By: Will Burchfield
Despite reports of the Lions shopping Eric Ebron prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, including one that said the tight end would “almost surely” be dealt, Jim Caldwell wasn’t surprised that Ebron stayed put.
“We didn’t expect him to go anywhere. Because it’s in the paper and because you guys talk about it doesn’t make it a fact. So, take that for what it’s worth,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell declined to say whether or not the Lions engaged in trade talks concerning Ebron — “You know we don’t talk about rumors and innuendo,” he said, before walking off the podium on Thursday — but characterized the various reports as “swirl.”
“Some guys just kind of toss names out there just to be tossing them out. They have no information to back it up. We don’t need to go into any long diatribe reacting to what you guys wrote or what you guys reported. We basically just kind of treat it as is, and we’re on to the next game,” Caldwell said.
Ebron’s name popped up in trade rumors amid his poor start to the season and the sense that he has plateaued in Detroit. After increasing his production in each of his first three seasons, the 2014 first-round pick has taken a step back in his fourth.
Through seven games, he has just 15 catches on 32 targets for 160 yards and one touchdown. He also ranks near the top of the league in drops, a trend throughout his four-year career. His preseason goal of making the Pro Bowl at this point looks like a pipe dream.
On Sunday, following the Lions’ loss to the Steelers in which Ebron was once again booed by the hometown crowd, Ebron said he would happy whether or not the Lions held onto him.
“If they feel like they want to cut ties with me, they’ll cut ties. If they feel like they can continue to use me and my skills and my abilities, then (shoot), let’s do it. We still got a long season. It’s getting short, but it’s still long,” he said.
After the trade deadline passed, Ebron expressed his solidarity with the Lions on Twitter.
He has nine games to redeem his season and convince the Lions to bring him back for 2018. The team picked up his $8.2 million option in May, but it’s only guaranteed for injury.
Asked what he expects of Ebron moving forward, Caldwell said, “Same thing — improve, get better. And I believe he will.”
Matthew Stafford, who’s supported Ebron through his ups and downs, said he didn’t say reach out to his pass-catching tight end after the deadline passed.
“No, I didn’t say anything to him. You never know what’s going to happen that time of year. Obviously, I love having all my teammates in there and glad that our team stayed the way it did,” Stafford said.
After averaging four receptions and 46 yards per game over the last two seasons, Ebron is down to two receptions and 23 yards per game in 2017. He’s playing fewer snaps and getting fewer targets.
Stafford said he’s partly to blame for this drop in production.
“Part of it’s me throwing the football, too, so maybe you can put a little bit of that on me. But he’s just got to continue to get open, catch the ball and make plays,” said Stafford.