Brandon Pettigrew may not quite be the type of tight end the Lions want, but in the end he turned out to be one they need.
The Lions re-signed Pettigrew to a four-year, $16 million contract with half ($8 million) guaranteed. Pettigrew is coming off his worst statistical season since 2009 -- 41 catches for 416 yards and two TDs in '13. One explanation for the drop-off: Joseph Fauria's emergence as a downfield and red-zone threat.
Pettigrew is more of a traditional, in-line tight end. He entered free agency hoping his decent blocking ability would help him stand out, and it may have in the Lions' eyes. Detroit rediscovered a long-dormant run game last season, thanks at least in small part to Pettigrew's work.
New head coach Jim Caldwell would like to ground and pound even more moving forward, as evidenced by the team's interest in fullback Henry Hynoski. (He re-signed with the Giants.) Caldwell's plan kept Pettigrew front and center for the Lions as they headed into free agency; Fauria is a mediocre blocker at best, far more useful as a pass-catcher. The Jets, among others, had been interested in Pettigrew as well, who stood as one of the top two or three tight ends available.
His re-signing may shift the Lions' draft plans again. Already, by adding Golden Tate, Detroit had addressed one trouble spot on the roster. Keeping Pettigrew around prevents tight end from slipping into that category -- it may take Detroit off the board for Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro at No. 10 overall.
Now the Lions stand as a wild card in the draft. They have several needs (cornerback, linebacker, safety, potentially wide receiver) but nothing overwhelming. Grade: B. Pettigrew's a steady blocker and occasionally a weapon in the passing game. His inconsistency with regards to the latter pushed Fauria onto the field, and it may encourage Detroit to consider another TE in the draft. There is something be said, though, for keeping homegrown talent. The Lions drafted Pettigrew in Round 1 of the 2009 draft, so they are very aware of what he is ... and isn't.