In five seasons with the Detroit Lions, veteran tight end Brandon Pettigrew has been a reliable and dangerous target for former head coach Jim Schwartz‘s offense. Shortly after being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Pettigrew frequently contributed in run blockeing and catching the ball, helping to lead the way for Detroit to be respectable on the offensive side of the ball compared to years past.
Pettigrew has played along with franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford his entire career which has allowed the teammates to increase their chemistry throughout the years. Despite his inability to consistently catch the ball every week, fans can see how Stafford trusts Pettigrew in passing routes, as he was targeted a total of 455 times in his tenure with the Lions.
General manager Martin Mayhew has told reporters that re-signing Pettigrew is a top priority for Detroit this offseason. If the price is reasonable, bringing back the tight end is best for the team if their intentions of winning now are still intact. Considering that the rest of the depth chart features young and unproven players, keeping Pettigrew in the starting lineup negates the Lions from having to draft or sign a tight end this offseason.
Joseph Fauria was able to showcase his ability to catch the ball in the endzone, and will be able to improve his blocking before next season gets under way. However, throwing in the second-year tight end does create uncertainty, as Fauria was only targeted 30 times. Giving him more experience in 2014 to improve his game in certain game situations will allow the Lions to have two trustworthy tight ends.
Due to the fact that third stringer Michael Williams was on injured reserve last season, it causes the tight end position to be insubstantial if the Lions let Pettigrew walk. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints have franchise tagged Jimmy Graham, and Dennis Pitta signed an extension with the Baltimore Ravens. Relying on free agency to replace Pettigrew will be difficult for the Lions. They have to find an above-average tight end for the right price.
Having Pettigrew back on the team will allow Detroit to avoid useing a draft pick on a tight end if they decide to go that route. Eric Ebron of North Carolina is arguably the top tight end prospect in the upcoming draft in May. Selecting him with the No. 10 pick in the first round is a possibility, but considering how many other positions that need to be addressed, including wide receiver and cornerback, re-signing Pettigrew seems like the more reasonable option.