Curveballs are stopping Dallas Goedert’s TE1 ascension, just like they always have

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Dallas Goedert did not participate in Wednesday’s practice after entering concussion protocol in Week 10 against the Broncos. His status is uncertain for Sunday’s game against the Saints, but his injury extends a long list of mishaps that have prevented him from becoming the top tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles over the past four seasons.

Eagles Troll Cowboys with Goedert Selection

The Eagles drafted Goedert just months after their victory in Super Bowl LII with the 49th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. While announcing the pick, former Philadelphia kicker David Akers famously trolled the Dallas Cowboys, who had an interest in selecting Goedert before the Eagles leapfrogged them in a trade. 

The defending champions held onto most of their starters during the 2018 offseason. Drafting Goedert looked like a luxury pick to replace reserve tight ends Trey Burton and Brent Celek with a player who could step into a prolific offense and contribute immediately as a second tight end behind 27-year-old star Zach Ertz.

Philadelphia proved thin on young talent in other positions while their top-two tight ends lessened each other’s roles at many points for the following three and a half seasons. Despite showing flashes of excellence as a pass-catcher and a blocker in a relatively limited amount of snaps, Goedert only finished with over 50 receiving yards in one game during his rookie season.

Carson Wentz relied heavily on Ertz, who broke the single-season NFL record for tight ends with 116 receptions. Goedert finally made a breakout, game-changing play against the Cowboys in a pivotal Week 14 matchup. His 75-yard touchdown with under three minutes to play could’ve tied the game, but the officials called it back with a phantom pass interference call.

Goedert Without a Breakout Season

Goedert was invisible for the first five games of the 2019 season. He missed one and finished with 43 total receiving yards in the other four. As Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, and the rest of the Eagles wide receiving corps started to look inadequate throughout the season, Ertz and Goedert emerged as the two most capable pass catchers on the roster. 

However, in Week 7, Goedert lost a costly fumble on the opening drive of a key Sunday Night Football matchup against the Cowboys. The early momentum helped Dallas to a 37-10 blowout and the division lead. He lost another poorly-timed fumble against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12.

Goedert finally began to hit his stride towards the end of the 2019 season. Head coach Doug Pederson relied on heavily of 12 personnel packages that featured his top-two tight ends on the field together. The 6-foot-5, 256 pound force showed off his tremendous speed and athleticism and became a focal point of the Eagles screen game.

He caught nine passes for 91 yards to help the Eagles avenge the loss to the Cowboys and enter the driver’s seat in the NFC East in Week 16. He followed it up with four catches for 65 yards in Week 17 and seven catches for 73 yards with Josh McCown under center in the NFC Wild Card Game. A disappointing playoff loss halted his hot streak. 

Ertz Blocks Progress

Goedert’s strong finish in 2019 contributed to the organization’s hesitancy to extend Ertz’s contract entering the 2020 season. Reports surfaced throughout training camp about disagreements between general manager Howie Roseman and a disgruntled Ertz. It looked like the writing was on the wall for Goedert to take over for the aging Super Bowl LII hero. 

The Eagles stormed out of the gates in Washington in Week 1. Wentz fed Goedert consistently on the way to a 17-0 halftime lead. Despite his career-high 101 yards, the Eagles collapsed in a 27-17 embarrassment and lost the momentum they never recaptured for the rest of the season. 

Despite the standout performance in Week 1, Goedert played a reduced role in the offense again in a Week 2 loss and a Week 3 tie. Wentz resumed his overreliance on past chemistry with Ertz, which wasn’t effective even with a high volume of targets. Shortly after it looked like Ertz would finally pass the torch to his heir, Goedert somehow found himself midway through his third season back where he started in 2018.

Goedert played the top tight end role in four of five games that Ertz missed with a midseason injury, but he didn’t break out and prove capable of becoming a top-tier NFL tight end during the audition. Pederson again relied heavily on 12 personnel once Ertz returned, partly because of more underwhelming play from the wide receivers. The sluggish offense didn’t benefit anybody in the second half of the season.

When the Eagles finally decided it was time to rely on Goedert as their starter, they attempted to trade Ertz during the 2021 offseason. The slow process dragged through the first six games of the 2021 season and further delayed a potential breakout for their fourth-year tight end.   

Starting Role, Injury, Contract Talks

Most experts considered Goedert one of the top players on the Eagles entering 2021. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fifth-best tight end in the NFL before the season. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller were the respective top three. The track record of the South Dakota native doesn’t compare to any of them. They also listed rookie Kyle Pitts fourth based on raw potential.      

The move to send Ertz to Arizona was seemingly a vote of confidence in Goedert and the end of the continued mishaps that held him back for his first three and a half NFL seasons. He was on pace to pass his career high of 607 yards despite missing one game in COVID protocol. His 14.8 average yards per catch is more than three yards higher than his average in any other season. Now he is injured.

At this point, for reasons both within and beyond his control, Goedert has never proven himself as a top-tier player at his position. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he’ll expect comparable money to the NFL’s best tight ends. The franchise tag, which awards a one-year salary to a player at the average cost of the top-five highest-paid players at his position, might be in play. 

Roseman spoke before the injury about his evaluation of Goedert and the looming negotiations:

“(The Eagles are) getting him in a role where it’s not just sharing time and he’s the guy because in terms of our bargaining power, there’s going to be no discount on Dallas Goedert. We know that, so we want to get as much information and give him as much opportunity to take over that and see him in that role as much as possible as opposed to guessing on it.”

Howie Roseman

Players with as much skill as Goedert usually aren’t held back from an opportunity to break out until the last half of the final season on their rookie contracts. Now the Eagles will have to hope this injury doesn’t hold him back yet again, or else they will “guess” and hand marquee money to one of their best recent draft picks after somehow delaying their evaluation of him up until this point.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire