Ebron could benefit most from Boldin's absence in the red zone, as the big-bodied Boldin hauled in a team-high eight touchdowns last season, using the slot position to feast on underneath routes. With him gone, and the Lions adding fellow tight ends Darren Fells and Michael Roberts to take on blocking duties, the athletic yet imposing Ebron should be free to assume Boldin's vacated short-yardage receiving role. That would figure to help Ebron improve on his seven touchdowns through 40 career games, and with a contract extension also potentially on the horizon, he has some extra incentive to elevate his game.
Ebron believes the addition of tight ends Darren Fells and Michael Roberts should help him this upcoming season, Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press reports. "I think it's going to play a significant role for me to allow me to do the things that I'm best at," Ebron said.
Last season, Ebron was the top gun in a tight end group that included very little established talent behind him. Due to this predicament, the 2014 first-rounder couldn't always play to his strengths because he was often the only tight end on the field and subsequently was responsible for the bulk of the position's duties as both a receiver and a blocker. With Fells around, Detroit has one of the most reliable blocking tight ends in the league. Roberts, on the other hand, is a massive target who caught 16 touchdowns during his final season at Toledo last year and can hold his own in the run game, too. Whether it's by using more two-TE sets or subbing Ebron off the field entirely, both Fells and Roberts could be utilized in a fashion that allows Ebron to stay fresh and focus on his strength as a pass catcher.
The organization was on the fence about committing to Ebron through 2018 after a mostly disappointing first two seasons in the league, but the Lions apparently saw enough growth in his performance in 2016 to justify keeping him in the fold a little longer. Aside from adding Michael Roberts in the fourth round of last weekend's NFL draft, the Lions haven't made many major additions at tight end during the offseason, so Ebron once again looks primed to open the upcoming campaign as the team's starter. His 2016 totals of 61 catches and 711 yards were nice, but he'll need to elevate his touchdown total (one) if he hopes to become an upper-tier fantasy tight end.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team hasn't decided if it will exercise the fifth-year option on Ebron's contract, Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press reports. "It's a possibility," Quinn said. "We're still in the process of evaluating Eric's situation. We have until May 2, so we'll use our time."
The Lions' decision could depend on what the team does in a draft which offers a strong crop of tight ends. The 10th overall selection in the 2014 draft, Ebron has been held back by injuries, drops and shaky blocking through his first three seasons, but he did catch 61 of 86 targets for 711 yards and a touchdown in only 13 games last year. While he hasn't developed quite the way the Lions were hoping, the 24-year-old tight end is already a capable starter and seemingly possesses untapped upside. Ebron's fifth-year option would lock him in for 2018 at a salary around $8-9 million, but the Lions could potentially lower that cap hit by working out an extension.
Ebron is set to enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2017, making his future with the Lions an increasingly pressing issue. According to general manager Bob Quinn, the organization is open to entering negotiations with Ebron down the line, making his situation one to monitor over this offseason. The tenth overall pick in 2014, Ebron has been plagued by nagging injuries and dropped passes through his first three seasons, but he showed signs of turning the corner with career-bests of 61 receptions and 711 yards this past year.
|P1||8/13/17||@ IND||1:30 pm|
|P4||8/31/17||@ BUF||7:00 pm|
|2||9/18/17||@ NYG||8:30 pm|
|4||10/1/17||@ MIN||1:00 pm|
|6||10/15/17||@ NO||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 7|
|9||11/6/17||@ GB||8:30 pm|
|11||11/19/17||@ CHI||1:00 pm|
|13||12/3/17||@ BAL||1:00 pm|
|14||12/10/17||@ TB||1:00 pm|
|16||12/24/17||@ CIN||1:00 pm|