Eric Ebron thinks NFL needs a hybrid tight end-receiver designation


As Jimmy Graham awaits an arbitrator’s ruling about whether he’s a tight end or a wide receiver, a young player who is expected to play a Graham like role says the answer is really both. Or neither.

Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron, who is expected to do many of the same things in Detroit’s offense that Graham does in New Orleans, told Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News that he thinks it’s time for the NFL to create a new position to encompass hybrid players who don’t really fit the traditional mold of a wide receiver or a tight end.

Ebron’s idea makes sense: As football strategies change, football terminology changes, and right now we don’t have a good term for the players like Graham who are listed at tight end but run pass routes on most plays and rarely line up next to the offensive tackle. Ebron noted that in many offenses, “joker” is the term used for hybrid players.

Of course, Ebron may want to wait until he sees if Graham wins his grievance before he goes making that proposal. If an arbitrator declares Graham a wide receiver, the Saints will have to pay him about $5 million more on the 2014 franchise tag than they’d have to pay him if he’s a tight end. And if Ebron ever finds himself in the same situation, he and his agent will surely argue that he’s a wide receiver. Furthermore, creating a new hybrid position would have to be negotiated between the owners and the players’ union, as the Collective Bargaining Agreement recognizes the distinct positions of tight end and wide receiver and declares that a player will be classified at the position at which he lined up most in the previous season.

So even if Ebron’s way of thinking makes sense, it probably won’t gain any traction any time soon. Graham is about to be declared either a tight end or a wide receiver, and that determination will have ramifications around the league.

84 responses to “Eric Ebron thinks NFL needs a hybrid tight end-receiver designation

  1. He should probably worry about his first training camp and leave that kind of thing to the veterans.

  2. This guy needs to shut his mouth. He hasn’t even played a down yet. Worst pick based on need in the first round and a likely bust. He is a tweener.. not fast enough to play WR and not big enough to play TE.

  3. Shut up rookie and just learn the playbook you can talk after you have played a game or two.

  4. It may be based in self interest, but the rookie has a good point. Probably saying what everyone is thinking.

    Creation of a new designation would help keep the NFL out of arbitration and eventually, court.

  5. I don’t quite get this. The top 5 paid tight ends are all being paid what they’re paid because of what they do as pass-catchers. These tight ends are acting like their franchise tender # is being brought down because there are a bunch of tight ends that only block bringing the number down; this isn’t the case.

    If anything, that’s an indictment on the player agents. Should they be paid more due to the increasing production of the position? Maybe. But to make a new tag seems silly.

    Tight ends can’t do what X and Z receivers do (produce versus starting CBs every week) and in no way should top WR pay factor into any equation for a hybrid position.

    Tight ends are good at what they do, which is exploiting mismatches versus LBs and safeties. Some teams like to flex their tight end into the slot to get them away from the trenches and help figure out what the defenses are doing, something that’s been done since the days of Ditka. But even if they’re lining up in the slot, they’re still being treated by the defense as tight ends.

    These tight ends would get shutdown if they faced starting CBs every week (see Jimmy Graham versus Aqib Talib last year).

  6. ….and EVERY tight end in the league will think that he belongs in this new category……..$$$$…..ka-ching

  7. Translation: “I will be a future problem as well where contracts are concerned.”

  8. Nice to hear a young guy come up with a good idea to resolve a problem. Especially while older greedy men argue about who is right and wrong.

  9. They don’t need a hybrid designation. They just need guys like Jimmy Graham, Gronk and others to bring up the bar for salaries for TEs. Graham needs to just play under whatever tag and when it comes to getting that long term deal don’t take less than top 5 receiver money (because that is what he is statistically). If Graham has another year like he has been having the Saints (or some other team*) will have no choice but to back up the brinks truck. Deion Sanders did it in the 90’s for the CB position; Graham and others could do it now for TEs.

  10. If the top 5-10 tight ends in the nfl are all or mostly hybrid TE’s, the result would be a hybrid TE tag number the same as the current TE tag number, and a new non-hybrid TE tag number much lower, comperable to fullbacks tag, for the traditional blocking TEs.

  11. Durrrrrr. Rookies need to be seen and not heard. Durrrrr. Grumble. Grumble. Need to put your time in and learn the play book. Duurrrrr. If only Bear Bryant were still around. Grrooooan.

    You get three squares a day in training camp and can avoid the army draft all the same. Back in my day we had 5 a days in 156 degree heat. If only all TEs were like Mackey and Ditka.

  12. Non-Viking Fan Top 5 Tight Ends in NFL:

    1. Gronk (when healthy)

    2. Jimmy Graham (when not playing Aqib Talib)

    3.Vernon Davis (when not holding out)

    4. Jordan Reed (coming from an Eagles fan)

    5. Jason Witten (he’s still got it unfortunately)

    16. Kyle Rudolph

    Coming soon……Zach Ertz!

  13. Let me get this straight. So the argument against Ebron’s idea is, leave the ambiguity in tact, so every year they go through the same thing with every TE/WR?

    Is that what it means to be conservative. Is the NFL in the original Articles of Confederation? Where do you hitch your horse, when you go to town?

    Definition of insanity, let’s do it again. Maybe it turns out differently.

  14. Isn’t the TE designation going to fix itself with the increased role of tight ends of upper tier tight ends receiving bigger and bigger pay days?

  15. This guy has an awful lot to say for someone who has never played a down. There was speculation before the draft that the Ravens were going to take him and I, for one, are very glad that they did not. Rookies should be seen and not heard, at least until they have actually caught a pass in even a preseason game. What kind of a pain in the a** is he going to be when he finally gets to play? Maybe he’ll suggest a rewrite of the Constitution.

  16. He is right in principal. In today’s league players are drafted for their skillset and the variety of positions they can play. The CBA was rushed into and is NOT player friendly…the sooner the players figure this out and quit hanging all their expectations on being protected by it the better off they will be. It’s very simple. Like in every other successful business players should be paid according to their merit and contribution to the success of the team, not put in some antiquated one-size fits all prelabeled box that comes with a pay grade. More and more coaches are using players in hybrid positions and this is a problem that is going to continue to arise if the game continues to be played in the fast paced way fans have come to expect. For roster purposes they may be TEs but like Tony Gonzalez, on the field they are utilized more like receivers when the opportunity presents. The NFL hates it when anybody tries to break out of their antiquated and self-serving concretistic way of thinking,

  17. Playing in the slot is and has always been a part of playing the tight end (the “Y” receiver) position.

    Tell me, where in the CBA does it state that a tight end HAS to line up next to the OT and that snaps in which he is literally less than 3 yards from the OT makes him a WR? That language doesn’t exist in the CBA anywhere.

    The “tight end” definition of popular opinion seems to be the fans’ definition of tight end. The Y position has been lining up next to the tackle as well as in the slot for decades. You’re still playing tight end even if you’re in the slot and defenses are treating as such.

  18. Players have clauses in their contracts for bonuses, but also use as leverage in negotiating contracts, awards and honors at certain positions, like All Pro, Pro Bowl, etc. If you want to get paid like a WR, be listed only as a WR for everything. I’m quite sure that TEs have used “I’m the top tight end in the game” in negotiating. Can’t have it both ways.

  19. reating this designation would do NOTHING but INCREASE disputes and court cases. “Why can’t I get that designation? I’m gonna sue.” I can see it now.

  20. They should just designate “receiving TE” or “blocking TE”.

    Receiving TEs are paid on WR similar scale.
    Blocking TEs are paid on like normal.

    The designation is made when the contract is signed so it wouldn’t matter if the team chose to use the player for less snaps as a receiver after all thus negating a receiver type pay.

    A Blocking TE that develops into a receiving threat could always rework his contract after his rookie deal.

    Make it happen or this cry baby stuff over a few million will keep happening.

  21. “you’ve never played a down keep your mouth shut”-Says everyone on these boards who has played many NFL downs?

  22. I think no. you line up on the end of the line then your a TE. No WR ever lines up next to the tackle.

  23. If we count blocking as being as important as receiving for tight ends – as it should be – the list of best TEs needs to include Heath Miller. He has long been the best blocking TE in the NFL and still averages 60+ catches over the last 5 years. He’s got as good hands as anyone there is. Davis and Gronk block very well, but has anyone ever seen Graham block? No where near the same quality as those other three. All the guys who get split out often are often liabilities in the run game.

  24. First things first – your a rookie, you should be busy learning right now. Shut up and prove yourself. If you still have to talk, talk about things that you should be talking about, position designations shouldn’t be one of them.

    That being said, while I don’t think that they need to create a hybrid position, I think that they should adjust the TE scale a little. While I DON’T think that Graham should be designated a WR because he can’t do what the top 5 WRs can do, numbers be damned – he doesn’t draw double coverages by people that are as faster or faster than he is. When he is covered by a 1 string CB they don’t need 2. I do think that they should adjust the tag to reflect the top 5 salaries for slot WRs. This is more in line with what he does, and more and more they are being used for this purpose, it is also a decent compromise.

  25. Let’s call them Reds-kins. Because they’re related to similar multi-role utility players the Cincinnati Reds used to have.

  26. Lol at every who says, “you should play a down before you have an opinion” He’s probably played more football than any of you dumbasses. It’s just his idea. He didn’t say he deserves many millions. Makes sense though, so many of you dumbasses would criticize an actual good idea. They don’t even need a fully new position. Maybe just make a tag to add to certain players that fit the hybrid description.

  27. I see them going to two directions with this:

    1) Grouping WR/TE together into one “Receiver” category

    2) Creating a Hybrid Receiver, which will open a whole can of worms like:

    – Shouldn’t we split FB’s out from the RB category?

    – How come all offensive lineman are grouped together? If a team wants to tag their very good starting guard or center, they have to pay him Left Tackle money?

    – What about defensive lineman? Is a very good run-stuffing NT worth tagging when the tag is based on DE’s with double digit sack totals?

    Option #2 isn’t a good path to go down. Either group WR & TE together, or just go by the letter of the law in the CBA which will say that Graham is a WR.

  28. It may have taken him 10 seconds to make this comment or answer a question from a reporter. He still has plenty of time in his day to dedicate to his playbook studies.

  29. NFL don’t need a hybrid position just play your position you are slotted to play. Whether you catch the ball or block are you not playing. If you want to be different position lineup so you can get covered from the beginning like wide receiver’s do. Go against Richard Sherman’s and Darelle Revis’s of the NFL and prove you’re worth the money you think you deserve without even playing a snap yet. Over inflated position getting the benefits of going against weaker coverage. Now wanting more money.

  30. while he is probably right, though really not that different than other position roles that do not fit a clean one position definition, I think Ebron needs to shut up and show he can play at this point of his career…. his opinion has little value at the moment… that said, he is a very high potential prospect

    X, Y, Z, slot, TE, HBack….. all are different in responsibilty
    so are CB and DB and DE/OLB roles

    as an aside, how/why are some pitching Sherman as a top overall CB when he does not assume responsibility of the true top “shutdown” CBs?

  31. Here is the issue: How much do you pay the hybrids on a franchise tag? You average the top salaries at each position, but if there is a new position and not many players the averages could be screwed.

    I think ultimately it is fair to consider Jimmy Graham and those like him as wide receivers. Receiving the ball is what makes him valuable and to average the salaries of tight ends is to artificially reduce his salary because so few tight ends can catch passes like him.

    Is it really the end of the world if more tight ends don’t receive a franchise tender?

