Soon enough, the Detroit Lions will have a decision to make regarding tight end Brandon Pettigrew and his expiring contract. The former first-round selection is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and to this point, his time in Motown has brought a mixed bag of results.
At times, Pettigrew has flashed the ability to play as one of the best tight ends the NFL has to offer. When he’s not doing that, however, he’s playing like he’s one of the worst in the league. As the Lions starting TE, the 27-year old Pettigrew should be serving as Matthew Stafford‘s main red zone option not named Calvin Johnson. Yet, through four seasons with the team, he’s totaled just 14 touchdown catches.
It’s not for a lack of targets, either. Pettigrew has seen the ball come his way 100 times or more each of the past three seasons. In 2012, he hauled in just 59 of the 100 balls intended for him. He missed two games due to injury, but had just three TD catches on the year.
Pettigrew doesn’t have to be Rob Gronkowski, but at this point, he’s not even close.
On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the guy’s raw talent. He’s 6’5″, 265 pounds and quite athletic, making him an easy and capable target to hit. After all, he was drafted in the first round for a reason. Detroit doesn’t have the greatest track record with first-round picks, but tight ends aren’t taken that early too often, and I wasn’t thinking it was a bad pick at the time.
Pettigrew is by all means a serviceable tight end, even if he doesn’t ever reach his ridiculously high ceiling. Even so, he lacks a reliable set of hands and seems to help create more fourth downs than first downs. Your tight end is vital to extending drives in addition to serving as a reliable option in the red zone, and Stafford hasn’t been able to get either from No. 87.
I’ll give Pettigrew some credit for his blocking abilities, I would say he’s above average in that category, though not elite. He was also able to cut down on penalties in 2012, so props for that, too.
GM Martin Mayhew and the Lions’ front office will likely be watching Pettigrew closely in 2013 to help make the all-important decision of whether or not to re-sign their starting TE a little easier. As it stands, it’s rather difficult to make a case stating Pettigrew deserves a long-term deal. If it’s at an affordable rate, maybe I could see it, but I have a feeling some tight-end needy squad would overpay the guy on the open market if he were to test free agency in 2014.
Detroit simply can’t afford to give him more than he’s worth.
Maybe the Lions should entertain trade offers for Pettigrew this year. Maybe they like him more than I believe they should and are intent on keeping him around. I’m not really sure. I was pretty high on Pettigrew’s potential heading into the 2012 season but instead of taking a step forward, he really seemed to fall back.
If he can’t move forward in 2013, it’s probably best that Pettigrew moves on from Detroit altogether.