Detroit Lions: Matt Veldman

With a new coaching staff and an increasing focus on tight end, how teams handle the payment structure at the position will be an interesting metric to follow over the next few seasons.

As of now, the Lions have been consistent at the spot, typically holding a cap number between $3 million and $5 million for somewhere between three and five players on the roster. However, with Joe Lombardi as the team’s new offensive coordinator and a set of coaches who have long used the tight end effectively, that could change in the future.

If Jim Caldwell and Lombardi are successful, you could see more cap percentage – and that’ll be the future number to look at, not the actual number – spent on tight ends. Why cap percentage? With the NFL potentially increasing the salary cap by massive levels over the next few seasons, judging the importance of a position to teams won’t be in the cap number they spend, but how much of the overall cap they are willing to allocate to a spot.

Some positions – like receiver and defensive tackle for the Lions – are skewed because of Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, but it is overall a decent gauge for how a team feels about a position group and their relative importance to a roster (rookie contracts aside).

As has been the case in prior cap studies, all numbers are culled from ESPN Stats & Information and for other than 2014, the numbers taken are from the end of the year roster. For example, Tony Scheffler is not listed in 2013 because he was cut in October.

Prior cap studies: Running back; Wide Receiver

2014

Total numbers: $4,050,453 (cap value); 6.23 percent (offensive cap percentage); 2.93 percent (total cap percentage); $7,030,000 (cash value).

By players:
  • Brandon Pettigrew: $2.2 million (cap value); 3.39 percent (offensive cap); 1.59 percent (total cap).
  • Joseph Fauria: $499,166 (cap value); .77 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Matt Veldman: $495,000 (cap value); .76 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Michael Williams: $436,287 (cap value); .67 percent (offensive cap); .32 percent (total cap).
  • Jordan Thompson: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).

2013

Total numbers: $4,394,643 (cap value); 7.42 percent (offensive cap); 4.20 (total cap); $3,178,088 (cash value).

By players:
  • Pettigrew: $3,475,425 (cap value); 5.87 percent (offensive cap); 3.32 percent (total cap).
  • Fauria: $409,166 (cap value); .69 percent (offensive cap); .39 percent (total cap).
  • Williams: $304,287 (cap value); .51 percent (offensive cap); .29 percent (total cap).
  • Dorin Dickerson: $181,941 (cap value); .31 percent (offensive cap); .17 percent (total cap).
  • Veldman: $23,824 (cap value); .04 percent (offensive cap); .02 percent (total cap).

2012

Total numbers: $5,505,200 (cap value); 8.84 percent (offensive cap); 4.57 percent (total cap); $4,016,450 (cash value).

By players:
  • Tony Scheffler: $2,554,805 (cap value); 4.10 percent (offensive cap); 2.12 percent (total cap).
  • Pettigrew: $2,340,435 (cap value); 3.76 percent (offensive cap); 1.94 percent (total cap).
  • Will Heller: $609,960 (cap value); .98 percent (offensive cap); .51 percent (total cap).

2011

Total numbers: $5,594,166 (cap value); 8.84 percent (offensive cap); 4.78 percent (total cap); $5,641,250 (cash value).

By players:
  • Scheffler: $2,25 million (cap value); 3.56 percent (offensive cap); 1.92 percent (total cap).
  • Pettigrew: $2,002,500 (cap value); 3.16 percent (offensive cap); 1.71 percent (total cap).
  • Heller: $1,341,666 (cap value); 2.12 percent (offensive cap); 1.15 percent (total cap).

2010

Total numbers: $7,068,916 (cap value); 9.70 percent (offensive cap); 6.19 percent (total cap); $12,723,500 (cash value).

By players:
  • Pettigrew: $3,656,250 (cap value); 5.02 percent (offensive cap); 3.20 percent (total cap).
  • Scheffler: $1.676 million (cap value); 2.30 percent (offensive cap); 1.47 percent (total cap).
  • Heller: $1,341,666 (cap value); 1.84 percent (offensive cap); 1.18 percent (total cap).
  • Jake Nordin: $395,000 (cap value); .54 percent (offensive cap); .35 percent (total cap).
The NFL released its performance-based pay list Monday, where every team is to allocate $3.46 million amongst its players for things they have accomplished during the season.

Here is the full pdf.

When it came to Detroit, the Lions gave the most money to rookie right guard Larry Warford, who earned an extra $260,630.09 for his standout first season with the Lions.

