Detroit didn’t get the kind of production from the tight end position they needed this year.
Levine Toilolo led them with 21 receptions for 263 yards. Collectively, Detroit’s tight ends caught 45 passes for 461 yards and four scores.
To put that in a little bit of context, San Francisco tight end George Kittle caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards to lead all tight ends in both categories. Eric Ebron led all tight ends with 13 touchdown grabs.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn explained Friday that he tried to get the right pieces in place, which even included an attempt to trade for New England’s Rob Gronkowski.
“Back in March, we talked to basically every tight end on the free-agent market trying to get those guys here,” Quinn said. “Some we were close on. Some we weren’t. Some got paid an exorbitant amount of money that really didn’t produce this year. We made a run at those guys.
“The Rob Gronkowski thing is well documented. Trade deadline there was probably three or four conversations with teams about top tight ends around the league that just didn’t consummate. That’s the way the NFL works. You can’t guarantee you’re going to get something unless you have something here.”
The Lions did have Ebron here. He was set to play 2018 in Detroit on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, but the team released him in March as Quinn said at the time he didn’t believe Ebron’s production in Detroit his first four seasons matched the fifth-year option price tag in his contract.
“I’m glad for Eric Ebron," Quinn said. "Great person. He had a good year in Indy. I’m happy for him. It didn’t work out here.”
Detroit’s top two tight ends this season from a production standpoint – Toilolo and Luke Willson – are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Michael Roberts, who led the group with three touchdowns catches, is under contract entering his third season.
Improving the tight end position is one of Quinn’s important tasks for the offense this offseason, and a task he said he’s looking forward to addressing after things didn’t pan out like he hoped last offseason.