As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, Pride Of Detroit will take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. The series continues with a look at the tight end position.
Under contract: Brandon Pettigrew (through 2013), Tony Scheffler (through 2013), Nathan Overbay (through 2014)
Free agents: Will Heller (UFA)
Tight end remains one of the most boring positions on the Lions roster from a movement standpoint. The trio of Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller has served as the Lions' tight ends for a few years now, and nothing so far this offseason suggests anything will be different in 2013.
Based on his inconsistent play last season, Pettigrew does need to step it up if he wants to remain in the Lions' future plans. He's safe for 2013, but this is a contract year for Pettigrew. He needs to limit the amount of drops and fumbles he has to truly take his game to another level.
Scheffler saw his yards receiving go up in 2012, but his touchdowns dropped from 6 in 2011 to 1 last season. You could make an argument that he deserves to be used more just based on the notion that he is more dependable than Pettigrew, but their roles in the offense aren't exactly the same.
The other two tight ends are Nathan Overbay and Will Heller. Heller returned as the Lions' third tight end last season, and although he is set to hit free agency next month, one would think he will be back. He's a good blocker and catches the ball more often than not when it's thrown his way (17 catches on 23 targets last season). As for Overbay, he signed a futures deal last month and figures to be nothing more than a camp body if Heller does indeed return.
Need going forward?
If Heller is re-signed, the Lions won't have a need at this position. That doesn't mean you can fully rule out the possibility of them drafting a tight end, though. It's unlikely, yes, but in their quest to add more weapons to the offense, I wouldn't be shocked if the Lions decided to draft a tight end this year. The New England Patriots have shown how valuable it is to have multiple athletic tight ends if they are used properly, so never say never.