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What the Eagles should do at tight end

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Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2017 roster. It’s already time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to repeat as Super Bowl champions next year. We continue this roster outlook series by looking at the tight end position.

THE PLAYERS

ZACH ERTZ

Regular season stats: 778 snaps, 110 targets, 74 receptions, 824 yards, 11.1 yards per reception, 8 TD, 1 fumble

Playoff stats: 22 targets, 18 receptions, 192 yards, 10.7 yards per reception, 1 TD

Review: It finally happened. Ertz finally had that really strong year everyone was waiting for him to have. The 2013 second-round pick led the Eagles in receptions and receiving yards in 2017. Ertz was a reliable target who could be regularly counted on to help move the chains. Oh, and he also made the game-winning touchdown catch in the Super Bowl. Great season for Ertz.

Outlook: Ertz turns 28 this November, so he’s in his prime. He figures to continue to be a great weapon for the Eagles.

BRENT CELEK

Regular season stats: 462 snaps, 24 targets, 13 receptions, 130 yards, 10.0 yards per reception, 1 TD

Playoff stats: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Review: Once again, Celek was mainly used as a blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, his run blocking ranked 57th out of 69 tight ends while his pass blocking ranked 26th. Celek did combine for four receptions for 44 yards and one touchdown in the two games Ertz missed, which was nice to see. Otherwise he was pretty much a non-factor as a receiver.

Outlook: It’s great to see the Eagles’ longest-tenured player win a Super Bowl ring. You know, I remember a poll on PhiladelphiaEagles.com back during Celek was drafted in 2007 that asked which Day 3 player are you most excited about. Celek received the fewest votes of anyone. 11 years later, here he is, the only lasting member from that Philly draft class. This might’ve been the last year of Celek’s playing career. The veteran tight end turned 33 years old last month. He carries a $5 million cap number in 2018 and the Eagles can cut him to save $4 million. If Celek retires, that would have the same cap impact as cutting him. If he wants to come back, he would need to take a significant pay cut to stay. The feeling here is he should go out on top.

TREY BURTON

Regular season stats: 300 snaps, 31 targets, 23 receptions, 248 yards, 10.8 yards per reception, 5 TD

Playoff stats: 4 targets, 1 reception, 12 receiving yards, 1 pass attempt, 1 completion, 1 passing yard, 1 passing TD, 118.7 passer rating

Review: Touchdown Trey only had his number called occasionally on offense but he made the most of his opportunities. It was especially nice having him around for when Ertz missed those two games. Burton was also a key special teams contributor. Oh, and he threw one of the biggest touchdown passes in Eagles franchise history on the Philly Special in the Super Bowl.

Outlook: It would be great to keep Burton around. Between backing up Ertz and helping out on special teams, Burton has value to this team. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Burton is bound to get some nice offers in free agency. Some tight end-needy teams will look at his limited role in Philadelphia and feel like he can succeed with even more playing time. If that’s the case, it would be a bummer to see Burton go, but the money would be well-deserved. Burton has busted his butt since entering the league as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014.

BILLY BROWN

Outlook: Brown signed with the Eagles after going undrafted out of Division II Shepherd University last year. Brown played wide receiver in college but the Eagles moved him to tight end. My first impression of Brown was that his size (6-4, 255) was impressive. He did a good job of catching nearly everything that was thrown at him in practice. Many thought the Eagles might keep him on the 53-man roster as a fourth tight end but that didn’t happen. With Burton and/or Celek out the door, Brown has a big opportunity to step up this year. He can win over the coaching staff by showing that he’s an improved blocker who can also be counted on as a special teams contributor. I’ll be keeping an eye on Brown in offseason practices.

ADAM ZARUBA

Outlook: Zaruba is the former Canadian rugby star the Eagles signed in training camp last year. The 26-year-old is a long-shot to make the team once again. It’ll be mildly interesting to see if he’s made any progress adjusting to the NFL.

JOSHUA PERKINS

Outlook: The Eagles signed Perkins to a futures contract following the 2017 regular season. Here’s what we wrote about him at the time:

Perkins, 24, measures in at at 6-4, 227 pounds. He played college football at Washington (with Sidney Jones and Elijah Qualls) before being signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2016. As a rookie, Perkins appeared in eight games with Atlanta. He logged three receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown. Perkins also had three special teams tackles that year. He spent the 2017 season on Atlanta’s practice squad. Perkins, a former high school wide receiver, is more of a receiving tight end than a blocking one.

Perkins will be competing to replace Burton’s old role as a special teams contributor and occasional offensive role-player.

WHO COULD SIGN

Virgil Green is a veteran who could pique the Eagles’ interest. He turns 30 in August and has never posted flashy receiving numbers, which could keep his price down. Green is known for being a strong blocker. He could be a good replacement if Celek isn’t back.

Niles Paul is a player who kind of fell through the cracks in Washington. His opportunity was limited due to injury and the combined presence of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Paul, a former wide receiver, fits the Burton mold.

It’d be nice to pick up at least one cheap veteran tight end in free agency. Even if just for the sake of competition.

Other names to watch: Luke Willson (two l’s), Crockett Gillmore (also two l’s), Anthony Fasano (no l’s, but experience with Doug Pederson in Kansas City).

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

BGN’s Ben Natan recently took a look at tight end options in the 2018 NFL Draft. [Check that out by clicking here.]

The Eagles will almost certainly walk away from the draft with at least one tight end. There’s some talent in this year’s class and it’s a big need.