A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.
To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.
Today the series continues with wide receivers.
The good: After a rough start to the season, Pettigrew ended up having a fairly decent season. He caught 41 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns, but his main value is in being a dual-purpose tight end. He played in 877 of 962 snaps before injuring his ankle and was a reliable blocker. Joseph Fauria, an undrafted rookie from UCLA, became a sensation early in the season because of his propensity to catch touchdowns -- and then dance after them. While the dancing may have overshadowed some of his actual play, he became a legitimate red zone threat at 6-foot-7. He had 18 catches this season and seven of them were touchdowns. Pettigrew and Fauria did a good job holding on to the ball this season as well. Pettigrew had only four drops -- the lowest total of his career -- and three of them came in the first four games. Fauria had no drops on the season. Dorin Dickerson did fine in limited duty.
The bad: Not too much to say here. Fauria needs to improve as a blocker if he wants to become a true top tight end. He also needs to become a better route runner, but he understands the level of improvement that must come from his rookie season to his second season, where he will likely be looked to more. When Tony Scheffler was with the Lions, he had issues hanging on to the ball. He had three drops in five games before being concussed and eventually released at midseason. Dickerson had two drops in five games and played with a concussion during the home finale against the New York Giants. This is a position with a lot of questions entering 2014.
The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): The Lions have two players under contract for 2014 at the position and both were rookies last season. Fauria, who ended up being a starter by the end of the season, has a cap number of $499,166 and Michael Williams, who was on injured reserve last season, has a cap number of $511,287. The Lions will almost certainly add at least one, if not two, players to this position group. At least one will also be at a higher monetary value than Fauria and Williams.
What Caldwell might favor: Last season in Baltimore, Jim Caldwell carried between two and three tight ends, but it was tough to get a true read because Dennis Pitta was injured for most of the year. Caldwell's time in Indianapolis might be a bigger clue. He carried between three and four tight ends his entire time with the Colts. Usually only one was a main pass-catcher -- often Dallas Clark -- but he also had Jacob Tamme as a blocker. How the Lions treat this spot might be determined by how Caldwell and the front office view Fauria -- as a pass-catcher only or as a guy who could be a complete tight end.
Potential cuts: Probably none. Williams is more of a blocker and Fauria is a pass-catcher. The Lions might not bring back Veldman on an exclusive rights deal, but at this point, that would be it. It’s a thin position group right now.
Draft priority: Medium. Depending on what happens in the first round, the only tight end worth taking there could be Eric Ebron, the 6-foot-4 tight end from North Carolina. A lot of this could depend on what Detroit decides to do with Pettigrew. If the team brings him back, drafting a tight end could turn into a non-issue or at least a late-round one at best. C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa and Crockett Gilmore from Colorado State could be late-round options.
Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.