“Everything that has a beginning, has an end, Neo” – Agent Smith (The Matrix)
The Eagles have been incredibly lucky over the last few years when it comes to play at the Tight End position. Unlike every other skill position, Carson Wentz has enjoyed consistently elite play from Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert after his drafting in 2018.
Last year, the duo of Ertz and Goedert combined for 1,523 yards and 11 touchdowns. Both ranked inside the top ten at the position which is almost heard of at the NFL level and this of course isn’t taking into account how valuable their elite run-blocking is to this team either. It’s even more impressive when you consider that Goedert was able to record 607 yards in the shadow of Ertz, who dominates targets and misses very little in the way of time. Even broken ribs can’t keep him down.
No team targeted TE’s more than the Eagles, with 235 going in the direction of the elite tandem (and Josh Perkins). The Ravens’ 180 targets were the second-most in the NFL by comparison, which is a huge difference. Obviously, the lack of WR help plays a role here, but the Eagles will likely continue to live and die in 12-personnel, even with the offseason of receiving dreams.
But this dreamy situation may be coming to a rollercoaster ending sooner than many think.
After the 2021 season comes to a close, Zach Ertz will have played his final contracted year and Goedert’s rookie deal will be up – making them both free agents. The Eagles could obviously strike fast and sign them both to new deals, but things aren’t that simple.
As things stand, the Eagles are $50M over the cap in 2020. We don’t yet know how COVID-19 will impact the NFL financially, but there’s a very good chance that the cap next year gets slashed as a result. This is bad news for a team who need every bit of help they can get through restructures, dummy years, prorated bonuses, and paycuts, just to make Howie’s wizarding moves keep their magic.
The Eagles could negate huge chunks of that $50M by parting ways with names like Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson for instance, but it won’t solve everything and the value of contracts signed by Carson Wentz, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Lane Johnson will all begin soaring in value. Let’s not forget Miles Sanders would also be nearing the point of needing a new deal.
During the heart of last season, two players were knocking on the door of an extension. One was Lane Johnson, who got his payday in November to the tune of $72M and the other was Zach Ertz, who remains untouched.
Every trade rumor we see involving the Eagles somehow includes Zach Ertz and has for quite some time. He is the team’s most valuable trade chip after all after the man who should never be mentioned in these discussions. But would the Eagles really move on from a generationally gifted tight end?
At some point, they may have to. Whether that’s Ertz or not remains to be seen. But it’s hard to envision the Eagles being able to pay both and letting them walk into free agency is less than ideal from a value perspective. So then opens the ‘well, who do they pay?’ debate…and it’s one that could rage on endlessly.
On one hand, you have the proven Zach Ertz. Someone who has given his heart and soul to the franchise, evolved exponentially as a run-blocker, and is best friends with his quarterback. On the other, you have the much younger, much more physically dominant specimen in Goedert who has always played under a glass ceiling. We may never see what Goedert could truly be capable of with Ertz in the building, but why does that matter when you have the best tandem in the NFL?
It’s a really tricky spot for the Eagles to be in and the recent Jamal Adams rumors don’t exactly make life easier. Jets GM Joe Douglas drafted Dallas Goedert so there is obviously a connection there. But could the Eagles really be willing to ship one of their tight ends out one season earlier than they have to? They’ve not drafted a TE3 or added a developmental talent who could take over such an important role, so it seems illogical right now at the very least.
But surely it’s only a matter of time until the right offer or the right player comes along for Howie to pull the trigger. It’s a tough, tough situation to read because in an ideal world, this dominant tandem would remain in Philadelphia for years to come. But this landscape is less than ideal and there’s a salary cap tsunami coming for Howie Roseman. All we can do for now is hold our collective breath and enjoy the greatness while it lasts.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports