The Detroit Lions let the deadline pass to apply the franchise tag on tight end Brandon Pettigrew yesterday. Had they chosen to use it, the cost would have been over seven million against the salary cap and used up most of the space they have left.
It is the second straight year the Lions chose not to use the franchise tag, the last time they used it was in 2012 to retain defensive end Cliff Avril. Pettigrew would have to sign for significantly less for the Lions to consider having him on the roster for 2014. Martin Mayhew and Jim Caldwell have said that Pettigrew is a priority for the Lions. That speaks volumes about how they feel about the teams other tight ends Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams. While Fauria is seen as only a pass catcher and Williams is seen a blocking specialist, Pettigrew’s value lies in that he’s capable at both receiving and blocking.
There are options in the draft, most notably Eric Ebron who has actually lobbied to become a member of the Lions and have the opportunity to play with Calvin Johnson. For the Lions to obtain Ebron, they would have to use their tenth overall pick on him, forgoing the most pressing needs they have at wide receiver and defensive backfield.
While it is the right move to not use the tag on Pettigrew, it does make him available on the free agent market and with Baltimore Ravens Dennis Pitta signing a contract averaging over six million a season, the price tag has been set. Pettigrew and Pitta are seen as similar players, though we know first hand how inconsistent Pettigrew can be. His touchdown production is remarkably low for a player of his size and position. His durability is questionable as well and he has been regularly booed by the Lions faithful fans. They need to start looking at cheaper options and find a way to use the players they have on their roster already to be the best of their abilities.