Lions release Eric Ebron on quiet first day of free agency
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions made a significant move on the first day of free agency.
It wasn’t an addition.
On an otherwise quiet Wednesday, the Lions announced they were releasing tight end Eric Ebron. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft would have earned $8.25 million this season if he had remained on the roster past 4 p.m.
Ebron had flashes in his four years with the Lions, catching 186 passes for 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns, but poor hands and inconsistent play made him a target for boos at Ford Field.
Much of the frustration came from the players Detroit passed to pick him so early in the draft. Six of the next seven players chosen have gone to at least one Pro Bowl, including New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (selected 12th) and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (13th).
Ebron, on the other hand, never lived up to the potential he showed at North Carolina. Ebron is fast, and the Lions thought he would be a deep threat next to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
However, he only caught 25 of 47 targets as a rookie and scored one touchdown while averaging 9.9 yards per reception. While his hands improved over the next three seasons, he was never able to provide Matthew Stafford with consistent playmaking.
In the first half of last season, he pulled in 18 of 36 targets and was booed when he was shown during a charity announcement on the Ford Field video board. He improved in the second half of the season, but the Lions decided they could find a cheaper option in free agency or the draft.
Detroit re-signed cornerback Nevin Lawson, linebacker Nick Bellore and quarterback Jake Rudock, and also announced the signing of free-agent defensive back DeShawn Shead.
Shead, 28, played his first six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, winning a Super Bowl in the 2013 season. He started 15 games at cornerback in 2016, but tore his ACL in a postseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons and only got into two games last season.
Shead is expected to compete with Lawson and Teez Tabor for a starting spot at cornerback opposite All-Pro Darius Slay. Bellore is a special-teams contributor who has seen time at linebacker and fullback, while Rudock will go into his third season as Stafford’s backup.
Rudock threw his first NFL passes in relief of Stafford in a 44-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 3. He completed three of five attempts, but also threw an interception that Eric Weddle returned 45 yards for a touchdown.