After the Saints franchise tagged tight end Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta re-signed with the Ravens on Friday, Brandon Pettigrew became the top free agent tight end available.
Pitta’s contract was for five years for $32 million which would be similar to what Pettigrew could expect from the Lions if they re-sign him. Pettigrew has one more year of service than Pitta.
“We had our free agency meetings, our coaches liked him, what he can do,’’ Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Combine. “(He’s) an all-around sort of guy.’’
Teams can start talking to free agents on Saturday, March 8, and they can sign free agents starting at 4 p.m. on March 11.
Pettigrew had 41 catches for 416 yards in 14 games last season.
Perhaps the key stat is they he cut his dropped passes. In 2013 he had four drops on 45 catchable passes for a 8.89 percent of drops. In 2012 Pettigrew had nine drops from 68 catchable passes or 13.24 percent. (Statistics courtesy of SI.com.)
Other tight ends on the Lions roster are Joe Fauria who had 18 catches with seven touchdowns in his rookie season. Mayhew said he’d like to get him more involved in the offense, not just in the red zone.
Michael Williams who missed his rookie season with a hand injury. Dorin Dickerson is a restricted free agent and it’s uncertain if the Lions will offer him a tender. He played in five games last season with two catches for 34 yards.
If the Lions don’t re-sign Pettigrew, they would look to free agency for a veteran or perhaps look for an all-around tight end in the draft.
Eric Ebron, the 6-foot-4 tight end out of North Carolina, could be a possibility with the 10th overall pick. His hands could be an issue though. He has a 11.43 percent drop rate per SI.com.