Allen Park, Mich. – The Lions announced today that they have released tight end Eric Ebron.

Ebron’s $8.25 million option for 2018, which the Lions picked up last offseason, was set to become fully guaranteed at the start of the new league year Wednesday at 4 p.m. By releasing Ebron before then, the team clears his salary off its books and saves about $7.7 million in cap space.

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The Lions tried hard to find a taker for Ebron before last season’s trade deadline amid his disappointing first half, but nothing came to fruition. The mercurial tight end rebounded in the second half, but it appears the team never intended to bring him back for 2018.

It was either trade him before the start of the new league year or release him. When the former route turned into a dead end, the Lions chose the latter.

Ebron, 24, was a frequent target of fan frustration during his four years in Detroit. Part of this stemmed from the fact the Lions chose him in the 2014 draft over the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald.

That was no fault of Ebron’s, but he didn’t help his cause with his cocky, often flippant demeanor. His production also stalled in 2017 after a career year in 2016. Ebron caught 53 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns last season.

The ire toward Ebron came to a head midway through the 2017 season when he was booed lustily in a home loss to the Steelers. It happened just two days before the trade deadline, and Ebron was asked afterward how he’d feel if he had played his final game with the Lions.

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“I think I left a pretty good mark. If I get the opportunities, then I make plays. If not, it is what it is. I mean, they boo me the hell off the field anyway,” he said.

Earlier in the season, Ebron said he understood where the fans were coming from.

“I take it as motivation. You guys aren’t booing me because I’m an awful player or shouldn’t be, you guys are booing me because you expect more from me. And I expect more from myself,” he said.

The Lions also saw tight end Darren Fells depart in free agency on Wednesday. At the moment, the tight ends on their roster are Michael Roberts, a fourth round pick in last year’s draft, and Hakeem Valles, a 2017 free agent pick-up from the Cardinals’ practice squad.

Detroit is high on Roberts’ potential, but the loss of Ebron creates a serious void at tight end. Despite his inconsistency, Ebron possessed high-end athleticism and valuable expereince within the Lions’ offense.

Current free agents include Martellus Bennett, Tyler Eifert and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The team could also look to add a tight end in the draft, but they have to supplement the position somehow before the 2018 season.

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