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Returning from last season: Brandon Pettigrew, Will Heller, Dan Gronkowski, Jake Nordin (focused on being a fullback for now)
New to the team: Tony Scheffler (acquired from Denver), Richard Dickson (signed as an undrafted free agent)
If Brandon Pettigrew recovers from his torn ACL and picks up right from where he left off before suffering the injury, the Lions will have outstanding depth at tight end. Even if you take Pettigrew out of the equation, the Lions are still in pretty good shape thanks to the three-team trade that brought Tony Scheffler to Detroit. With both a healthy Pettigrew and Scheffler, however, the Lions have a seriously dangerous combination of two starting-caliber tight ends.
Right now Pettigrew's status going forward is up in the air. He isn't sure if he will be healthy enough to participate in team drills when training camp opens, suggesting that his recovery isn't going quite as fast as Kevin Smith's. Jim Schwartz was optimistic when recently asked about Pettigrew, though, so perhaps he will just need to be eased back into practice when camp does open.
The nice thing about the Scheffler trade is that Pettigrew doesn't need to be rushed back. Scheffler has the talent of a No. 1 tight end who can fill the void while Pettigrew continues to heal. When both are ready to play, however, Scheffler is someone who could end up filling various roles in the Lions' offense. I don't mean that like he is going to play multiple positions, but Scheffler is the type of tight end you will see lined up in the slot and on the line. He is very versatile in that regard, giving the Lions plenty of chances to use him in different ways.
The other three main tight ends currently on the roster are Will Heller, Dan Gronkowski and Richard Dickson. Heller is a lock to make the team along with Pettigrew and Scheffler. He is a solid blocking tight end who played pretty well a year ago and was brought back for another season. Gronkowski spent most of last year on the practice squad but did get to show what he's got toward the end of the year. Dickson is an undrafted free agent from LSU who could make some noise for a roster spot if the Lions decide to take four tight ends. (Jake Nordin is also still on the roster, but he is practicing at fullback now instead of tight end.)
Need going forward?
The Lions are pretty much set at tight end right now. Unless Pettigrew's injury is something that doesn't go away, I can't see Detroit being in the market for another tight end. They are set with Pettigrew, Scheffler and Heller, and the other tight ends on the team right now would serve as solid depth if the Lions decide to take a fourth player at that position.
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