The tight end-needy New England Patriots will be busy when NFL free agency begins next week, and they are expected to pursue Eric Ebron, who spent his last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. According to Evan Lazar, of CLNS Media, the 26-year-old Ebron would be on the top of the Patriots’ tight end list after showing some brilliance in his two years with the Colts. “The Patriots are expected to be in the mix for free-agent tight end Eric Ebron when the legal tampering period begins,” Lazar tweeted. In 2018, Ebron caught 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, but his performance dipped significantly the following season as he caught just 31 passes for 375 yards and three scores.

Before joining the Colts, Ebron had four lackluster years with the Detroit Lions where he was considered as a bust after being taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. A downside for Ebron is his tendency to drop passes as he had 14 in the past two seasons, including eight in 2018. The slide in his output last season has diminished interest in Ebron in the free-agent market, making him an attractive and affordable target for the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick.

Ebron could make immediate impact

Lazar believes that Ebron could make an immediate impact at tight end for the Patriots, who have Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse under contract for next season. The Patriots were heavily affected by the retirement of star tight end Rob Gronkowski last offseason.

They lured veteran Ben Watson out of retirement to help fill the void left by Gronkowski, but they got little from their tight end corps, which tallied just 37 catches for 419 yards and two scores. Aside from Ebron, the Patriots could also sign Austin Hooper from the free-agent pool. Hooper caught 75 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns for the Atlanta Falcons last season.

In his four-year stint with the Falcons, Hooper recorded 214 catches for 2,224 yards and 16 scores. The Patriots could also trade for Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. The Patriots need to add more weapons on offense to convince veteran quarterback Tom Brady to stay. The 42-year-old Brady is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 20-year career.

Buccaneers to choose Bridgewater over Brady?

It was recently reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would go all-out in signing Brady to turn their franchise around after struggling with Jameis Winston as their quarterback. However, Peter King of NBC Sports said on WEEI Radio’s “Dale & Keefe” that there’s a big chance that the Buccaneers could pick Teddy Bridgewater over Brady when free agency begins March 18. "I think the Bucs are probably more likely to try to sign Teddy Bridgewater,” said King, adding that Tampa Bay needs an efficient quarterback, unlike Winston, who threw 30 interceptions last season, including six in their last two regular-season games that cost them a chance to clinch a postseason berth.