- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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Being a cynic, the first thing you wonder is if the Lions are more concerned about the health of Brandon Pettigrew than we thought. Pettigrew tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Thanksgiving Day, and the Lions have said he is on track to be ready to practice around the start of training camp. I'm not aware of any setback in that regard. But after the retirement of Casey Fitzsimmons, the Lions aren't exactly deep at the position. And offensive coordinator Scott Linehan loves using two tight ends; in Minnesota he made it work well with Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser. So I think this move was independent of Pettigrew's long-term status.
Scheffler is a pure playmaker at the position; he caught a combined 89 passes and eight touchdowns in 2007-08. Last year, however, he ran into two obstacles with the Broncos: Coach Josh McDaniels doesn't have a big need for a pass-catching tight end, and McDaniels wasn't always a fan of prominent players from the regime of former coach Mike Shanahan. A Michigan native who played at Western Michigan, I would imagine Scheffler will appreciate this fresh start.
This deal had a Martin Mayhew special buried in it. As reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the Lions also got a seventh-round pick from the Broncos. Mayhew always scraps for extra assets.
Sims had been penciled in as the Lions' weakside starter, but I emphasize that projection was in pencil only. The Lions originally drafted him as a linebacker perfectly suited for the Tampa 2 defense. At 230 pounds, if that, Sims didn't seem to fit squarely into the scheme the Lions are using under coach Jim Schwartz, one that emphasizes size as much as speed. The trade marks the dangers of drafting purely for scheme, as well as the inability of most teams to flex their scheme to the strengths of diverse players.
It's going to take some time to sort out who will replace Sims. One thing I feel pretty confident about: It won't be DeAndre Levy. I asked Schwartz about Levy last month at the NFL owners meetings, specifically about whether he was locked in at middle linebacker. Schwartz obviously didn't know this trade was coming, but he couldn't have been more affirmative in saying Levy would remain in the middle. I don't think there's an obvious weakside answer on the roster, so it will probably be an open competition unless the Lions acquire a veteran in some other fashion. As of right now, I'm guessing Jordon Dizon, Zack Follett and perhaps free-agent signee Landon Johnson are all in the mix. The Lions could draft at least one additional participant later this week.
Some quick thoughts about Detroit's role in a three-way trade that sent linebacker Ernie Sims to Philadelphia and brought the Lions tight end Tony Scheffler from Denver.