Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive end Willie Young, cornerback Rashean Mathis and backup quarterback Shaun Hill were among 12 Detroit Lions who officially became unrestricted free agents Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The Lions had identified Pettigrew as a priority to re-sign, but they’re going to have some competition now because this is considered a weak group of free agents at his position.
The team’s other UFAs are kicker David Akers, offensive tackle Jason Fox, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, defensive lineman Israel Idonije, linebacker Rocky McIntosh, receiver Micheal Spurlock, safety John Wendling and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen.
General manager Martin Mayhew already has confirmed that the team won’t bring back Akers, Gandy, Idonije, McIntosh and Wendling.
A year ago, the Lions moved quickly by adding three players — running back Reggie Bush, safety Glover Quin and defensive lineman Jason Jones — within 24 hours of the start of free agency.
This time, the club has holes to fill at safety (after releasing Louis Delmas) and receiver (a weapon or two to complement Calvin Johnson) and, ideally, could use a major upgrade at cornerback.
They’ll also need to replace Pettigrew and Hill if they don’t re-sign.
The Lions might not get their work done quite so quickly this year, though.
About an hour before free agency started, Tim Twentyman, who writes for the team’s website, tweeted: "Don’t expect early free agent frenzy we saw from Lions last year."
The Lions still are expected to be active at some point, even if it’s not during the first wave. They’ve reportedly shown interest in Cleveland safety T.J. Ward (signed with Denver), Miami safety Chris Clemons, Seattle receiver Golden Tate, Green Bay receiver James Jones and Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Receiver Kevin Ogletree, who was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Lions. He made 13 catches for 199 yards and one touchdown in 12 games last season.