His rookie linemate, LaAdrian Waddle, picked up an extra $181,182, behind only Warford, receiver Kris Durham ($220,174.55) and cornerback Rashean Mathis ($188,695). The common thread with all the players is that they were reliable starters for Detroit by the end of the season.

Most players received some sort of payout, and here are the bottom five: Quarterback Shaun Hill ($76.90); tight end Matt Veldman ($309.09); guard Leroy Harris ($400.28); fullback Montell Owens ($641.50); tackle Barry Richardson ($875.40).

Hill shouldn't go spending that money just yet, though. The players will receive this money on April 1, 2016.

The Detroit Lions are bringing back Brandon Pettigrew and this ensures one thing in Detroit: While the team will have an offense that might look schematically like the New Orleans Saints' offense, this guarantees it won’t be Saints-like.

At least not in the same construct of what New Orleans likes to do.

Pettigrew is not a Jimmy Graham-like tight end. He won’t stretch the field. He won’t create an obvious mismatch against anyone who lines up against him. Though Detroit had said he was a priority free agent throughout the offseason, he is a different type of tight end than Graham.

He is more of a dual-threat tight end, as much of a blocker as a pass-catcher. He was integral in Detroit’s running game as a player who can line up on the line of scrimmage as well as in the slot and even outside. His versatility and flexibility has been one of the more attractive things about him.

He will not, though, break a defense.

In his five seasons in Detroit, his longest-ever reception has been 35 yards. In 2010. He has had only four games in which he had a reception of 30 yards or more, and only one of them came after the 2010 season. Last season he had fewer yards (416) than any season but his rookie year, and also fewer drops (four) than any season in his career. His two touchdowns were his fewest since his rookie year.

He also had declining receptions the past two seasons after an 87-catch, 826-yard season in 2011.

While Pettigrew is still productive and still young enough at age 29, part of the reason Detroit might have brought him back is the lack of experience at the position otherwise. If the team had not kept Pettigrew, the only tight ends on the roster would have been Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams and Matt Veldman. Fauria and Williams were rookies last season, and of the three, only Fauria had any extended playing time or even caught a pass.

Williams spent last season on injured reserve and Veldman was signed for the last game of the season from the practice squad.

With a thin tight end market, there were not going to be any options better than Pettigrew available for Detroit to sign as a veteran. Owen Daniels, Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller all could have been intriguing options, but they have significant injury histories that made them more of a risk than Pettigrew, who the team drafted in 2009. And Pettigrew has developed a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Pettigrew’s signing also probably means the team might avoid taking a tight end early in May’s draft, although depending on how the Lions really feel about Fauria and Williams, it might not completely preclude them from doing so.

But this was the safe signing for Detroit. He was the player the team knew and the one the front office was the most familiar with. With little other options out there, it was also the one that ended up making the most sense.

Even if he can’t do some of the things the team might want him to be able to in the offense.
Every day we'll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

Here's a look at the Meet the Free Agents to date.

Free agent to be: Matt Veldman (Exclusive rights)

Veldman
Position: Tight end

Age: 25

Years in the league: 2

What he made last season: $23,824 (cap number); $405,000 (base salary)

What he did last season: Not much. Veldman was signed to the practice squad in the middle of December and was promoted to the active roster for the final game of the season. He played in that game, but did not catch a pass for the Lions. He played one snap on special teams.

His potential market value: Not much. He was released by the Lions after the preseason and then he latched on with Tampa Bay on its practice squad before returning to Detroit on its practice squad. Right now, he’s a back-of-the-roster player who likely will end up as a camp cut or a practice squad player again.

Will he fit the Lions still: Sure, as a camp player. He won’t be a replacement for Brandon Pettigrew if the Lions don’t bring him back and they have more investment in Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams. He’ll probably be brought back as an exclusive rights player to compete in camp, but could face long strides to make the roster. His height -- 6-foot-7 -- makes him an intriguing player, though.

What happens: As mentioned above, he is an exclusive rights free agent, so it won’t cost much for Detroit to bring him back and let him compete during minicamps and OTAs. He should make it to training camp as well, but barring a massive jump in his play, it is tough to see him owning a roster spot. He could be a candidate for a practice squad place if the Lions decided to go that route.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don’t pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here’s a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN’s rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the Rivals.com rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN’s ranking from that year.

