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What the Eagles should do at tight end

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Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have a lot of tough decisions to make as they try to get this team back to Super Bowl contention. Today we continue our position-by-position roster outlook series by examining the running back position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver.

THE PLAYERS

ZACH ERTZ

Regular season stats: 932 snaps, 135 targets, 88 receptions, 916 yards, 10.4 average, 6 TD, ... 1 fumble

Playoff stats: 61 snaps, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 44 yards

Review: Ertz’s volume stats predictably took a dip in 2019 after he broke the NFL single-season reception record for tight ends in 2018. Still, Ertz had his second highest yardage total and his third highest touchdown total in 2019. He was Carson Wentz’s most reliable target once again. Ertz, ever the reliable chain mover, led the Eagles in first downs ... in addition to receptions of 20-plus yards. Ertz only missed one game despite suffering broken ribs and a lacerated kidney in Week 16. Pretty tough dude.

Outlook: A report emerged in mid-November stating that Ertz was one of three players with which the Eagles were having contract extension discussions. Ertz, who turns 30 in November, is currently under contract through 2021. It doesn’t seem like the Eagles should be in a rush to pay a player with two years remaining on his deal, especially when there’s a replacement waiting in the wings. From Ertz’s perspective, he has a case for a raise. Ertz currently ranks tied for sixth in annual salary. I’m guessing he feels like he should at least be in the top five.

Here’s what I previously wrote about the Ertz contract situation:

There’s a case to be made the Eagles should actually be trading Ertz. The team has the more dynamic Dallas Goedert waiting in the wings to potentially overtake his role. One would think Goedert wouldn’t be so happy about an Ertz extension when the younger player already views himself as the fourth best tight end in the NFL.

While fans might be ready for the team to get value for Ertz while they can, I don’t think the Eagles will feel so similarly. Ertz isn’t just chopped liver; this is a guy with clout. He’s the one who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII. He’s on pace to overtake [Pro Football Hall of Fame] wide receiver Harold Carmichael as the franchise’s all-time receptions leader. Ertz also happens to be the favorite target of franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, which seems significant.

The Eagles need to be smart about how they handle this. You don’t simply just jettison Ertz, whose game figures to age well considering he doesn’t rely on pure athleticism to succeed. But you also don’t want to risk Goedert forcing his way out and/or declining to re-sign with Philly.

I know Howie Roseman talked about needing to get younger but I really don’t think the Eagles will or should be moving on from Ertz. The Eagles seem committed to operating out of 12 personnel and getting rid of him eliminates that option.

Here’s what Roseman and Doug Pederson had to say about Ertz following the 2019 season:

Q. Howie, Zach Ertz on Monday kind of indicated and expressed some surprising uncertainty about whether he’d be back. Is there any doubt about that? He has two years left on his contract and will cost a lot of money when he signs with you or someone else, and you also have Dallas Goedert emerging as a top tight end in this league. Could you afford to pay two tight ends top-tier money? And Doug, are you committed to playing 12-personnel long-term?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think that from our perspective, one, I think just talking to Zach over the last couple days, Zach’s got two years left on his contract. He’s a guy that’s had a tremendous career. He’s got a chance to not only go in the Eagles Hall of Fame, but really, the NFL Hall of Fame.

I think our goal is to keep our home-grown players here. I don’t think — I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but just having conversations — I don’t think it was meant to be reflected about concern about his immediate future.

And going forward, part of the reason that we talk about trying to have more draft picks and young players is trying to keep our young players that are really good, like Dallas. We’ll go through that and the planning part of that going forward, but obviously a really good young player.

DOUG PEDERSON: 12-personnel. Obviously it creates some — as we game plan, obviously 12 has been a productive personnel group for us. There are times on third down where you probably want to be in a little more 11, put a little more speed out on the field and things of that nature. But again, as we go through the season and dealt with the amount of injuries that we had, we felt as a staff, offensively, that our best was 12, and having both Zach and Dallas on the field at the same time.

So moving forward, I think that’s a starting point for us, obviously. But we do know that we’d love to have 11 personnel. We’d love to have 10 personnel. We’d love to have 13 personnel with three tight ends; we play that quite a bit. But 12 is a big, big part of our offense.

