(97.1 The Ticket) When Bob Quinn and the Lions chose to move on from tight ends Eric Ebron and Darren Fells on Wednesday, they waved goodbye to 70 receptions, 751 yards and seven touchdowns worth of production.
Left behind was Michael Roberts, who caught four passes for 46 yards in his rookie season.
It’s unclear how the Lions intend to fill this void, but their options are thin in free agency. Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton, the latter of whom was linked frequently to the Lions prior to signing with the Bears, have been off the board for a couple days. On Thursday, Tyler Eifert and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were scooped up as well.
The best remaining tight ends on the market, in no particular order, are Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates and Brent Celek. It’s a group whose name power no longer holds much weight.
Regardless, the Lions hosted Celek in Allen Park on Thursday, per multiple reports. The 33-year-old is no doubt durable, having missed just one game in his 11-year career, but his skills have faded significantly. He had just 27 receptions for 285 yards over the last two seasons.
The Eagles released Celek on Tuesday, saving $4 million. Fellow tight end Zach Ertz had long since overtook him on the depth chart.
For the Lions, Celek wouldn’t cost much, far less than the $8.25 million it would have required to retain Ebron. But he’s a complimentary piece at this point in his career. Even with Celek on the roster, the Lions would surely have to add another tight end, namely one that opposing defenses will have to respect.
Some of the top prospects in the draft are Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State, Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Mike Gesicki from Penn State. There’s the possibility of a trade as well, but integrating a new tight end isn’t easy. At this point, Roberts is the team’s best option.
The Lions are high on the University of Toledo product, their fourth-round draft pick last year, but he’d be an undeniable downgrade from Ebron entering the 2018 season. In an offseason where Quinn has plenty of holes to fill, he’s created for himself another.