After the chatter about the former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph wanting to play in Minnesota again, the name of a different player appeared.
Bleacher Report published the article ‘NFL Free Agency 2022: Ranking the 10 Best Unsigned Players Under 30,’ and the Vikings are viewed as the best fit for a former divisional rival. One ex-Viking made the list as well. Mackensie Alexander was comically named the eighth-best free agent under 30 after coming off his worst year in the NFL. PFF literally graded him as the worst of 116 cornerbacks in the NFL with an atrocious grade of 40.2.
The 29-year-old Eric Ebron could be a better version of what Rudolph can bring to the table. He’s a pass-catching tight end with a lot of experience in the league. The Detroit Lions selected him with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft. The Vikings picked Anthony Barr with the ninth pick.
In hindsight, the Lions made a huge mistake. Odell Beckham Jr went two picks after Ebron. A duo of Calvin Johnson Jr and Beckham would’ve been a nightmare to defend for Zimmer’s defensive unit. However, he’s not the only star the Lions passed on, as Aaron Donald, one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, went with the 13th pick.
The tight end never lived up to his pre-draft hype, but he’s still had a productive career. He played four seasons in the NFC North and appeared in 56 games. Ebron finished the Lions chapter in his career with 2,070 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. The Lions picked up his fifth-year option — just to release him before he entered his fifth season.
Less than one week later, the Indianapolis Colts signed him to a two-year contract. Ebron was not the unquestioned starter, as he split time with Jack Doyle. In the two seasons, he started 11 of 27 games. His 1,125 yards looked comparable to his stats with the Lions, but the touchdown number increased significantly. He managed to catch 16 touchdowns in those two seasons. That’s five more than in Detroit in about half of the games.
The veteran once again was a free agent. This time, he was viewed as an elite red-zone threat. The Steelers secured his services for two seasons. The stats looked once again comparable to the previous six years of his career, with just over 500 yards and five touchdowns in his first season for the Steelers.
Before his second season on the team started, they selected Pat Freiermuth, who soon replaced him in the starting lineup. Later, Ebron was placed on injured reserve and only played eight games with limited production. His numbers dropped to just 84 yards and one single touchdown.
Now, he’s once again a free agent and looking for a team. His knee injury could be a concern for teams and why he is still available. However, he tweeted that his knee was good to go over four months ago.
Do Vikings Need Him?
The Vikings’ tight end room is arguably the worst position group on the roster. Irv Smith Jr is the starter. He is talented and was a second-round pick for a reason. However, Smith’s production wasn’t very high so far in his career. He split reps with Kyle Rudolph during his first two seasons and missed his full third year with a knee injury.
Not only is he unproven, but he is also the only viable option in the passing game. The depth behind him is a big question mark. Ben Ellefson and free-agent signing Johnny Mundt are blocking tight ends. Mundt said that he could catch the ball, but that’s a projection so far.
The Vikings have two more tight ends on the roster. It would be surprising if the rookie Nick Muse, a seventh-round pick, would be a great option in his first year. 2021 fourth-round selection Zach Davidson is also on the team. He is a total project after playing Division II football in college.
None of those four should enter the season as a second tight end behind an unproven starter who didn’t play football for 20 months when the Vikings will face the Packers in September.
Ebron is perfect for that role — mentoring the young player while making an impact in the passing game, especially in the red zone with his 6’4″ frame. He would be insurance in case Smith would go down again and could replace him on the field at times to keep him fresh. Bleacher Report named the best fits for the tight end – Vikings, Eagles, and Bengals.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt