DETROIT (AP) — The Lions re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on Friday, keeping one of Matthew Stafford's top targets and a player who can potentially make defenses regret focusing too much on Calvin Johnson.
"The key is to be able to keep your good players," new Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "And, I think anytime you can do that in an organization, it's great. It doesn't always work out for you, but when you can, and a guy's been productive for you, I think it's huge."
Pettigrew will get a $16 million, four-year contract with half of the money guaranteed, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Friday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because terms were not announced.
"Obviously, this is certainly a long-term commitment from both sides and we're certainly looking forward to that," Caldwell said.
The Lions drafted Pettigrew with the 20th overall pick in 2009, the same year they selected Stafford first overall in the NFL draft. The native of Tyler, Texas, has 284 receptions for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. Pettigrew said part of the reason he wanted to stay was because he's in "a groove," with teammates such as Stafford.
"We got drafted together," he said. "We've already got that going, and I think that's important. I love the city. I'm grateful for being able to be here. The city is going through change, as is the organization. It's just an honor to be a part of that."
He tested the market as a free agent before deciding to stay in Detroit.
"Of course, the pursuits were real because that's just part of the business," Pettigrew said.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Pettigrew is yet another weapon for Stafford, who already has Johnson and will now have receiver Golden Tate next season. Detroit, with a solid offensive line, should be able to strike a balance in the running game with Reggie Bush in his second season paired with Joique Bell, who was re-signed with a $9.3 million, three-year deal earlier this week.
"He gives you a guy that really is a dual threat in terms of being able to handle the end-line blocking on the line of scrimmage, which he does very well," Caldwell said. "Also, obviously, he's a threat in the passing game. When you look at what's going to happen in most cases with the guys that we have on the outside, our inside receivers are going to certainly become a bigger part of our game."
Pettigrew is coming off a relatively disappointing season, which probably cost him some money on the market.
He had 41 receptions for 416 yards and two TDs, his lowest numbers in each category since he was a rookie. When Pettigrew was at his best in 2001, he caught 83 passes for 777 yards and five TDs — all career highs — and helped the franchise end an 11-year postseason skid.
Pettigrew said he spoke to some members of team's new staff, including Caldwell.
"He's already told me he wants me to step up and be in that role of a leader and coming out to accept that," Pettigrew said. "I've been here long enough, and I agree with him. He seems like a great guy. So, I'm looking forward to getting back."
The Lions next significant move may be finding a starting safety to play alongside Glover Quin, who was signed last year as a free agent, to replace Louis Delmas. They seem to be interested in adding veteran safety James Ihedigbo, but he left team headquarters without a contract after a visit Thursday.
Ihedigbo made 99 tackles last season, ranking second on the Baltimore Ravens, and had three interceptions after not picking off one pass in his first five NFL seasons. He started 16 games last season and 12 games in 2011 for the New England Patriots and ranked fifth on the team in tackles. He spent his first three seasons in the league with the New York Jets after making the team in 2008 as an undrafted rookie.
Detroit, desperate for success with only one playoff victory since 1957, also hopes Ndamukong Suh will sign a new contract to avoid having the defensive tackle count more than $20 million against the salary cap in 2014.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org