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Cowboys free agency focus: The case for Dallas making a run at TE Eric Ebron

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What does Mike McCarthy think of TE Eric Ebron? Could he be vertical threat in Cowboys’ passing plans?

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

[The Cowboys have a long list of their own free agents to consider but reality is that several will not return. In this series, we’ll look at the many free agents set to hit the open market in 2020 and if any of those might be of interest to the Cowboys. Below is a list of profiles from this series:]

DT Mike Daniels

SAF Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

SAF Karl Joseph

DT Andrew Billings

TE Eric Ebron, Colts

Eric Ebron was selected 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions after having a breakout junior year for North Carolina with 62 receptions and over 900 receiving yards. Everything from his measurables to his combine testing numbers screamed that he could potentially be a NFL superstar in the mold of others before him like Jimmy Graham.

In his rookie training camp, Ebron struggled to grasp the Lions playbook and his assignments, winding up being third on the depth chart behind Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. Midway through his rookie year, Ebron would be sidelined with a hamstring and finished the year with 25 receptions, 248 yards, and a touchdown. In his second season he was TE2 behind Pettigrew, and he put up decent numbers despite missing two games with another hamstring. Ebron would snag 47 of 70 targets, for 537 receiving yards, and five touchdowns.

In 2016, Ebron would be thrust into the starting role when Brandon Pettigrew went down to a torn ACL. Though a knee injury sidelined Ebron from weeks 5-7, he did very well in his first year as the TE1. He recorded a season-high eight receptions for 93 yards in a 42-21 loss to the Cowboys. Overall, Ebron caught 61 of his 85 targets (72%) for 711 yards, with one TD reception, and one rushing TD. In 2017, he would play in all 16 games but finished the year with just 53 receptions, 573 yards, and four touchdowns. Right ahead of the 2018 season, Ebron was cut by the Lions but signed a two-year deal worth $13M with the Indianapolis Colts five days later.

Ebron caught on well with the Colts in his first year, recording 66 receptions, 750 yards, and 13 touchdown catches, and one rushing score. He would also record a touchdown reception in the 21-7 Colts win over the Texans in the playoffs and he was named to the Pro Bowl. This past season wasn’t as kind as he would play in just 11 games and was placed on IR with an ankle injury in late November. He had just 31 catches, 375 yards, and three touchdowns in those 11 games.

The Cowboys don’t really know what their tight end room is going to look like for 2020 as Jason Witten has yet to make a decision on his future. Blake Jarwin had a season-high 365 yards and three touchdowns and is a fan-favorite but who knows how the new coaching staff is going to take to him. The Cowboys could use another big target in the passing game regardless and could look to the NFL Draft for some assistance. However, Mike McCarthy was part of the Packers’ staff that brought in Jimmy Graham, and he also has some experience playing against Ebron in the NFC North. A playmaking tight end is one thing the Cowboys are missing on offense though Dallas still ranked first in total offense during the regular season.

Eric Ebron has some injury concerns that is likely to make any deal he signs a team-friendly one with protection in place. Spotrac shows Eric Ebron’s value topping out at four-years and less than $30M. However, it’s more likely that he will get another two-year deal than anything else. The Cowboys had some interest in him back in the 2014 draft but could they still be interested in the 26 year old?