The Detroit Lions didn't ship out Eric Ebron, but is that a bad thing?
Eric Ebron is still a Detroit Lion.
The underachieving tight end remained with the team as the NFL’s 4 p.m. trade deadline passed Tuesday.
Just minutes after the deadline, Ebron tweeted the team’s slogan: “#OnePride.”
Selected No. 10 overall in the 2014 NFL draft, the pick was heavily scrutinized from the start because of perceived positional value and the other options still on the board. The grumblings only got louder as some of those other players, namely defensive tackle Aaron Donald, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and guard Zack Martin, went on to become stars for their teams.
In fact, six of the seven players selected immediately after Ebron have made at least one Pro Bowl.
Through three seasons, Ebron battled injuries and dropped passes — a flaw in his game that had been well-documented coming out of college — but still managed to make steady production gains each year. He went from 25 catches for 248 yards as a rookie to 61 grabs gaining 711 yards in 2016.
And despite missing the entire preseason due to an injury for the second straight year, the bar had been raised this year, after the team didn’t re-sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin, last season’s the top red-zone weapon. Ebron announced his own lofty goal days before the start of the season.
“Everybody sets their goals high, but there’s one thing,” Ebron said in September. “I made a promise to my family and to myself that I’m going to do my best to make it to the Pro Bowl this year. I feel I’m capable of it. I feel if I do have three more games under my belt, a full 16-game season, I see no reason I can’t be (a Pro Bowler).”
But barring an extraordinary finish to the season, he’s going to fall well short of expectations. Through seven games, Ebron caught just 15 passes for 160 yards. He’s topped two receptions only once, in Week 2, when he hauled in his lone touchdown.
And dropped passes are once again a troubling issue. The metric is subjective, but most sources say Ebron has put three passes on the ground this year. Lions fans will tell you it’s more. A few tough balls, like the low one he couldn’t corral against the Steelers last Sunday, aren’t counted in the tally.
His inability to secure the ball consistently led to home fans turning on him this year. He was heartily booed the past two games at Ford Field after passes his direction went incomplete. If nothing else, the writing was on the wall that a change of scenery was needed.
Ebron chatted for a while after the Steelers game, far longer than a player normally talks with the media. Despite the loss, and the trade rumors that had picked up steam earlier in the deal, he was loose. If nothing else, things in his personal life are going well. He welcomed his first child into the world a little more than a week ago.
About the boos, he joked that 99.9 percent of fans could do what he does, even though he’s paid to make the catches. Regarding the trade rumors, he said he’d be happy regardless of what the team decides to do.
“It’s a business,” Ebron said. “If they feel like they want to cut ties with me, then they cut ties. If they feel like they can continue to use me and my skills and my abilities, then, (expletive), let’s do it.”
He could be here next year, too. The team picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract earlier this offseason. The one-year option, which comes with a salary north of $8 million, is only guaranteed for injury.
While the Lions stood pat, a few big names were traded during the 24 hours before the deadline. The Patriots shipped quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, the Seahawks landed offensive tackle Duane Brown from the Texans, the Dolphins dealt running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles and the Bills beat the buzzer, acquiring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers.