Monday, May 16, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 16th 2016 - Tight Ends

The post draft tight end situation.

The Detroit Lions currently have 6 tight ends on the roster but one of them, Brandon Pettigrew, injured his knee in week 14 of the 2015 season. While players do come back from an ACL, and often before a full year has gone by, they usually aren't themselves until the season after. Pettigrew turned 31 a couple of months ago. If he's cut after June 1st (a couple of weeks from now) he'll cost the cap $1 million this year and the same next year... but it'll save $3.65 million this year and $4.35 million next year in salary... for a net savings of $2.65 million in 2016 and a net savings of $3.35 million in 2017. Instead of freeing up that cap space the Lions could keep Pettigrew if he is in fact healthy enough to play, put him on PUP if it's going to take a couple extra months, or even put him on IR with the intent on keeping him for next year when he will be 32 years old. I do not believe that is what will happen. In fact, I'm not sure if they will keep him until August to see how his knee is doing, but they might. After all, with only 5 others and probably 3 spots up for grabs there is no hurry, it's not like Pettigrew could pass a physical for another team just now.

Lock #1: Eric Ebron. Ebron will cost the salary cap $3,340,676 in 2016 whether he is kept or cut. His salary is guaranteed. Therefor he is a lock to make the team in 2016 (and probably in 2017 as well). Even without that guarantee he probable is still a lock to make the team in 2016, this is his year 3, the year when rookie tight ends usually make their biggest leap and show by the end of the season what kind of NFL player they will really be (from here on out).

If Pettigrew is cut, traded, put on PUP, or put on IR, then that leaves 2 more roster spots for these 4 players. The 2016 Restricted Free Agent Timothy Wright (who Quinn knows from the Patriots and we now from last year's Lions roster); the 2016 free agent that was signed by Quinn Matthew Mulligan; and two undrafted free agents form this draft class of Adam Fuehne and Cole Wick. Timothy Wright has a nice salary IF he earns all his NLTBE bonuses, but to earn them he must make the roster and play in the games. That is not a sure thing at this point by any means. If he were cut at any point this summer it would cost the salary cap $96,250 in dead space and that would be it. If Matthew Mulligan was cut it would cost the cap $80,000 in dead money. If Wick is cut it would cost the cap $10,000 in dead money. And at this point we don't know if Fuehne would cost the cap anything if cut (no contract details have come to light as of yet for him). So really, salary cap will play no part in the decision on who to keep or cut. I think Timothy Wright is the vet presence, pass catching type TE (not so much of a blocker) that could lose his roster spot to either of the undrafted guys if they show enough in pre-season.

Matthew Mulligan is the veteran presence, blocking type tight end. Formerly of the Jets (so once again, Quinn knows him well from the Patriots division opponents) and not so much a pass catching type. Like Wright, his roster spot is in jeopardy only if one of the rookies shows something in the pass blocking area. As I said before though, his 1 year contract is not going to ensure him a roster spot by its self. He will have to fend off the competition (and hope that Pettigrew is indeed too hurt to play or won't remain on the team). Mulligan isn't a lock to make the team, but he is definitely leaning on to that side of that fence.

Adam Fuehne is 6'7" tall and 253 pounds which is big for a TE, but then Cole Wick is 6'5" and 256 pounds which is also big. Wick has more explosion, is faster, and has a better vertical, then Fuehne, but either could prove to be a decent TE (in time). As I explained before though, Wick wins the #RAS score and meets many of the measurables that top TE's have... it just remains to be seen how his skills translates into the NFL, and the same for Fuehne. It also remains to be seen if either Wick or Fuehne can show enough in pre-season to take the roster spots away from either Wright or Mulligan (or both).

In summary, at tight end, it appears at this point in time to be:
TE: Brandon Pettigrew; a post June 1st cut.
TE #1: Eric Ebron; a lock to make the final roster.
TE #2: a Blocking Tight End in Matthew Mulligan makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE #3: a pass catching Tight End in Timothy Wright makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE for practice squad: if either Wick or Fuehne fail to take a roster spot from the vets Wright or Mulligan then they are the only two who could qualify out of the six for a seat on the practice squad.

I like the potential that is Cole Wick, I'm just not sure if he can unseat Timothy Wright as the #2 TE in his rookie year. I also like the potential in Fuehne, but I don't think he will unseat Mulligan, so it's the practice squad for him. Between the two undrafted players I would keep an eye on Cole Wick, and if he shows something I'm not sure I'd risk trying to get him to the practice squad, but I don't now what Quinn's gambling level is in that regard, at least not yet. I do, however, like the odds of Wick beating out Mulligan as the blocking TE, at least right now, I may change my mind on that later.

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