Dec 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew (87) during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agency: Brandon Pettigrew Could Be A Fit In New England

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Nov 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew (87) against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Adding talent to the tight end position should be one of the top priorities for the Patriots this offseason. Rob Gronkowski should be ready to go for the start of the 2014 season, but New England has nobody to back him up.

Brandon Pettigrew doesn’t have the star-power of a Gronk, or of a Jimmy Graham, but he knows how to produce. In his short five year career, Pettigrew has amassed 284 catches, 2,828 yards, and 16 touchdowns. His best year came back in 2011, when he caught 83 passes for 777 yards.

Pettigrew has had the opportunity of playing with Calvin Johnson throughout his whole career, which is definitely a plus, but I have no doubt that he could be a solid contributor on an offense without someone like Johnson. He has the size, his speed and quickness aren’t up there with Gronkowski’s, but he still would present Tom Brady with a nice mismatch over the middle. Having him paired with Gronk could also help open up things for Aaron Dobson and company on the outside, which might be what the young group of receivers need to really explode onto the NFL scene.

Adding Pettigrew would also allow the Patriots to either go with a defensive prospect in this year’s draft, or maybe even an interior offensive lineman. Both are big needs, but I think the Pats have to address the tight end position first. However if they address this before the draft, Bill Belichick and company will be able to fix other areas of the team, with the younger college prospects.

With this being said, New England might not be able to fork up enough money to acquire Pettigrew. According to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, Pettigrew will be looking for money similar to what Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta got (five years, $32 million). Here is what Rothstein had to say on the subject:

It would be logical to think that Pettigrew would at least seek out a deal similar in value to Pitta and depending how Detroit feels about that situation, could give an early indication whether the team might feel that is worth it to pursue.

Pettigrew actually put together better statistics than Pitta during the overlapping parts of their careers — Pettigrew has one more year of service than Pitta — but they are capable of doing similar things. Both are tight ends who are considered dual-purpose, meaning they can block and catch, so that helps set the market even further.

The Patriots probably have enough cap space to give Pettigrew that kind of money, but they need to spread out that cash, to help improve the defensive side of the ball, and the big guys up front protecting Tom Brady.

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