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Lions free agency news: Detroit reportedly signing former Saints TE Garrett Griffin

Griffen is a blocking H-back who has previously been coached by Dan Campbell.

NFL: JAN 20 NFC Championship Game - Rams at Saints Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to a report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (and the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett), the Detroit Lions are signing former Saints tight end Garrett Griffin.

Griffin, an undrafted prospect out of the Air Force Academy, has spent the six previous seasons with the New Orleans Saints, on and off the practice squad, meaning a significant portion of his career overlapped with current Lions head coach Dan Campbell.

Griffin spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad and only appeared in three games in the following two seasons. When he finally did get a chance to get on the field late in the 2017 season, he credited Campbell as someone who helped him be ready for the moment.

“He’s always coaching me like I’m going to play and that’s really good for me and it’s awesome for him to do,” Griffin told Nola.com that year. “Not many coaches do that, so that’s been awesome.”

After missing the 2019 season with an ankle injury, Griffin finally saw a bigger role with the Saints. He played in four games in 2020, and played in 13—including six starts—last season in New Orleans.

Griffin was a restricted free agent this year, but the Saints did not offer him a tender.

At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Griffin is a predominantly in-line tight end with H-back range who should contend for Detroit’s TE2 spot behind T.J. Hockenson. Primarily a blocker, Griffin earned a 59.8 pass-blocking grade last year per PFF and a 57.1 run-blocking grade. He also added four catches for 39 yards on the season. Other current contenders for that TE2 spot include Brock Wright, Hunter Bryant, and Shane Zylstra.

Last year, the Lions attempted to add former Saints tight end Josh Hill, but the veteran decided to retire before the season began. Interestingly enough, Griffin was pegged as the Hill replacement in New Orleans. Here’s what our friends at Canal Street Chronicles had to say about Griffin before the start of last season:

This is the Josh Hill role. And in 2021, it’s finally the Garrett Griffin role. If we’re being honest, Griffin deserves this. He’s been with the Saints since he came out of Air Force in 2016 and hardly anyone knows his name even though he caught a touchdown in the playoffs against the Eagles in 2018.

What I like about Griffin is his versatility. Hence “The F”. Last season, Josh Hill’s position was changed on the depth chart from “TE” to “F” because he often too snaps from the backfield as well. Griffin did that quite a bit at Air Force serving a bit of a fullback-tight end hybrid. This is why I believe he can step into Josh Hill’s role in 2021.

Griffin can take snaps from the backfield, in-line, in the slot and also plays special teams. his ability as a blocker will get him out of the field and his versatility will keep him there in multiple capacities. That type of value is something Sean Payton doesn’t turn a blind eye to.

Terms of Griffin’s deal have not yet gone public.

You can follow along with all of the Lions’ latest free agency moves with our tracker.