What you’ll see is most of Detroit’s players were not highly-rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don’t always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the offense. The next post will cover the defense and specialists. Running backs:
    Bush
    Bush
  • Reggie Bush (2003): No. 1 running back per Rivals.com; No. 2 overall player per Rivals.com. Signed with USC.
  • Joique Bell (2005): Not listed anywhere among the Rivals rankings for the 2005 class. Signed with Wayne State.
  • Theo Riddick (2009): No. 48 athlete; No. 65 in his region (the Northeast). Signed with Notre Dame.
  • Mikel Leshoure (2008): Not ranked at all by the ESPN rankings. No. 28 running back by Rivals.com. Signed with Illinois.
  • Montell Owens (2002): No information on his recruitment was available. Signed with Maine.
  • Steven Miller (2009): Not rated in 2009 out of high school when he signed with Nassau Community College. Not rated in 2011 when he signed with Appalachian State.
Wide Receivers:
    Johnson
  • Calvin Johnson (2004): No. 6 wide receiver by Rivals.com and No. 37 overall player. (If you’re curious, Early Doucet was the No. 1 receiver in his class according to Rivals.) Signed with Georgia Tech.
  • Nate Burleson (2000): Can’t find a ranking for Burleson from 2000, but here’s an interesting story about his recruitment from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Signed with Nevada.
  • Kris Durham (2006): No. 66 receiver. No. 200 player in his region. Signed with Georgia.
  • Kevin Ogletree (2005): No. 59 wide receiver according to Rivals.com. Signed with Virginia.
  • Jeremy Ross (2006): No. 174 wide receiver. Signed with Cal.
  • Micheal Spurlock (2001): Nothing available from a rankings or story perspective. Signed with Mississippi.
  • Ryan Broyles (2007): Rated as the No. 58 wide receiver in his class. Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cody Wilson (2009): Not rated in 2009. Signed with Central Michigan.
  • Corey Fuller (2008): Not rated by either service. Signed with Kansas on a track scholarship. Transferred to Virginia Tech for football. Was an indoor All-American in track in high school.
  • Patrick Edwards (2007): Not rated by either service. Was a walk-on at Houston.
Tight ends:
    Pettigrew
    Pettigrew
  • Brandon Pettigrew (2004): Was not ranked by Rivals.com with a number. A two-star recruit by Rivals. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Joseph Fauria (2008): No. 15 tight end. Signed with Notre Dame (eventually transferred to UCLA).
  • Michael Williams (2008): No. 26 tight end and No. 20 player in Alabama. Signed with Alabama.
  • Matt Veldman (2007): Not rated by ESPN or by Rivals. Signed with North Dakota State.
  • Dorin Dickerson (2006): No. 11 wide receiver in his class and No. 74 prospect overall.
Offensive linemen:
    Raiola
  • Dominic Raiola (1997): No available recruiting rankings, but he was the first player from Hawaii to accept a scholarship to Nebraska, according to the Nebraska website.
  • Rob Sims (2002): No. 20 offensive guard according to Rivals.com. Signed with Ohio State.
  • Riley Reiff (2008): Rated as the No. 84 defensive end. Signed with Iowa.
  • Larry Warford (2009): Rated as the No. 51 offensive guard. Signed with Kentucky.
  • Corey Hilliard (2003): Not rated by number as an offensive tackle in his class by Rivals.com. Rated as a two-star recruit. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Jason Fox (2006): Rated as the No. 22 tight end. Signed with Miami (Fla.).
  • Leroy Harris (2002): Rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by Rivals.com. Signed with N.C. State.
  • Rodney Austin (2007): Not rated by ESPN.com or Rivals in his class. Signed with Elon.
  • Dylan Gandy (2000): Not rated by any service I could find, but here’s an interesting story from when he was drafted with some backstory of how he ended up at Texas Tech.
  • LaAdrian Waddle (2009): Rated as the No. 19 offensive tackle in his class and the No. 43 player in the Midlands. Signed with Texas Tech.
A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.

To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.

Today the series continues with wide receivers.

Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers.

2014 free agents: Brandon Pettigrew; Dorin Dickerson (restricted free agent); Matt Veldman (exclusive rights).

