career-best 214 yards and graded out as the fourth-best tight end in the AFC North.

"I think Nick is a huge piece of our offense going forward from the standpoint of how he plays and the tone he sets," coach John Harbaugh said. "There's no question in my mind that he's the best blocking tight end in the league. But he's definitely an underrated talent in the passing game. He's an all-around tight end."

One reason why Boyle carries so much value for the Ravens is their run-heavy game plan. Baltimore lined up with two or more tight ends on 1,044 snaps the past two seasons. That's 199 more than any other team in the NFL.

Harbaugh said keeping Boyle completes the Ravens' tight end group. Baltimore also returns Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst after promising rookie seasons.

"I'd be hard-pressed to think there's a better tight end group in the league right now," Harbaugh said. "Tight ends are hard to defend. From a defensive perspective, what personnel group do you want to put on the field against really good tight ends is a challenge."

Boyle's first two seasons were filled with off-field problems. He was suspended twice for using performance-enhancing drugs, sidelining him for a total of 14 games. That prompted Harbaugh to say Boyle would not be with the team if he continued to "double down on dumb."

"I'd call me the same thing if I was back there. The truth is the truth," Boyle said Thursday. "That's something that built me to today. It made me a stronger person, and it made me look back on what really meant so much to me."

Boyle stayed out of trouble in his past two seasons and missed only one game. His 624 snaps last season were 229 more than any other tight end on the Ravens roster.

Asked how he went from being suspended twice to being a coveted tight end, Boyle said, "What covers it up is how you go out there and perform. Keep playing well, getting on the right track and doing the right thing was the key."

Boyle's average of $6 million per season makes him the 15th-highest-paid tight end in the NFL. He vowed that won't change how he lives.

"I told [wife] Kristina that. We're not going to be buying any more," Boyle said. "We're still Nordstrom Rack."