Now that the Lions have taken one of the top free agent centers off the market after re-signing the ever-loyal Dominic Raiola to a one-year contract, they can now turn their attention to free agent TE Brandon Pettigrew, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. New Lions OC Joe Lombardi, who recently indicated that he expects to be the Lions offensive play-caller in 2014 despite never having called a play in the NFL, observed that Pettigrew is an increasingly rare breed of tight end in that he can excel as a blocker and receiver.
However, the Lions may have a lot of competition for Pettigrew. The 29-year-old has two 70-plus catch seasons on his resume, which, combined with his blocking abilities and the relatively murky tight end market, could land him a big-money deal. Indeed, even if Tony Gonzalex changes his mind about retirement for the second consecutive year, he is hardly a long-term solution for any potential suitor, and it is unlikely he would go to a team other than the Falcons–or conceivably Kansas City–anyway. The Ravens are likely to either put the franchise tag on Dennis Pitta or re-sign him to a long-term contract, and the health concerns of Jermichael Finley make his future uncertain at best. Jimmy Graham, who would be the ultimate free agent prize, will either get the franchise tag or a multi-year deal with the Saints. By attrition, then, Pettigrew becomes the most attractive tight end available.
Given Detroit’s internal options at the position, though, the team may have no other choice but to somehow bring Pettigrew back. The only tight ends currently under contract are Michael Williams and the talented-but-raw Joseph Fauria. They also have control of restricted free agent Dorin Dickerson and the exclusive rights to free agent Matt Veldman. The cost of the 2014 franchise tag for tight ends is projected to be slightly over $6MM, and that may be the route the Lions choose to pursue with Pettigrew.
Some other notes from the Motor City:
- Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com predicts Detroit will receive a fourth-round compensatory pick after losing tackle Gosder Cherilus to free agency last year, but because the Lions were active themselves in the free agent market in 2013, that will probably be the only compensatory selection they receive.
- ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein thinks the Lions could draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins with the tenth overall pick if he falls that far. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Penn State’s Allen Robinson could be potential targets in the second round.
- In any event, Rothstein thinks the Lions could target two wideouts in free agency, one as an outside receiver and one to play the slot. He notes that new head coach Jim Caldwell has traditionally preferred having receivers over 6 feet tall on his roster.
- Seahawks WR Golden Tate is unlikely to be an option for Detroit, as he has previously expressed that he would be willing to take a “hometown discount” to remain in Seattle.