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
Fauria
Fauria
The good: After a rough start to the season, Pettigrew ended up having a fairly decent season. He caught 41 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns, but his main value is in being a dual-purpose tight end. He played in 877 of 962 snaps before injuring his ankle and was a reliable blocker. Joseph Fauria, an undrafted rookie from UCLA, became a sensation early in the season because of his propensity to catch touchdowns -- and then dance after them. While the dancing may have overshadowed some of his actual play, he became a legitimate red zone threat at 6-foot-7. He had 18 catches this season and seven of them were touchdowns. Pettigrew and Fauria did a good job holding on to the ball this season as well. Pettigrew had only four drops -- the lowest total of his career -- and three of them came in the first four games. Fauria had no drops on the season. Dorin Dickerson did fine in limited duty.

The bad: Not too much to say here. Fauria needs to improve as a blocker if he wants to become a true top tight end. He also needs to become a better route runner, but he understands the level of improvement that must come from his rookie season to his second season, where he will likely be looked to more. When Tony Scheffler was with the Lions, he had issues hanging on to the ball. He had three drops in five games before being concussed and eventually released at midseason. Dickerson had two drops in five games and played with a concussion during the home finale against the New York Giants. This is a position with a lot of questions entering 2014.

The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): The Lions have two players under contract for 2014 at the position and both were rookies last season. Fauria, who ended up being a starter by the end of the season, has a cap number of $499,166 and Michael Williams, who was on injured reserve last season, has a cap number of $511,287. The Lions will almost certainly add at least one, if not two, players to this position group. At least one will also be at a higher monetary value than Fauria and Williams.

What Caldwell might favor: Last season in Baltimore, Jim Caldwell carried between two and three tight ends, but it was tough to get a true read because Dennis Pitta was injured for most of the year. Caldwell's time in Indianapolis might be a bigger clue. He carried between three and four tight ends his entire time with the Colts. Usually only one was a main pass-catcher -- often Dallas Clark -- but he also had Jacob Tamme as a blocker. How the Lions treat this spot might be determined by how Caldwell and the front office view Fauria -- as a pass-catcher only or as a guy who could be a complete tight end.

Potential cuts: Probably none. Williams is more of a blocker and Fauria is a pass-catcher. The Lions might not bring back Veldman on an exclusive rights deal, but at this point, that would be it. It’s a thin position group right now.

Draft priority: Medium. Depending on what happens in the first round, the only tight end worth taking there could be Eric Ebron, the 6-foot-4 tight end from North Carolina. A lot of this could depend on what Detroit decides to do with Pettigrew. If the team brings him back, drafting a tight end could turn into a non-issue or at least a late-round one at best. C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa and Crockett Gilmore from Colorado State could be late-round options.

Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.
Good morning and ROOOAAARRRR!!!!

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matt Veldman spent his first day on the full 53-man roster for the Detroit Lions on Thursday with the knowledge that his first game with the team in the pros will be somewhat familiar.

He'll be going home.

Veldman grew up in Becker, Minn., northwest of Minneapolis and played his college football at North Dakota State before doing a little bit of bouncing around the NFL -- including being in training camp with the Lions this season.

He was released by Tampa Bay earlier this month and signed to the Lions practice squad. Injuries to Brandon Pettigrew and Dorin Dickerson gave Detroit a need at the position with one week left in the season.

So Veldman now gets to make his debut at the place he likely knows better than any NFL stadium -- the Metrodome.

“He’s got good size. He was with us in training camp. He has good hands. He has some skills that we can work in and he’s a tight end," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "We are in the position now with some of the injuries that we had that we need a guy that can go in and play the position."

With only one other tight end, rookie Joseph Fauria, healthy and on the roster, it's a good bet Veldman will play Sunday against the Vikings.

And now, a tour of the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
 
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There is no way the Detroit Lions would do this, no matter the public front it might show. There’s just no possible way the Lions would possibly risk their franchise player, Calvin Johnson, on Sunday.

Right?

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz continues to play coy about Johnson’s availability for the season finale against Minnesota, saying it will be a decision that could go until Sunday before the game. Johnson, as he usually does, declined to answer many questions about his status other than it is a two-way decision and that he’ll see how he progresses throughout the week.
That the Lions are contemplating playing Johnson this weekend makes absolutely no sense. There's nothing on the line but pride and Johnson is ailing at best and outright hurt at worst.

None at all.

Johnson won’t confirm or deny the extent of his knee injury or if he’ll have to have surgery on it after the season. He won’t even say what, exactly, is wrong with his knee. We know he has missed a ton of practice time this season, missed one game and was limited in two others.