Poll

Zach Ertz: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Stay
    (3579 votes)
  • 9%
    Go
    (364 votes)
3943 votes total Vote Now

DALLAS GOEDERT

Regular season stats: 770 snaps, 87 targets, 58 receptions, 607 yards, 10.5 average, 5 TD ... 2 fumbles

Playoff stats: 67 snaps, 8 targets, 7 receptions, 73 yards, 10.4 average

Review: As a rookie in 2018, 60% of Goedert’s receptions went for either first downs or touchdowns. That figure increased to 65% in 2019. In other words, he’s proven to be a pretty efficient target. Goedert played his best football down the stretch this past season. He only had 31 receptions for 289 yards in his first 10 games before logging 34 receptions for 391 yards in his #LastSevenGames. He did have two really bad momentum-killing fumbles against the Cowboys and Seahawks (first game) in addition to a costly dropped wide open touchdown in Week 3. Still, Goedert did take a step forward in his sophomore campaign.

Outlook: Again, Goedert thinks pretty highly of himself. Prior to 2019, he said he views himself as the fourth best tight end in the league. It’s interesting, then, to think about how he’ll view a potential Ertz extension. Goedert is under contract through 2021 and he’s not eligible to re-sign with the Eagles until after the 2020 season. While his long-term future in Philly might be unsettled, he figures to be an important contributor to the team once again in 2020.

Poll

Dallas Goedert: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Stay
    (3674 votes)
  • 1%
    Go
    (47 votes)
3721 votes total Vote Now

JOSHUA PERKINS

Regular season stats: 131 snaps, 13 targets, 9 receptions, 87 yards, 9.7 average, 1 TD

Playoff stats: 17 snaps

Review: Perkins began the season on the practice squad before the Eagles promoted him to the active roster in Week 13. The team valued him as a hybrid player who could take snaps at both tight end and receiver. He had some key first down conversions and even a touchdown catch in Week 17. But he also struggled as a blocker and wasn’t a real dangerous pass catching threat.

Outlook: Perkins is a replacement level talent at best. He’ll battle for a third tight end spot in training camp.

Poll

Joshua Perkins: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Stay
    (1602 votes)
  • 47%
    Go
    (1459 votes)
3061 votes total Vote Now

RICHARD RODGERS

Regular season stats: 5 snaps

Playoff stats: 3 snaps

Review: The Eagles likely intended for Rodgers to be their third tight end in 2019 but he got hurt in the summer for the second year in a row. The Eagles placed him on injured reserve before waiving him. The Eagles then brought Dick Rod back into the fold on Christmas Eve due to Ertz’s rib/kidney injury.

Outlook: Rodgers, who turns 28 in a few days, is set to be a free agent. I’d think the Eagles will re-sign him to compete for the third tight end job.

Poll

Richard Rodgers: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Stay
    (498 votes)
  • 82%
    Go
    (2413 votes)
2911 votes total Vote Now

ALEX ELLIS

Regular season stats: 6 snaps

Review: The Eagles originally signed Ellis in early August. He flashed in training camp and preseason games. The Eagles waived Ellis and signed him to their practice squad before promoting him to the active roster. Ellis didn’t play much but he did line up as a fullback (!) in some goal line situations and blocked well while doing it. Ellis suffered an injury that caused the Eagles to waive him before they brought him back to their practice squad in December. The Eagles opted to re-sign Rodgers instead of promoting Ellis late in the regular season.

Outlook: Ellis turns 27 in February so he’s not some young developmental prospect but I like what I’ve seen out of him in limited action. He’ll have a full offseason to make his case for the No. 3 tight end job behind Ertz and Goedert. He’s my favorite to win that job. He has some pass catching ability, he can block, and he even showed up on special teams last summer.

Poll

Alex Ellis: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Stay
    (1075 votes)
  • 58%
    Go
    (1535 votes)
2610 votes total Vote Now

WHO COULD SIGN

I’m guessing the Eagles will re-sign Rodgers to compete with Ellis and Perkins for the third tight end spot.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Written by Ben Natan:

The Eagles are in great hands at the tight end position with perennial star Zach Ertz and burgeoning playmaker Dallas Goedert holding down the fort. It doesn’t make much sense to invest premium draft capital into boosting that positional group, especially with Joshua Perkins an encouraging third option.

In terms of mid round players, the only name to consider as a potential value pick is Oregon’s Jacob Breeland.

The 6’5”, 250 pound pass catcher is a smooth, natural athlete who played inline and in the slot at Oregon. His athleticism proved too much for linebackers while his size gave defensive backs fits. He’s a “move” player who can be used all over a formation to create advantages for the offense.

With players like Cole Kmet, Brycen Hopkins and Hunter Bryant likely being day two picks, Breeland could fall to the late rounds. If he’s available on day three, the Eagles might be smart to snag the offensive mismatch nightmare