    If there is a better solution I’m open to hear it but it is going to be really tough to quantify what makes a tight end versus a wide receiver.

    What if the definition defaulted the position to that listed by the team? And what if the player and team put the position he will be playing in the contract? Then the definition relating to number of plays would only be used when there was a dispute over how a player was used.

    But then if I was Jimmy Graham I would want to be listed as a wide receiver. But coming out in the draft he probably would have agreed to be a tight end.

  32. I agree with the idea of using the defensive alignment as a way of defining whether or not the player is a tight end or a receiver. No defense is going to put a safety or linebacker up against a top tier WR.

    So instead of arguing that the player lined up in a WR alignment on X% of snaps, it should be argued that the player matched up against a CB on X% of the snaps, a LB on Y% of snaps, and a S on Z% of snaps.

    Larry Centers, a full back, caught 100 passes in 1995 and 99 passes in 1996. I am not going to look it up, but I would imagine there are only 15-20 WRs that caught 200 passes over those 2 seasons. Should Larry Centers have been paid like a WR, because 95% of his contribution to the team was catching passes?

  33. Actually, the TE is already a hybrid between OL and WR. TEs both catch and block running plays on the OL. Losing a lot of respect for Jimmy in this one. If he went up against corners every week he wouldn’t have the stats he has now.

  34. That is “normal pay” though. The top tight ends already get paid for the receiving ability. The franchise tag # for “blocking tight ends” would be near league minimum. The highest paid tight ends get paid because of how well they catch the football.

  35. A tight end is a tight end, if you want to be a wide reciever, then most TE would be the 4th or 5th WR on their own team, and/or cut. Your roster spot is as a Tight end. Do away with the position, and have 4 pro bowl WR, most former TE would not get selected anymore, and would not get the bonuses, and free pro bowl trips etc….and get paid 4th-5th wr money. Then listen to them whine.

  36. I’m a blocking tight end, why you throwing me the ball?

    I’m a blocking running back, i don’t get paid to receive passes!

    I’m a quarterback, i don’t get paid to scramble and run for my life.

    I’m a safety, i don’t get paid to cover slot wide receivers.

    I’m a backup quarterback, i dont’ get paid to actually have to start for 9 games.

    This is all ridiculous.

  37. Tight ends are already part offensive linemen, part receiver. By definition they are hybrids and are paid somewhere in between.

  38. How about you shut the hell up and play ball. If you don’t like it, then join the real world and go get a job.

  39. Play a down, catch a pass, block someone, then you can talk.

    As mentioned by everyone else, TE is already a hybrid of OL and WR. And like a jack-of-all trades, they get paid less, their tag is less than either.

  40. Forget designations. These players should argue on the grounds of how many times a receiver was targeted in the passing game. Obviously, the more targets, and catches, the more valuable you are to an offense, and you should therefore, be paid accordingly. Too easy.

  41. Maybe we should have tight ends, slot receivers, and wide receivers as official designations.

    I have a feeling that the slot receiver designation would carry a lot lower of a salary than the wide receivers.

  42. It’s going to be fun watching late 3rd round pick Richard Rodgers outplay early 1st round Eric Ebron the next four years.

  43. Yeah, he should completely ignore reporter questions! Shut up rook! Stop answering questions that are asked to you! Yeah!

  44. Everybody here posting from mom’s basement after getting off of their shift at Pizza Hut telling Ebron to shut up because he hasn’t played a down of a pro football game, yet they feel they are somehow qualified/entitled to comment on it. I guess we have a lot of former NFL’ers who are also posters on this site.

  45. This guy should play an NFL down before talking, but to say he will be a bust is nonsense. 6’4, 250 sounds like a prototypical TE to me.

  46. The game changes and TEs are catching more passes.

    It’s not necessary to completely change the TE classification to WR, just make TE on the same level as WR. Both positions block and catch passes.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.