That alone is enough to sit the best player the Lions have, the player whom your entire offense flows through. He was limited last Sunday in what was essentially an elimination game against the New York Giants, and that should tell you everything you need to know about Johnson’s health.

Or lack thereof.

Don’t push him to play. If he says he wants to play, sit him down and tell him it is in the best interest of his future and the franchise’s future that he sit out.

The first priority should be Johnson’s health and that is the first -- and most important -- reason he should sit.

One of the most obvious things about Detroit this season is its ineffectiveness without Johnson in the lineup. The Lions, whether or not Schwartz is around a week from now or a season from now, can use Sunday to figure out other wide receiver plans.

How does free agent-to-be Kevin Ogletree look with a full complement of game day snaps? Can Nate Burleson still play on the outside if need be? Could tight end Joseph Fauria line up outside? What about new-to-the-53-man-roster Matt Veldman, who will play his first NFL game Sunday? Is Jeremy Ross a potential weapon as a receiver as well as a returner?

A lot of these things can be accomplished by not playing Johnson on Sunday. If Detroit plays him, at best the Lions will get a decent, but likely limited, effort from him. At worst, he could injure himself further.

And that’s something no one around the Lions should even want to think about.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson missed his second day of practice this week, as did linebacker DeAndre Levy.

Johnson
Johnson and Levy were two of eight Detroit players to miss practice Thursday. Joining them were cornerbacks Chris Houston (toe) and Bill Bentley (head), safety John Wendling (ankle), returner Micheal Spurlock (theoretically still traveling to Detroit) and offensive linemen LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and Dylan Gandy (unknown).

Some number changes, too. Carlin Isles, a rugby player signed to the practice squad Thursday, is wearing No. 16. Cody Wilson, a practice squad receiver, is now wearing No. 1, presumably opening up No. 15 for Spurlock's return.

Also, the Lions sent Dorin Dickerson (head) to injured reserve and promoted Matt Veldman to the 53-man roster for Sunday. This gives Detroit two tight ends -- Veldman and Joseph Fauria -- for when the Lions face the Vikings.
Good morning and ROOOOAAARRRR!!!!

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matt Veldman was back in his college town of Fargo, N.D., adjusting to life after being cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and starting to plan for where he might spend the rest of the season. He had learned in his two years as a professional football player not to anticipate anything, but that he might be asked to sign a futures contract near the end of the season.

Then Brandon Pettigrew got hurt, Detroit needed a tight end and the Lions signed Veldman to their practice squad after moving Patrick Edwards to the practice squad/injured reserve. Veldman had previously been with Detroit in training camp.

"I got the call [Wednesday] and I was in Fargo and I flew out here [Wednesday] night," Veldman said. "Fargo has a lot of flights to Chicago, then Chicago to Detroit and back."

After he was released by the Buccaneers, Veldman shipped his car back to his home and Minnesota and went to North Dakota. His time away from the game lasted a week before he found a new home, potentially for the rest of the season.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew and linebacker DeAndre Levy missed their second day of practice this week on Thursday.

They were among four starters missing for the Lions along with receiver Calvin Johnson and cornerback Rashean Mathis, who practiced and spoke with the media Wednesday.

Also not practicing were safety John Wendling and cornerback Darius Slay. Slay was there, but off to the side working with trainers as he rehabs from a torn right meniscus.

Detroit also signed tight end Matt Veldman to the practice squad and bumped receiver Patrick Edwards to the practice squad injured reserve.

Lions roster at a glance

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
5:35
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We noted earlier Tuesday that the Detroit Lions released place-kicker Havard Rugland. As it turns out, Rugland was the highest-profile name involved in the Lions' push to a 75-man roster.

The three other players released Tuesday were: receiver Terrence Austin, cornerback DeQuan Menzie, tight end Cameron Morrah and tight end Matt Veldman.

Each NFL team must reduce its roster to 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. Here is a numerical look at the Lions' roster by position, based on how they are listed on the team's web site:
  • Centers: 2
  • Cornerbacks: 7
  • Defensive ends: 5
  • Defensive tackles: 8
  • Fullbacks: 1
  • Guards: 6
  • Place-kicker: 1
  • Linebackers: 9
  • Long-snapper: 1
  • Punters: 2
  • Quarterbacks: 3
  • Running backs: 6
  • Safeties: 7
  • Tackles: 5
  • Tight ends: 4
  • Wide receivers: 8

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