Forget about Pettigrew's draft class (2009) and age (28) for a minute and consider these more important numbers first: 416 yards with two touchdowns. Additionally, 2,828 yards and 16 scores. The first group represents Pettigrew's numbers from 2013, while the second are his career totals.
In one season, undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria scored nearly half as many touchdowns as Pettigrew has given five full seasons in Detroit. Poor quarterbacking isn't an excuse, as Matthew Stafford has been allowed to grow with Pettigrew, and in his absence, the dependable Shaun Hill has thrown Pettigrew passes. Neither have been all-stars, but both are solid passers.
Instead, Pettigrew should represent a hybrid version of the draft bust. He produces just enough statistically at a low key enough position, allowing him to avoid more criticism, yet still makes enough memorable mistakes to be considered on the bubble year in and year out.
Though Pettigrew has consistently struggled with drops, last season was arguably his worst. Most of the year, Pettigrew dramatically struggled badly with drops and fumbles. He went through stretches where he simply couldn't hang onto the ball in key times. Worst, the fumbles often happen in memorable games. In 2012, he fumbled in overtime on Thanksgiving, providing the Houston Texans a chance to win, and let pass slip through his hands late in 2013.
This type of performer shouldn't be commanding a franchise tag, nor be given one. The Lions should let Pettigrew walk for bigger money and try to upgrade the position either in free agency or the draft. In both spots, there are options. With regards to the free agent market, a few veteran players Jim Caldwell has been familiar with in Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson should be available, in addition to Scott Chandler and Fred Davis. In the draft, players like Crockett Gillmore, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Arthur Lynch should be available in middle rounds, and able to contribute nearly as much as or more than Pettigrew has over the years.
In situations where the franchise tag can either be utilized or not, it's wise for teams to ask themselves if replacing the production of the player is possible. In Pettigrew's case, it's more than possible. Fauria himself might be able to do it in short order next season with new coaching and more snaps.
Detroit would survive without Pettigrew offensively, which is why they should choose to allocate their major funds elsewhere. After five years, Pettigrew should have done more to guarantee himself a stay with the Lions. It never happened, thus the team should move on while they've got the chance.
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