Lions GM Martin Mayhew says re-signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is not a factor in re-signing tight end Brandon Pettigrew, above. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Indianapolis — Re-signing tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who will become an unrestricted free agent March 11, remains a top priority for the Lions.
General manager Martin Mayhew said he and the coaching staff agree Pettigrew is a valuable piece of the offensive puzzle.
“Yeah, definitely,” Mayhew said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. “We had our free agent meeting and the coaches liked him, liked what he can do. He’s an all-around guy. He’s a guy we’ll be talking to and meeting with his agent at the combine.”
Mayhew said re-signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was not a factor in re-signing Pettigrew. Mayhew also kept open the option of using the franchise tag, which would keep him in Detroit for one guaranteed year at roughly $6.5 million.
“Never say never,” Mayhew said. “You never know how these things are going to go. If we chose to do that, we could create the room to make that happen.”
Mayhew said he has begun the process, also, of working out a long-term deal with running back Joique Bell, who is a restricted free agent.
“We can just tender him,” he said. “He’s going to be here. We met with his agent a couple of nights ago and had a good discussion. There is a possibility we might work on a long-term deal with him, but either way, he’s going to be with us.”
Mayhew wouldn’t say whether he planned to offer Bell a second-round tender or a third-round tender, but the long-term deal would preclude that.
“The reason why we would talk about (a long-term deal) is to see if there is something that makes sense for us,” he said. “Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do something long term. We will see how the dialogue goes.
“We just started talking to him. We’re not sure where they are numbers-wise and we didn’t give him a strong indication, numbers-wise, where we are either.”
There are five pending free agents from last year’s team whom Mayhew has already notified will not be back for 2014: special teams captain John Wendling, defensive end Israel Idonije, kicker David Akers, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy and linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
All other pending free agents, Mayhew said, have a chance to be signed back, including quarterback Shaun Hill.
Mayhew also said the team had signed restricted free agent safety and special teams ace Isa Abdul-Quddus, who could conceivably replace Wendling on the coverage units.
On the injury front, Mayhew confirmed defensive end Ziggy Ansah had shoulder surgery in Los Angeles two weeks ago.
“He’s out there rehabbing,” he said. “He’ll be back.”
On Johnson, who had surgery on his finger and knee, Mayhew said, “He’s doing fine. The things he had done were very minor. He’s got to rehab that finger and get the strength right on that. But he’s in the process of doing that right now.”
Mayhew said receiver Ryan Broyles was progressing well from Achilles tendon surgery.
“We’ll see how it all plays out,” he said. “He’s had three major injuries, two major injuries with us, but he’s rehabbing very well. I had contact with his agent a few weeks ago, so we’ll just keep abreast of how he’s doing rehab-wise and we’ll see how he does.”