With Dominic Raiola back on a one-year deal, the most prominent Lion scheduled to hit free agency next month is tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew and the Lions have had no substantial contract discussions, and the Lions will need to clear salary-cap space to re-sign him for 2014. But judging by the description new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi gave of his ideal tight end Friday, Pettigrew seems like a fit in the new offense. “I think it’s important to have a guy that can block at the point of attack. That’s important,” Lombardi said. “And then you want a guy that can be a pass receiver, so you’re always looking for those well-rounded guys. But again, I’ve never been in the mode of I wanted to find exactly what this player is and then you have to go find him for me. Go find the best player you can.” The Lions have two tight ends under contract, Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams, plus control of restricted free agent Dorin Dickerson and exclusive rights to free agent Matt Veldman. But Pettigrew is one of the NFL’s more versatile tight ends. He excels as a blocker, had two 70-plus catch seasons early in his career, and rarely came off the field last season when he was used less as a receiver because of injuries and other deficiencies at the position. Pettigrew, who turns 29 this month, is expected to be one of the top tight ends in free agency this year along with Tony Gonzalez, if he decides to play another season, Dennis Pitta and perhaps Jermichael Finley, depending on his health. One free agent who almost certainly won’t be in the Lions’ plans at the position is Jimmy Graham, whom Lombardi knows well from their days together with the New Orleans Saints. Graham is expected to get the franchise tag if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal with the Saints this off-season, and Lombardi joked about that situation Friday. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say he’s a tight end or not. I know he’s got the situation going on,” Lombardi said, referring to a fight that could be brewing over whether Graham gets tagged as a receiver or tight end. Regardless of what the Lions do at tight end, Lombardi said he expects Calvin Johnson to open up the offense much the way Graham did in New Orleans.
Joe Lombardi sees value in tight end Brandon Pettigrew's two-way talent
Detroit Free Press | Feb 9