But this isn’t an in-with-the-new and out-with-the-old kind of deal in Detroit. The Lions also have plans for veteran Brandon Pettigrew, who they re-signed to a four-year, $16 million extension this offseason.
Pettigrew caught 41 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns last year. He recorded back-to-back seasons with 71 and 83 receptions, respectively, in 2010 and 2011.
"I think it's important to have a guy that can block the point of attack," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said of the tight end position at his introductory press conference. "Then you want a guy that can be a pass receiver, so you're always looking for those well-rounded guys.”
Pettigrew is the team’s most well-rounded tight end, a group that is also likely to feature Ebron and second-year player Joe Fauria when the season begins.
The Lions have the personnel to feature a lot of two tight end sets this year with Pettigrew and Ebron at tight end,
He's also embraced how important his role is in the meeting room. Ebron is a rookie and Fauria is still learning the NFL. There’s real value in having a player like Pettigrew, who has had success in this league, but has also been through some low times and has dealt with major injury. Those are all experiences Ebron and Fauria are likely to go through at some point in their careers.
“I think it’s very important because of the fact that they (Fauria and Ebron) look up to him,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Pettigrew’s importance in the tight end room. “He’s able to provide some information and direction. He challenges them. He does a great job, I think, in that role. He has experience and knowledge.
“Coach (Ron) Prince does a great job in terms of coaching them, but sometimes when they hear it from one of their peers, it carries even a little bit more weight. So, I think Brandon’s role is extremely important.”
The Lions didn’t re-sign Pettigrew just to be a leader in the meeting room, however. He’s one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and should find opportunities to make plays in the short and intermediate parts of the field playing alongside some of the the other deep-threat weapons in the Lions passing game.