Zach Ertz is an all-time great Philadelphia Eagle. As there would be with any player who has such a reputation, there has been heavy debate about what the Eagles should do with their once beloved tight end this offseason. As we seem to appear closer to a resolution on the Ertz/Eagles saga, the lingering question is ‘how exactly did it come to this?’ Ironically, it seems like we’ve been asking that question a lot when it comes to the Birds.
Ertz is a player clearly in decline. He had career lows in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2020, and looked a shell of his former All-Pro self. There were several catalysts that contributed to this, including failed contract negotiations that may well have knocked his mentality. This was evidenced by his emotional presser at the end of the year, which was presumed to be his last in midnight green. It should never have come to this and the front office are once again left having to learn from their mistakes.
The Golden Rule of Roster building is very simple, and it’s been one that Hall-of Fame GM’s have followed since the inception of the league began – Get rid of a player a year BEFORE his decline, and don’t be personal with roster choices.
Zach Ertz is just the latest example of how the Eagles front office faltered, and are now in a mess of consequences.
The list goes on and on.
In 2019, Ertz had 88 catches for 916 yards. It was close to 30 less catches than the year before, and 200 yards less.
The Eagles, instead of trying to get as much out of Zach Ertz in the trade market as possible (imagine the price they could’ve gotten from Buffalo or a TE-hungry team then), opted to stand pat. No contract extension, no trade. They wanted to wait for the waves to form before jumping into the deep end.
The gamble didn’t pay off and now the Eagles are left with a tight end who they have struggled to find a suitable trade partner for, a huge salary, and a lack of long-term security. The Golden Rule in the NFL is a difficult one to follow, particularly after a team wins a Super Bowl. But there’s a reason the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks and others have been dominant in the NFL over the last decade.
They know when to say goodbye to their aging stars.
How can the team recover?
It really is quite simple. And it’s something that they clearly are looking to do now – get rid of older players as the contract value hits its peak and their form with it, ensuring that the right pieces are being developed behind them.
Fletcher Cox’s contract is only going to get worse before it gets better. Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, and Brandon Brooks may not be in the team’s long-term plans for much longer either.
Changes have to be coming to the Philadelphia Eagles. If Howie Roseman is serious about building another winner in this town, the old way of being loyal to a player needs to go. It was preached last offseason, but his actions proved otherwise.
Philadelphia Eagle fans are incredible. But even THEY understand what the Eagles front office has not in the past.
Personally, I was devastated when Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington in 2010. I was very sad when Westbrook wasn’t brought back, or when Dawkins became a Bronco. As sad as I was, I knew that it was time for the team to let them go.
Ertz doesn’t deserve to be vilified for how this ends. Just as Jason Peters, Alshon, Wentz, Jenkins and countless others shouldn’t be.
But the fact we are here, with an all-time great about to be traded for pennies of what he could’ve been worth 365 days ago is something that cannot be ignored. If the Eagles are serious about this rebuild, and are serious about being a powerhouse in the NFL again, then the Zach Ertz debacle must be the last a time an all-time great is moved, well after his prime.
Photo by Nicole Fridling/Icon Sportswire