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Detroit Lions 2016 roster review: Clay Harbor was not the answer at tight end

Harbor had a short stint as the Lions tight end of choice during the middle of the season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re in full offseason mode, we’re going to review every single Detroit Lions player that finished the 2016 season under contract. We’ll look at their expectations coming into the season, whether they met those expectations and what to expect of them going forward. We will begin with the upcoming free agents, as they are the most intriguing and time sensitive.

Expectations before 2016

The No. 2 tight end spot was a revolving door for the Lions in 2016, with Tim Wright and Brandon Pettigrew out with injuries before the season even started. Clay Harbor was simply another attempt by the Lions to find someone for this role and was picked up by the team after he was released by the Patriots following Week 4. Expectations were fairly low for Harbor, who did not even receive a target during three games with New England.

Actual role in 2016

2016 stats (with Detroit): 12 games (2 starts) | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards, 0 touchdowns

Harbor was signed in response to an injury to Eric Ebron, and he was immediately sent into action. From Weeks 5 to 7, Harbor saw the most snaps on the roster at tight end each game and played 43.8 percent of all offensive snaps. He was used more as a blocker, as he only tallied three targets, although he did bring in all three.

Once Ebron returned, Harbor’s role was significantly diminished. He never played more than six snaps in a game after Week 7 and did not see another target. While Harbor made minimal impact with the Patriots, mostly playing special teams, he will receive a playoff bonus from them regardless of their Super Bowl outcome.

Outlook for 2017

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

Harbor was on a one-year, $885,000 contract with the Lions in 2016. He saw the field a decent amount in his first few weeks with the team, but he accomplished very little of note after that. At this point in the 29-year-old’s career, it seems unlikely that he could ever be more than a rotational tight end.

Whether or not he could serve as the Lions‘ backup tight end depends on the team’s preference, but judging by their lack of utilization of him once Ebron returned, he does not seem like someone the team wants to rely upon too heavily. Harbor was serviceable when needed, but Detroit should look elsewhere for 2017.

Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky, Devin Taylor, Rafael Bush, Don Muhlbach, Larry Warford, Andre Roberts, TJ Jones, Kerry Hyder, Jon Bostic, Marvin Jones, Alex Carter, Tim Wright, Armonty Bryant

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