After an emotional press conference at the end of the year and a painful shot of Jason Kelce and Carson Wentz sitting with him in an empty Lincoln Financial Field for one last time as teammates, many assumed that Zach Ertz would be departing the City of Brotherly Love. The NFL Draft has been and gone and the Stanford product is still on the roster and it looks as though he will play one more year as an Eagle. After that? Howie Roseman has a very difficult decision to make.
“Zach’s a really good player and a really good person, and he’s under contract with the Eagles.” The Eagles GM said after the NFL Draft. “At the same time, we have a lot of respect for him and what kind of player he is and what he’s done for our team.
But this isn’t a guy in the twilight of his career. He’s a guy still in his prime. A year ago at this time everyone was talking about where he ranked with the top tight ends in the league.
So we feel really good about the kind of player he is and we have to do what’s best for our team as well and again we have a lot of respect for him and continue to remain a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, if something changes, we’ll update you guys.
A lot has changed since those conversations that ranked Zach Ertz among the top tight ends in the league. Howie Roseman refused to pay the once-elite pass-catcher last year after George Kittle and Travis Kelce received big paydays. It’s not the first time that Roseman has deployed this tactic and it surely won’t be his last.
If we go back just two seasons before, Brandon Graham walked off the field after playoff heartbreak and was seen hugging reporters and getting very emotional. He was, like Ertz, expected to be serenaded out of the NovaCare Complex during the offseason after Roseman refused to pay him one year before.
The Eagles GM did eventually pay Graham, cashing in on a slower year where he amassed 4 sacks. Instead of paying BG after his 9.5 sack season in 2017, Roseman let things pan out before jumping in after his value dropped to secure his long-term future. If he was ever going to sign Zach Ertz to a contract extension, this would be the time.
Don’t let a good thing pass you by
If the team leave it too late, one of two things are going to happen. The first is perhaps the most difficult to stomach. They would have to choose between keeping Zach Ertz or a much younger but slightly less durable Dallas Goedert. Both are free agents at the end of next season and it looks highly unlikely that the team will be able to facilitate the retention of both.
If either player has a big year, which is plausible given their previous success and clear ability, then the Eagles will have to cut their nose to spite their face and let that player essentially walk into the free agency market. Or, they can decide to jump the gun and cash in while the value is lower, hoping that they’ve made the right decision.
The obvious factor here is the salary cap situation hardly lends itself to a meaty extension, but Roseman could very easily work out another heavily incentivized deal with dummy years and prorated bonuses in a bid to keep the cost down for the time being.
Taking a gamble…
On the other hand, it’s not like tight ends have been the main focal point of the offense under Nick Sirianni’s guidance. Mo Allie-Cox led the position in receiving last year with 395 yards, while Jack Doyle did so with 448 in 2019, and Eric Ebron before him with 750 in 2018. The Colts seemingly switched their focus onto a versatile backfield and receiving group to keep things varied. If that’s the case and one of the two posts a sub-500 yard season under the former Colts offensive coordinator, then Roseman may even be able to keep both players depending on how the market pans out.
Will Zach Ertz receive an extension?
This is a very difficult predicament and arguably the second-biggest facing the team following the NFL Draft. Keeping Zach Ertz around was surprising enough, but if they could erase the damage caused in 2020 by giving him an extension, cashing in while his value is at its lowest and hope that he can thrive under Nick Sirianni, it may work out best for all parties given that at the very least, we can expect the Eagles to lose one of their two tight ends next offseason.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire