Brandon Pettigrew was on a bright path to success after being selected 20th overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009. The hope was that he would be in the discussion of the best tight ends in the game. What the Lions got instead was a talented, yet highly inconsistent player who had the knack for dropping crucial passes in the key moments of games and be victimized by other turnovers that seemed to come out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
A new regime is set to take the reins for the Lions, and one of their key personnel decisions this offseason is whether they want to keep Pettigrew, who has played out his rookie contract and is now an unrestricted free agent. I think it is in the best interests of the team to let Pettigrew go in free agency and look in another direction.
Pettigrew got off to a fast start when he came into the league. In 2010 and 2011, Pettigrew had a total of 154 receptions for 1,499 yards and nine touchdowns. After their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints in 2012, the whole team — not just Pettigrew — fell back to earth. In 2012 and 2013, he only totaled 100 receptions for 983 yards and only five touchdowns, including five fumbles in that span while being in the top of the drops category.
In 2013 alone, Pettigrew had zero 100-yard games and four games where he was held under 10 receiving yards; not the stats that should come with the pedigree of a top-20 pick.
The elite teams in the NFL have clear and notable strengths at this position. All of the remaining playoff teams have elite tight ends or tight end units. The tight end is the quarterback’s best-friend. He is the one who makes the tough catches in traffic when the game is on the line, or can make the key block that springs a running back to a momentum-changing run.
Pettigrew could not cash in on those opportunities given to him despite having Matthew Stafford throwing him the football, Calvin Johnson shifting coverage towards him and Reggie Bush making defenses account for the running game. Ultimately, Pettigrew was outshone by Joseph Fauria, an undrafted free agent from UCLA known for catching red-zone touchdowns and creative touchdown dances.
Whether the Lions decide to have Fauria as their no. 1 tight-end or decide to look elsewhere for help, what is clear for the team is that Pettigrew is not the answer at any price tag.