Lions release TE Ebron, sign former Seahawk CB Shead

Associated Press • Mar 14, 2018 at 10:41 PM

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions made a significant move on the first day of free agency.

It wasn't an addition.

On an otherwise quiet Wednesday, the Lions announced they were releasing tight end Eric Ebron. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft would have earned $8.25 million this season if he had remained on the roster past 4 p.m.

Ebron had flashes in his four years with the Lions, catching 186 passes for 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns, but poor hands and inconsistent play made him a target for boos at Ford Field.

Much of the frustration came from the players Detroit passed to pick him so early in the draft. Six of the next seven players chosen have gone to at least one Pro Bowl, including New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (selected 12th) and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (13th).

Ebron, on the other hand, never lived up to the potential he showed at North Carolina. Ebron is fast, and the Lions thought he would be a deep threat next to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

However, he only caught 25 of 47 targets as a rookie and scored one touchdown while averaging 9.9 yards per reception. While his hands improved over the next three seasons, he was never able to provide Matthew Stafford with consistent playmaking.

In the first half of last season, he pulled in 18 of 36 targets and was booed when he was shown during a charity announcement on the Ford Field video board. He improved in the second half of the season, but the Lions decided they could find a cheaper option in free agency or the draft.

Detroit re-signed cornerback Nevin Lawson, linebacker Nick Bellore and quarterback Jake Rudock, and also announced the signing of free-agent defensive back DeShawn Shead.

Shead, 28, played his first six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, winning a Super Bowl in the 2013 season. He started 15 games at cornerback in 2016, but tore his ACL in a postseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons and only got into two games last season.

Shead is expected to compete with Lawson and Teez Tabor for a starting spot at cornerback opposite All-Pro Darius Slay. Bellore is a special-teams contributor who has seen time at linebacker and fullback, while Rudock will go into his third season as Stafford's backup.

Rudock threw his first NFL passes in relief of Stafford in a 44-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 3. He completed three of five attempts, but also threw an interception that Eric Weddle returned 45 yards for a touchdown.

Lions land ex-Seahawks CB Shead 


That's what Matt Patricia is known for. That's the kind of player the Detroit Lions have already sought under him. And now they have another, coming to terms with former Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead on the first day of free agency.

Shead, who turns 29 in June, is a former undrafted rookie who went on to play all five secondary positions in his six seasons with Seattle's iconic Legion of Boom. His best season came in 2016 when he started 15 games opposite Richard Sherman at cornerback.

He returned to Seattle on a one-year deal in 2017, but an ACL injury limited him to two games. That could have allowed his contract to roll over to 2018, but the Seahawks had told him he could test free agency this year and they followed through on that promise.

They tried to re-sign the defensive back, too, but Shead chose Detroit instead after making a free-agent visit this week. What exactly that means for the Lions' defense remains unclear. But that's kind of the point. They have so many versatile options that their secondary could shake out a number of ways.

They have Quandre Diggs, who began his career in the nickel but played so well at safety down the stretch last year that many believe his future is there. The club also re-signed Tavon Wilson, a strong safety who plays a lot in the box. Nevin Lawson is back too, on a two-year deal that could be worth more than $10 million. But it's unclear whether he'll make that money by returning to outside cornerback -- where Darius Slay is entrenched, and Teez Tabor is expected to play more -- or if he'll slide inside.

Now Shead will fit into that mix as well.

"I think in general in the game right now, in the league, with the rosters and where the sizes are, I would say everybody really needs to be multiple," Patricia said. "If you're going to do one thing on a football team, it better be outstanding. So, in general, it's easy to kind of say, 'All right. Long Snapper. He's probably outstanding at the long snapping and that's the one thing he does really well,' or kicking or the quarterback position. I think the rest of it, you look at it and say, 'OK, hey, what can this guy do well and how many different positions can we put him in to execute at a high level?'

"Whether it's offense or defensively, so you're always evaluating that on every player."

Shead finishes his Seattle career with 136 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, 24 passes defended and three forced fumbles. He appeared in 54 games overall and made 22 starts.

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