Bucs Urged to Pursue Former Top 10 Pick, Pro Bowler: Report

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could add a talented veteran tight end to fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski.

With Rob Gronkowski retired, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could pursue a former No. 10 pick and Pro Bowl tight end in Eric Ebron.

ESPN’s Jenna Laine listed Ebron, 29, as one of three primary free agent tight end options for the Bucs with Ebron being the youngest. Ebron has 351 receptions, 3,837 yards, and 33 touchdowns in his eight-year career.

Drafted No. 10 by the Detroit Lions in 2014, Ebron made the Pro Bowl in 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts. He spent the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Numerous playoff contenders have emerged as destinations for Ebron such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings per Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton.

“The 6-foot-4, 253-pounder uses his length and thick frame to box out defenders instead of relying on his once-impressive speed,” Wharton wrote. “He’s posted a catch rate of at least 60% in all but one season over the last seven years. It’s easy to see why a playoff contender could use him as a red-zone target.”

“But Ebron could be more than that if healthy,” Wharton added. “He’s maintained a 10.9-yard-per-catch average during his career. Put him in an offense with several playmakers ahead of him in the pecking order, and he’ll be an excellent value.”

It wouldn’t take a lot financially for the Bucs to sign Ebron. He made $6 million annually in Pittsburgh the past two seasons per Spotrac. The Bucs have $12.53 million in salary cap space, per Spotrac, after cutting punter Bradley Pinion last week.

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Ebron Alleviates Gronk’s Void in Key Areas

Ebron’s frame and skill set could help fill voids left by Gronkowski. The Bucs had a big target in Gronkowski at 6-foot-6, and Gronkowski posed a threat in the red zone, and he averaged 14.3 yards per catch in two seasons with the Bucs. Gronkowski notably only had a 60% catch rate in Tampa Bay.

Gronkowski, 33, announced his retirement on June 22 after 11 seasons in the NFL, often marred by injuries. Ebron has played in at least 13 games every season except last season and 2019 when he played in 11.

The Bucs could also get another mentor in the tight end room, which could help rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. Ebron took rookie Pat Freiermuth under his wing in Pittsburgh last season. Only Cameron Brate has significant NFL experience among the Bucs current tight ends.

“Pat asks me more questions than anybody. He’s like my third child,” Ebron told the media in an October 2021 press conference.


Ebron Looks to Bounce Back

Ebron’s last season in Pittsburgh didn’t go the best with 12 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. However, the Steelers offense didn’t do well as a unit, finishing in the bottom half of the league last season for total offense. He also didn’t complain about his numbers and getting passed by Freiermuth on the depth chart.

“I can’t answer that one. You have to ask one of the coaches,” Ebron told the media in October 2021.

Ebron also injured his knee in November 2021 and went on injured reserve. He had surgery on the knee and “has been medically cleared” per Laine.

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