Detroit Lions release TE Eric Ebron after 4 polarizing seasons

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Eric Ebron celebrates after a touchdown against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 24, 2017 in Cincinnati.

Unable to trade him and unwilling to pay his $8.25 million salary, the Detroit Lions have released tight end Eric Ebron.

The No. 10 pick of the 2014 draft, Ebron was a disappointment in his four NFL seasons.

He averaged just 46.5 catches per season and split time at the position with Darren Fells last year.

Fells agreed to terms on a free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns early Wednesday.

Ebron, who played 16 games last season for the first time in his career, would have had his entire salary guaranteed had he remained on the roster at the start of the new league year, which began at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Nov. 12, 2017: The Lions actually trailed the winless Browns, 24-17, late in the third quarter but then scored 21 unanswered points. The go-ahead score was a 29-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Eric Ebron in the fourth quarter.

The Lions were active in seeking trading partners for Ebron in recent weeks, and fielded calls about his availability going back to last fall.

One of the franchise's most polarizing players, Ebron was booed by hometown fans when he struggled early last season, but he ended the year up on an uptick by catching at least four passes in six of the season's final seven games.

Ebron, who turns 25 next month, finished the season as the Lions' No. 3 receiver with 53 catches and 574 yards.

The Lions made a play to replace Ebron in free agency with Philadelphia Eagles tight end Trey Burton, but Burton is expected to sign with the Chicago Bears on a contract that averages $8 million per season.

Burton caught 23 passes for 248 yards last season, and is a year older than Ebron.

A draft pick of former Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, Ebron was selected ahead of perennial Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald in 2014.

Currently, the Lions have just two young tight ends on their roster, Michael Roberts, a fourth-round pick out of Toledo last season, and Hakeem Valles, who spent most of last year on the practice squad.

Among the tight ends still available in free agency are Tyler Eifert, who has spent five oft-injured seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who's reportedly visiting the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

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