Free-Agent Tight End Creates Buzz Around Packers Interest

Packers FA Eric Ebron

Getty Eric Ebron #85 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The tight end room in Green Bay has gotten smaller over the past few days, giving the impression Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst might be gearing up to make a play for one of the valuable free-agent tight ends on the market.

Should that happen, it doesn’t seem like Eric Ebron would mind if the Packers came calling.

The former Indianapolis Colts tight end, who was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018, is considered the top tight end still available in 2020 free agency after the Cleveland Browns took Austin Hooper off the market earlier in the week. The Packers were rumored to “make a run” at Hooper in free agency, but pursuing another prolific pass-catcher in his mid-20s could be a worthwhile endeavor.

Ebron seems to be open to the potential union, retweeting a pitch for the Packers to go after him in free agency on Wednesday morning. He also seems to like the idea of catching passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers — and can you blame him?

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 Ebron’s Time With Colts Ended With Drama

Ebron had a career season in 2018  for the Colts with 66 receptions for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, but his production took a swan dive last year to just 31 catches and 375 yards with injuries limiting him to 11 games and the Colts favoring fellow tight end Jack Doyle more in the passing game.

Ebron finished his 2019 season on injured reserve after electing to undergo surgery in late November to repair an ankle injury, which resulted in a public dispute between him and the Colts about how much was known about his injury. Head coach Frank Reich made it seem like Ebron blindsided him and the Colts with his injury, but Ebron contended the Colts both knew about his injury and had been an active part of helping him manage it throughout the season.

While it didn’t make things look good for Ebron’s future, the Colts all but guaranteed they would be parting ways with Ebron in free agency when they inked Doyle to a three-year contract extension worth $21 million in December.

Ebron’s injury and lower production will certainly sink his stock as a free agent, but his value is still evident given his age and notable past numbers. Prior to landing with the Colts in 2018, Ebron caught 186 passes for 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns over his four seasons with the Detroit Lions.

Packers’ Need for Tight End Evident

The Packers stand to benefit from adding an experienced tight end to their ranks with both of last year’s veterans expected to be gone for 2020.

Jimmy Graham is gone after the Packers’ opted to save $8 million in cap space and cut him loose with one year left on his contract. He will still return to Green Bay next season, but as a member of the Chicago Bears after they agreed to terms with him on a two-year, $16 million deal.

The Packers could also be moving on from Marcedes Lewis, who became an unrestricted free agent at 3 p.m. CT on Wednesday when the 2020 league year officially began. The 36-year-old tight end was a solid end-of-line blocked who received praise from Rodgers at multiple points last season, but the Packers are less flexible this offseason with their spending and seem likely to let him walk.

That leaves 2019 rookie Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan — who was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent on Tuesday and is expected to return — to man the position for next season. The Packers could potentially manage with just the two of them, or maybe add another pass-catching tight end through the upcoming draft, but the prospects of a free-agent signing are still on the table.

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