It feels like the writing has been on the wall for Eagles TE Zach Ertz ever since the final game of a disappointing 2020 campaign. A teary press conference followed by an image that showed 1,000 words of himself, Carson Wentz, and Jason Kelce sat on the sidelines together one final time as teammates acts as the last memory fans have of the once electric tight end. An offseason of being dangled on the trade market later and Ertz remains an Eagle. Now June 1st has passed, the Eagles can save $8.5M by trading or releasing the Stanford product, and it doesn’t look like teams are lining up with enticing offers.
Releasing Zach Ertz would only make sense if the team need the salary to improve another position. For instance, if Steven Nelson’s pursuit to secure the bag is one that would end in Philadelphia with that extra $8.5M, then it would make sense to potentially lose Ertz and use some of those funds to poach a free agent. Richard Rodgers, who performed well in flashes last year, is still on the market, for instance.
The other thing to note is that tight end usage under Nick Sirianni has been historically lesser than it was under Doug Pederson. The tandem of Ertz and Goedert was once regarded as one of the most dangerous in the league and with good reason. The duo combined for 1,523 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019 on the back of an 1,899 yard season where they combined for 12 touchdowns in 2018. 2020 marked a significant drop off for the duo, with Ertz battling injury setbacks and a clear drop in production, while Goedert was unable to step up and carry the TE1 load among flailing QB play.
Dallas Goedert has featured in at least 47% of offensive snaps per season since entering the league, while Ertz played in 91.5% in 2018 and 80% in 2019 before missing 5 games in 2020. 12-personnel was a staple of Pederson’s offense for very obvious reasoning and the versatility of the two created some terrifying matchups.
In Indianapolis, that wasn’t the case. Eric Ebron, who led the team in receiving with 750 yards in 2018, played in just 55.8% of snaps that year, which is a stark contrast to what we saw in Philadelphia. Jack Doyle played in 74% of snaps one year later, leading the position, and again in 2020 with just 49% of snaps. The team slowly shifted to a focus on an eclectic wide receiving corps and dynamic backfield.
Eric Ebron 55.8% Zach Ertz 91.5%
Jack Doyle 29.1% Dallas Goedert 47.8%
Mo Alie-Cox 21.3% Josh Perkins 8.7%
Jack Doyle 74.09% Zach Ertz 80.0%
Mo Alie-Cox 32.87% Dallas Goedert 66.15%
Ross Travis 2.14% Josh Perkins 11.2%
Jack Doyle 49.5%. Zach Ertz 56.1%
Mo Alie-Cox 45.9%. Dallas Goedert 53.3%
Trey Burton 34.4%. Richard Rodgers 24.5%
Mo Allie-Cox led the Colts TE’s in receiving last year with 394 yards. Jack Doyle led the way in 2019 with 448. Eric Ebron’s final season in Indy saw him post 750, but their WR corps was lacking in a big way.
The Eagles now have a ton of depth at both wide receiver and running back and it’s hard to imagine that there will be a huge chunk of volume flowing to the tight end position. Is it worth paying Zach Ertz $8M if he isn’t going to be featured as heavily as he once was, nor see the volume of targets as he is used to?
He’s clearly a TE1 (or at this point at the very least a TE2 for most teams) and he’d have no trouble finding a suitor on the open market, it’s just that teams don’t want to part with a draft pick for his huge one-year salary. Nick Sirianni is all for moulding his offense around his playmakers, but there might be too many chefs in the kitchen right now considering the amount of targets Jalen Hurts has to work with, and that doesn’t bode well for a player who would be expecting a high percentage of balls thrown his way for an $8M price-tag.
If the Eagles are confident they can use that money to strengthen another positional group, then it may make sense to part ways with their once franchise tight end and act in his best interests, letting him find the long-term future he covets without suffocating his production in what is arguably the biggest year of his career.
Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire