Want to feel old?
Zach Ertz, the 35th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, just so happens to be one of the most tenured members of the Philadelphia Eagles, joining an exclusive club of players with at least eight straight seasons with the club that only features Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, and his draft classmate Lane Johnson.
Now granted, that could all change in an instant, as the Eagles’ desire to trade Ertz is the worst kept secret in the NFL, but for the time being, the statement holds true and may continue to do so for the final year of his five-year, $42.5 million contract.
That’s right, in a very Eagles move the likes of which we should expect in 2021, recent reporting from Howard Eskins and Mike Garafolo suggests that Ertz may just report to camp when it opens up in roughly a week and thus, at least give the illusion of being in the team’s plans moving forward.
Did you think this situation was weird before? Well, it’s about to get a whole lot weirder.
Retaining Ertz, at least for now, could be beneficial for the Philadelphia Eagles.
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The 2020 NFL season was far from a marquee year for Zach Ertz.
Despite some initial hardball about his contractual status, with the ex-Stanford Cardinal hoping to land a long-term extension heading into the second-to-last year of his deal, Ertz took the field in hopes of making his fourth straight trip to the Pro Bowl but instead recorded the worst season of his football playing career since his freshman year at Palo Alto.
Ertz was an ineffective offensive weapon through the first six weeks of the season – catching 53.3 percent of his passes for a career-low 3.96 yards per target – the next five weeks on injured reserve, and the final five weeks of the season in a new-look offense unlike anything he’d be a part of since Michael Vick was taking snaps as QB1.
With Carson Wentz on the bench, Ertz was targeted more times than any other Eagle during his four-ish game run paired up with Jalen Hurts, but finished out said run last in completion percentage, signifying a clear disconnect between the once franchise tight end and his new signal-caller.
Granted, just because Ertz and Hurts didn’t quite mesh in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t put it all together in the future, as the former was coming off of a high ankle sprain that robbed him of a third of the season and surely some of his explosiveness, but for a team looking to get younger and pivot into the Dallas Goedert-era, keeping around a vestige of a bygone era is never ideal.
Fun fact: Did you know that Ertz generated trade interest heading into the 2020 NFL trade deadline but opted to place him on short-term IR instead of making a deal? Boy, I wonder if Howie Roseman regrets that one in hindsight?
With a full offseason to get their game on track, maybe Ertz could regain his past form or at least the same level of efficiency on compromised volume dude to the emergence of Goedert.
If that happens, which isn’t a guarantee but is a possibility, the marriage of convenience between the Eagles and Ertz could prove incredibly fruitful for all parties involved. The Eagles get a quality option across the middle of the field who already helped one young quarterback start his career off on the right foot, and as for Ertz? Well, he (hopefully) gets a bounce-back season heading into free agency, where he’ll surely be able to parlay his production into a more attractive contract down the line.
Is it a perfect situation? No. Personally, the idea of bringing back Ertz after his subtle sparring with the organization leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially since both Wentz and Doug Pederson are gone, but if extracting the maximum value out of his $12.7 million cap hit is of any indication, getting it on the field may prove a whole lot more likely than the expected return on investment of a seventh-round pick, or worse, an outright release.
Plus, if Ertz does play well in 2021, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude of the NFL will surely generate some sort of package around the trade deadline, as teams are always on the lookout for a proven commodity on an expiring contract to put their playoff odds over the top. Again, not an ideal situation, but anything is better than an outright release, especially since he’d surely be snatched up before the start of the regular season by a contender.
Will it be weird to see Zach Ertz in a midnight green Philadelphia Eagles uniform this fall? Most definitely. After the fanbase essentially resigned itself to an Ertz-less future, seeing 86 back on the field despite it being semi-against his will isn’t an ideal situation. But outside of releasing him outright, what other options do Howie Roseman and company even have? Sometimes, the best deal is no deal at all.