It’s been eventful, to say the least, Eric Ebron.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard initially received more than he paid for when Ebron, a first-round disappointment with Detroit, enjoyed the first Pro Bowl season of his career in 2018 when paired with quarterback Andrew Luck.
He was so good, we overlooked the drops. Problem is, a year later, we couldn’t overlook the obvious about why Ebron was available in free agency in the first place.
We were reminded of this on Monday, when the Colts issued the surprise announcement that Ebron’s underwhelming 2019 had come to an end. He’s reportedly dealt with ankle injuries in need of surgery for the entire year, and the pain had become too much, hence the designation to injured reserve.
A tight end with a lot of talent had heads shaking one more time.
Not disputing he’s hurt — the Colts wouldn’t have agreed to put him on IR otherwise — but Ebron didn’t miss a game this season. Head coach Frank Reich said he was unaware of any serious issue until an ankle problem flared up last week. Ebron still played in Thursday’s 20-17 loss at Houston, in which he had four receptions for 44 yards.
So the timing of the Ebron exit prompts several obvious questions.
First and foremost, why now? The Colts (6-5) are about to host the Tennessee Titans (6-5) Sunday in a game that could effectively remove the loser from serious playoff contention. As the saying goes, it’s all-important.
The Texans game was important enough for four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to return from a three-game absence with a calf strain that limited his effectiveness to three catches for 18 yards. But Hilton forced himself to play because he knew the Colts could have seized control of the AFC South Division with a win.
A week later, Ebron has had enough? The understated Reich sounded somewhat displeased in not saying much about Ebron’s decision on a Monday conference call. The Colts couldn’t be more banged up when it comes to fielding enough guys who can make plays catching the football. Hilton is hurt. Wide receiver Devin Funchess still hasn’t returned from a broken clavicle. Rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell is on the mend from surgery to repair a fractured hand. And now no Ebron.
It’s as if Ebron decided this season was a lost cause anyway, so time to get surgery and heal up to be ready for 2020. He’s not the first player to make what is known as a business decision, which make no mistake, is the real reason for why he limped away now.
He’s about to become a free agent, so getting healthy is essential to getting paid soon. But Ballard should be smart enough to not re-sign Ebron after he put himself before the team.
It’s not the first time the tight end has done that, either. Remember just a couple of weeks ago, Ebron went public with his grievance that he wanted to be more a part of the offense. Nothing was said at the time about injury. He sounded like a Pro Bowl tight end who didn’t think he was being used effectively enough.
That argument had some merit, considering his targets and numbers were down dramatically, but Ebron has dropped at least six passes this season (a generous assessment). He had not make the most of his opportunities and isn’t a strong blocker like tight end Jack Doyle, who has also been to the Pro Bowl once and is a more consistent player known for doing whatever the team needs.
The fact that quarterback Jacoby Brissett has had issues seeing open receivers and making the necessary reads lately didn’t help Ebron, either. As we’ve come to realize, if not initially understood, Brissett isn’t Luck.
Now Ebron’s agent has an excuse in contract talks when discussions commence with new suitors. Hey, he was hurt last year, so he couldn’t put up the numbers that got him to the Pro Bowl in 2018: a career-high 66 receptions for 750 yards and 13 TDs.
If you can dismiss his recent plea to get more targets — the Colts obliged by throwing his way 12 times in the next game which resulted in five catches for 56 yards — his value to the Colts would have been higher had he decided to stick this season out and do what he could to help the team. Lest anyone forget, he responded profanely when asked about two dropped passes in that game, a demoralizing home loss to the lowly Miami Dolphins. He didn’t think he had any drops.
When asked about what didn’t work in Detroit, Ebron always said the Lions didn’t use him properly. In the end, though, he was saying the same thing about the Colts. And the hunch is that’s why he said enough is enough after the Texans game. His situation wasn’t going to get any better, in terms of proving himself worthy of a lucrative contract in the offseason. But perhaps someone will bite and pay up more than they should because they’ll buy into the notion that he was playing hurt.
The Colts would be wise to re-sign Doyle, who is also a free agent, and will be in the market for another tight end in free agency or the draft.
Ballard and Reich talk all the time about having character guys in the locker room. Bottom line, Ebron is the type of character they longer need.