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I often see Absorb Elements (AE) mentioned as a useful spell for an Eldritch Knight (EK), because it gives you temporary resistance to one type of damage and lets you add that type of damage to your next melee attack.

However, it has somatic components, which require a free hand to perform. With many spells this isn't a problem, since you can drop or stow your weapon, cast, and then use your bonus action for the EK Weapon Bond feature to resummon it. But since AE is a reaction, that doesn't seem to work, although I might be wrong. So it seems as though you have to preemptively stow your weapon at the end of your turn if you think you might need to use AE, which then becomes a problem if what you actually end up needing your reaction for is an opportunity attack.

Of course, this all goes away at 4th level when you can take War Caster as a feat, which lets you cast without a free hand for somatic components.

So:

  • Am I wrong? i.e. is it possible to drop your sword as part of your reaction before casting AE?
  • If not, can a 3rd level EK usefully use AE, or should you wait until 4th level to take that spell?
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Free object Interactions explicitly occur on your turn.

Player's Handbook p.190 under Other Activity on Your Turn:

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move.

You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn.

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.

If you are expecting the need to arise for absorb elements you can sheathe your weapon as your free object interaction at the end of your turn. Because you are an Eldritch Knight you can summon the weapon through your weapon bond feature as a bonus action saving your free object interaction for sheathing it when you are done attacking.

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