Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Week 15 MNF loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and he was unable to play in Sunday’s heart-breaking overtime loss to the New York Giants due to the injury. Pettigrew did not practice at all that week, and he was also spotted on crutches during the team’s first practice session of the week.
Yesterday, the Lions officially ended his season by placing him on the injured reserve, which was the expected move. Not only is he not healthy enough to play, but this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings has been rendered useless. Injured and in a contract year, there was absolutely no need to carry Pettigrew on the 53-man roster. His roster spot will be used to potentially get a look at someone else, and his snaps will once again go to interesting No. 2 tight end Joseph Fauria (N0. 3 guy guy Dorin Dickerson suffered a concussion last week).
Brandon Pettigrew is going to be a free agent in the offseason, and the Lions have a tough decision to make. He probably won’t command much on the open market, but all it takes is one team that is unusually high on his skill-set. Inconsistency has long plagued Pettigrew, but he was much more consistent player this season as a legitimate safety valve option underneath for Matthew Stafford. There is little doubt that Stafford trusted him a great deal as the No. 2 option when Nate Burleson went down, as he had a streak of eight games with at least three receptions in the middle of the season.
Is that enough for the Detroit Lions to keep this guy? That’s the tough question, and it’s going to come down to cost and how much they value Fauria. Pettigrew had the lowest amount of receptions of his career since his rookie campaign, but, again, he was more consistent and efficient. I think the improvements he made this year warrant the Lions re-signing him, especially since he’s a safety valve for Stafford. If they can add a better No. 2 receiver than Nate Burleson (or finally have a healthy Ryan Broyles), then they should be set. Pettigrew isn’t a great blocking tight end by any means, but he’s not bad either. And since the Lions have such a great offensive line (Larry Warford is a beast), the Lions can definitely get away with mediocre blocking at TE. I think Pettigrew gets more criticism than he deserves, and the only reason why the Lions should let him walk is if his price tag becomes bloated by an over-anxious suitor.
This season, Pettigrew had just four drops compared to more than two times that amount last season. With a catch rate of 65.1%, Pettigrew was second on the Lions in Stafford’s completion percentage, and only Burleson was higher. I like Burleson as a No. 3 receiver, but his inability to consistently get separation doesn’t make him a legitimate option in the Lions passing attack, especially when this team really needs a vertical threat as a No. 2 receiver to help make use of Stafford’s great arm, in addition to alleviating pressure off of Calvin Johnson.
Ultimately, your opinion on Pettigrew comes down to whether or not you believe that he has legitimately become a more consistent player in the Lions offense. The skepticism is perfectly fine, because past results dictate that he isn’t a consistent player. I’ve never been a big fan of his blocking, but he’s a better blocker than the other guys on the Lions roster. Plus, he did an excellent job this season of earning Stafford’s trust and moving the chains, and I think he did well enough to deserve re-signing. Look at it this way, the Lions don’t need to add another need to their list by having to go out and get another TE, especially since they know for a fact that Pettigrew is a decent starting option. As long as he is affordable, I don’t see the reason in letting him go.