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Where the Lions roster stands: Detroit needs another tight end

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The Detroit Lions have a starter at tight end, but not much else.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the tight end position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)

Set starters: Eric Ebron (2017)

Backups: Brandon Pettigrew (2017)

On the bubble: Cole Wick (2018), Orson Charles (2017), Matthew Mulligan (2016)

Long shot: Adam Fuehne (2018), Ben McCord (2016)

Overview

The Lions are expecting a huge improvement from former first-round draft pick Eric Ebron in 2016. The third-year player will be a bigger part of the offense with Calvin Johnson now retired. But outside of Ebron, Detroit shouldn’t expect much from their current roster.

The Lions’ second best tight end on the roster is Brandon Pettigrew, who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December. The timetable for his return has not yet been established, but he did not participate in any OTAs or minicamp so far this offseason. He isn’t expected to be ready for the start of training camp, which begins at the end of July.

Undrafted rookie Cole Wick has already made the biggest move to earn a roster spot. He was a standout performer during minicamp, and given the Lions’ drastic situation at tight end, he has to be a current favorite to make the final 53-man roster. Orson Charles will probably be his biggest competition, as the former 2012 fourth-round draft pick was added in June to bolster the weak unit.

The Lions have two additional undrafted rookies on the roster in Adam Fuehne and Ben McCord, both of whom have yet to make much of an impact in the offseason.

That leaves Matthew Mulligan, who has a somewhat decent chance to make the roster. But Mulligan has bounced around on five different teams since 2013, and that doesn’t inspire confidence.

Need going forward?

As of right now, the Lions are essentially relying on an undrafted rookie out of a tiny school to back up their only healthy starter. Detroit absolutely needs to find a more proven player to join the ranks. Expect the Lions to scour the waiver wire once other teams start making cuts this offseason.

Previously: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers