What are the Lions’ options if Eric Ebron’s injury is long-term?
Eric Ebron was carted off practice during Saturday’s Mock Game practice. The injury has left the Detroit Lions decimated at the Tight end position. They’ve already placed Tim Wright on the injured reserve list, and Brandon Pettigrew remains on the PUP list while recovering from his ACL injury. If Ebron is out long-term — and early reports of a potential Achilles injury suggest that he will be — that leaves the Lions with just five healthy tight ends: Orson Charles, Adam Fuehne, Ben McCord, Matthew Mulligan and Cole Wick. Of those five players, three are undrafted rookies.
As the Lions Roster stands now, Cole Wick would probably jump into the starting receiving tight end role. Wick has been somewhat impressive during camp and was looking like he was going to make the roster anyways. Matthew Mulligan, once a bubble player, would almost certainly make the roster to fill a role as a blocking tight end. Outside of those two, however, the Lions have no one they can truly rely on.
One outside-the-box option would be to move Anquan Boldin into the tight end position. Boldin’s physical skillset would be a natural fit as a tight end, and the move would allow the Lions to keep an additional receiver on the roster. That could be good news for guys like Jeremy Kerley and Jay Lee, who are desperately trying to take hold of a roster spot at wide receiver.
Still, the Lions would be wise to explore trade and free agency options, though there aren’t a ton of available players at tight end. Owen Daniels is still a free agent, as is former Lions tight end Joseph Fauria. Daniels still had 517 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2015, so he could be capable of providing something this year, provided that he wants to play football. Taurus seems like a long shot. The Lions haven’t shown any interest in him since releasing him before the 2015 season, despite the team being shorthanded all year.
As for a trade, one option may be Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera. Rivera has started 13 games for the Raiders since being drafted in the sixth round in 2013. Over the course of three years, Rivera has racked up 1,221 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. However, reports from early this offseason had Rivera on the trading block. Oakland drafted tight end Clive Walford in the third round in 2015 and added another in free agency (Lee Smith). Now they may be willing to unload Rivera for cheap.
Whatever the Lions choose to do, they’ll need to do it quick, with the regular season just over a month away.