Where Could the Eagles TE Land?
By: Chris Boughman (Twitter: @Bo_Rock20)
The era of Zach Ertz has been a fun ride for Eagles fans and the organization. One of the most beloved Eagles players in recent memory enters the final year of his contract, and his future in Philadelphia is very much in doubt. He’s enjoyed a phenomenal career that’s left his name cemented in the Eagles history books being among the leaders in the organization in many categories (According to Pro Football Reference):
- Second All-Time in Receptions (561)
- Fifth All Time in Receiving Yards (6,078)
- Tied for Seventh All-Time in Touchdowns (36)
However, all stories feature an ending, and that very well could become reality for Zach Ertz in an Eagles uniform. 2020 was an awful year for much of us, and an especially bad year for Ertz. The three time Pro Bowler saw a drastic fall in production with career lows in all categories including a 6.9% drop rate. In comparison, Zach Ertz hasn’t seen a drop rate above 4% since 2018. As his numbers started to plummet, the Stanford alum watched his protégé Dallas Goedert emerge as a feature target in the passing game.
The drama even leaked off the field for Zach Ertz. In training camp, he was seeking a contract extension to spend the rest of his career in Philadelphia. However, Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman and Ertz couldn’t come to terms on a deal. This created a notable dissension between Ertz and Roseman, and became public after a heated discussion on the practice field. After this encounter, one could say that Zach Ertz checked out on the Eagles, showing a very different player than we’re accustomed to seeing on the field.
Zach Ertz will go down as one of the best players to ever wear an Eagles uniform. He embodied the Philadelphia culture, and fans relished in his emotion to the city of Philadelphia both on and off the field. Eagles fans related with Zach Ertz, and he connected with the city very well. As the season winded down, Ertz knew his career in Philly was coming to an end and left a heartfelt message to fans:
The Philadelphia Eagles are in a tough situation heading into 2021. They have the second-worst cap situation in the league is almost 52 million dollars over the cap, according to Over The Cap. They need to shed salary somewhere, and Zach Ertz could be a prime trade candidate. Let’s take a look at three teams that could potentially pull the trigger in a trade for the talented Zach Ertz.
Let’s start the bidding with the most logical candidate, the Indianapolis Colts!
Now, the first thing on Frank Reich’s off-season To Do List is to find a Quarterback (Plenty are available), but the Colts will be popular in trade rumors surrounding Zach Ertz.
This might be the most logical destination for Zach Ertz. He’ll be reunited with his former Offensive Coordinator, and current Indianapolis Head Coach, Frank Reich. The Colts played this season with three tight ends having a prominent role in their offense, both in blocking and the passing game. Let’s compare Tight End production with the 2020 Colts and the 2017 Eagles:
2020 Indianapolis Colts (Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Trey Burton)
- Receptions: 82
- Receiving Yards: 895
- Touchdowns: 8
2017 Philadelphia Eagles (Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, and Brent Celek)
- Receptions: 110
- Receiving Yards: 1,202
- Touchdowns: 14
While the stats don’t match up identically, there’s one thing you can take away from the above statistics: Frank Reich loves his Tight Ends! The Tight End position will be used prominently in the Colts offense, and Reich will run a ton of 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE).
Is there space in the Tight End room for Zach Ertz? Well, with Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox set to become free agents, there’s a prime opportunity for the Colts to swoop in and make a trade for Zach Ertz. They have plenty of Cap space (68+ million), so this seems to be a match made in heaven.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory as we enter the off-season. They missed the playoffs for the first time since I was 20 years old…In 2002! Bill Belichick has plenty of decisions to make as he prepares for the 2021 season. Do they tear it down and rebuild the empire? Does Belichick dive into the QB market and look for an immediate solution to get back into contention? These are important questions that need answers for the direction of the Patriots franchise.
The Patriots are in a prime position to turn things around quickly in Foxborough. They rolled over 19 million to the 2021 salary Cap. Also, the Patriots are released from 32 million dollars in dead money. The above-mentioned moves set New England up with a great salary cap situation in a year where some teams may struggle with maintaining the cap number. The Patriots rank fourth in the league with over 58 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. According to reports out of New England, Belichick expects to be aggressive in free agency.
Does Zach Ertz make sense for the Patriots? Sure! The stars could align and allow Ertz to shine in Foxborough. New England has the cap space to occupy such a move. The contracted Tight ends on the roster include Devin Asiasi (3rd rd. pick 2020), Matt LaCosse, Dalton Keene, and Ryan Izzo. Needless to say, the Tight End room could sure use an upgrade. Enter Zach Ertz! He could provide an instant upgrade to the Tight End position, and to the overall offensive production. Could the Eagles squeeze a 2nd round pick (#46) out of Belichick? Only time will tell.
The Bengals are in the midst of a rebuild after a 4-11-1 finish in 2020. “Who Dey” nation could be in store for some major improvements in 2021. Cincinnati has a top 5 pick in the draft. The Salary cap situation is looking pretty good with an estimated 35 million dollars to spend, according to Spotrac. Oh yeah, they have a franchise Quarterback in Joe Burrow hoping a return to full strength after a nasty knee injury in 2020.
The Bengals offense has plenty of weapons, but could use an upgrade at Tight End. Cincinnati currently has C.J. Uzomah slated to play the position, but not much depth behind him. Drew Sample and Mason Schreck fill out the depth chart. Zach Ertz would present a significant upgrade to the Tight End position in Cincinnati. The Bengals hold picks #38 and #69 in this years draft. Could the Eagles move Ertz for one of those picks?
Will a Trade Happen?
According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, The Eagles and Zach Ertz are nearly a divorce and could be finalized in the 2021 off-season. As you proceed down the Twitter feed in the coming days, I’m sure you’ll see rumors swirling about Ertz’s eventual departure from the team.
What can the Eagles receive in return for the talented Zach Ertz? This is very tough to determine. The Eagles Tight End is 30 years old, and entering the final season of a five year contract. The cap hit for his 2021 salary is 12 million. Also, Zach is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. This could greatly affect the Eagles compensation in a trade. However, Zach Ertz is a generational talent, and could offer a boost to any offense in the league.
If the Zach Ertz chapter is being closed in Philadelphia, the organization and fans owe a big Thank you for his contributions on and off the field. Zach Ertz will be a great addition to any team that acquires him this off-season.